AMANI NIAZ asks: ‘Is texting and CMC detrimental to literacy?’

For many years there has been an ongoing debate as to whether computer-mediated communication (CMC) and texting are imposing detrimental effects upon our literacy skills. Some say that it does have an impact on literacy and others believe that it does not and that it is simply just another form of the English language. In some ways it encourages the younger generations to explore and play with language, through the use of, for instance, contractions and acronyms. However some argue that it has been proven to affect the literacy skills of some young people.

“The popularization of CMC spread after the launch of the World Wide Web in 1990”  according to Tagliamonte and Denis (2008, p. 5). Due to the rising popularity of online messaging services and websites such as MSN and Facebook new forms of language became increasingly used. Crystal states that “people found the linguistic novelty to lie chiefly in the slang and jargon of its enthusiastic proponents, as well as in their penchant for playing with language and for breaking conventional linguistic rules of spelling and punctuation” (2004, p. 64).

As this was the new trend more and more people started to use this form of language. It was something new and intriguing. So intriguing in fact, that not just teenagers but also adults started to use it to seem somewhat cool….

According to the Daily Mail (2010), “[a]dults mimicking teen-speak are to blame for spreading sloppy English which is putting the future of the language at risk”. However, has it really put our language at risk? Today my believe is that text-message abbreviations are on the decrease. This could be due to the introduction of smartphones. In the early 2000s pay-as-you-go phones were commonly used. This type of phone had a limit to how much text you could send in a message. If you went over the limit you had to pay extra. Thus abbreviations and contractions were frequently used. Nowadays with smartphones and iphones, there is no limit to the amount of text we can input into a message. Also mobile phones now contain autocorrect, which automatically corrects a words spelling. Thus text language is less frequently used as messages are largely made up of full words and sentences.

However, some have argued that this form of language has been seen to venture beyond children’s technological devices and has become frequently used within their everyday language. Mphahlele and Mashmaite (2005; cited by Verheijen, 2013, p. 587) found that “[s]tudents fail to distinguish contexts in which text language is acceptable”. As texting is used by many on a day to day basis, this has become a linguistic norm for the younger generations. This may lead to it appearing in their schoolwork. Some are extremely concerned that texting is found in writing requiring more formal Standard English and gives the impression that young people are unable to distinguish when they are able to use it in a satisfactory circumstance. A study by Pew Internet & American Life Project found that “[n]early two-thirds of seven hundred students surveyed said their e-communication style sometimes bled into school assignments” (Lewin, 2008, p. 1) and “about half said they sometimes omitted proper punctuation and capitalized in school work” (Lewin, 2008, p. 1). Surely they must have some sort of knowledge to know when it is appropriate to use textisms?

Bernard (2008) found that “[s]ome teachers are not banning mobile phones from the classroom, as they believe it allows for more opportunities”. If the increased use of texting is detrimental to the English Language and is also harming students’ grades, then why are some teachers encouraging the use of mobile phones within the classroom? Evidently this is going to be harmful to students’ education. It will not only cause distractions, but also lead to text language becoming even more frequently used within the school environment.

As regards to the wide spread use of phones, Crystal (2004 p.81), stated that “[t]ext-messaging is often cited as a particular problem. Children of the future will no longer be able to spell, it is said.” This claim could very much be true. Children are becoming lazier now with language use. Technological devices have autocorrect built into them therefore they do not have to spell for themselves.

Overall I feel the technological advances in recent years have had an undesirable effect upon the younger generation’s literacy skills. More people have become extremely reliant on technology due to its popularity. I firmly believe that boundaries have to be put in place for when it is and is not acceptable to use this form of language, particularly for students who use this form within the school environment.

What do you think?

 AMANI NIAZ, English Language student, University of Chester, UK


Bernard, S. (2008). Zero-thumb game: How to tame texting. Retrieved November 17, 2015.

Crystal, D. (2004). The language revolution (1st ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press

Lewin, T. (2008). Informal style of electronic messages is showing up in schoolwork, study finds. The New York Times, April 25. Retrieved November 17, 2015.

Mphahlele, M., & Mashamaite, K. (2005). The impact of Short Message Service (SMS) Language on Language Proficiency of Learners and the SMS Dictionaries: A challenge for educators and lexicographers. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning, 161-8.

Tagliamonte, S. & Denis, D. (2008). Linguistic? LOL! Instant messaging and teen language. American speech 83 (1), 3-34.

Daily Mail (2010). Informal style of electronic messages is showing up in schoolwork, study finds. Retrieved November 17, 2015.


Are Computer Mediated Communications dumbing down literacy? KIM NGUYEN INVESTIGATES

Many different forms of Computer-Mediated Communications (CMC) became available following the launch of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. Due to the rapid expansion of technology, they are now available across all different social media platforms and devices. Baron (2004) defined Instant Messenging (IM) as “a one-to-one synchronous form of computer-mediated communication” (cited by Tagliamonte & Denis, 2008, p.3). However, IM has since become much more advanced and is no longer restricted to a one-to-one exchange. In the present day, it is common for most young teens to have possession of a mobile device, and they too prefer using these devices for communication because “most do not think of their electronic communications as real writing” (Lenhart, Arafeh, Smith & Macgill; cited by Vosloo, 2009, p.2). More recently linguists, including Vosloo (2009, p.2) have taken the view that “texting is the written lingua franca of many youth today”. However, the important question to what extent, if any, CMC is having a negative effect on students’ literacy?

Contrary to popular belief that texting is ruining the English language, there has been very little research conducted to prove this, as Wood, Plester and Bowyer (2008) point out. Some studies –  such as the one conducted by Plester, Wood and Joshi (2009) and Wood et al., (2008) – have found that texting has positive correlations with levels of phonological awareness amongst students, as many abbreviations are actually acceptable phonetic representations of a word, such as ‘b4’ for ‘before’. Therefore abbreviation usage requires the user to have phonological understanding (Vosloo, 2009, p.3), and thus regular use actually enhances phonological comprehension.

There have been alleged cases where the use of text language, also known as ‘textese’, has been found to be creeping into various pieces of academic work. Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 66% of the 700 students in their study said that their “e-communication style sometimes bled into school assignments” (Lewin, 2008). This strongly supports Mphahlele and Mashamaite’s (2005) viewpoint that students are failing to recognise that texting is context and audience specific (cited by Verheijen, 2013, p.587). Additionally Clark (2008) highlights that some students are still losing marks for the use of IM abbreviations in their papers even after specifically proofreading for them.

Interestingly, many teachers do not mind e-communications sneaking into their pupils’ schoolwork, in fact some are even encouraging it. Some teachers are allowing students to use abbreviations during the drafting stage of their work, but emphasise the need to use Standard English when revising their final draft (Lee, 2002). So why not allow abbreviations and acronyms in schoolwork if they are more time efficient than typing out whole words? Moreover, some teachers purposely incorporate the use of CMC into their classroom activities. One teacher asked her class to translate the passage from Shakespeare they had been discussing, from text speak into Standard English, and vice versa, in order to confirm the students’ understanding of the text (Bernard, 2008). This teaching strategy is similar to the one used with foreign students, to improve their comprehension of their mother tongue, and thus stands to be effective (Bernard, 2008).

In my opinion, the benefits of CMCs have shown to outweigh the minor negatives found within studies. Not only does CMC act as another output for students to practice the language they have learnt at school, the use of group chats allows for discussions to be conducted in social and collaborative ways, which Bernard (2008) states to be very beneficial. Technological communication also allows for features of spoken communication to appear in written modes which before has never been possible. Emoticons replace facial expressions which are vital in contributing to meaning in spoken conversation, and capitalisation indicates hyperbole within IM (see Brown-Owens, Eason & Lader, 2003; Varnhagen, McFall, Pugh, Routledge, Sumida-MacDonald & Kwong, 2010, pp.729-730). As Crystal (2001) says texting is a “new species of communication” with its own set of usage conditions (cited by Tagliamonte & Denis, 2008, p.4). So why knock a creative form of language play, which helps to create beneficial opportunities for students?

KIM NGUYEN, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Baron, N. (2004). See you online: Gender issues in college student use of instant messaging. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 23: 397-423.

Bernard, S. (2008, May 28). Zero-thumb game: How to tame texting. 

Brown-Owens, A., Eason, M., & Lader, A. (2003, August 21). What Effect does Computer-Mediated Communication, Spevifically Instant Messaging Have on 8th Grade Writing Competencies? 

Clark, L. (2008, December 12). Two-thirds of teachers allow children to use slang and text message speak in school tests. The Daily Mail

Crystal, D. (2001). Language and the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, J. (2002, September 19). I think, therefore IM. New York Times

Lenhart, A., Arafeh, S., Smith, A., & Macgill, A.R. (2008, April 24). Writing, Technology and Teens.

Lewin, T. (2008, April 25). Informal Style of Electronic Messages is Showing Up in Schoolwork, Study Finds. The New York Times.

Mphahlele, M., & Mashamite, K. (2005). The impact of short message service (SMS) language on language proficiency of learners and the SMS dictionaries: A challenge for educators and lexicographers. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning: 161-168.

Plester, B., Wood, C., & Joshi, P. (2009). Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 145-161.

Tagliamonte, S., & Denis, D. (2008). Linguistic ruin? LOL! Instant messaging on literacy. English Studies, 95(5), 582-602.

Varnhagen, C. K., McFall, P., Pugh, N., Routledge, L., Sumida-MacDonald, H., & Kwong, T. E. (2010). Lol: New language and spelling in instant messaging. Reading and Writing, 23(6), 719-733.

Verheijen, L. (2013). The effects of texting on literacy and instant messaging on literacy. English Studies, 95(5), 582-602.

Vosloo, S. (2009). The Effects of Texting on Literacy: Modern Scourge or Opportunity? South African Funding Organisation,  The Shuttleworth Foundation.

Wood, C., Plester, B., & Bowyer, S. (2008). A Cross-Lagged Longitudinal Study of Text Messaging and Its Impact on Literacy Skills: Preliminary Results. Poster Presented at the British Psychological Society Department Section Conference, Oxford Brookes University, September 2008.


MEGAN ARMSTRONG asks: ‘Texting and CMC: destroying or improving our literacy?’

Since the rise of the internet in the 1990s and the sending of the first text message in 1992, technology has rapidly become essential to our the 21st century lives.  The development of Google in 1998 would also contribute to the changing of the way we live our lives, as the term ‘I’ll Google it’ is used daily by most people I know. In fact by 2007 it was recorded that 3.8 billion Google searches were being made per month in the USA (Baron, 2008, p. 13).

Baron (2008, p. 11) suggests CMC in the 1980s included email, chats or IM, but this term has broadened since social network sites and smartphones were introduced. The popularity of CMC and texting has been stirring up opinions as to whether these ‘amazing’ advances are actually having a negative effect on literacy. John Sutherland declares “texting is penmanship for illiterates” (The Guardian, 2008) but do you agree with this statement? Can texting really affect literacy?

Verheijen (2013, p.584) displays features of language variation of textese, such as the use of single letter/number homophones – ‘c’ = ‘see’ and ‘2’ = ‘to/too’, typographic symbols – ‘@’ = ‘at’ and acronyms such as ‘ttyl’ = ‘talk to you later’. These examples are frequently used in text messages, so many fear it will mix into schoolwork. Conversely, McIntyre (2009, p. 123) suggests that our writing can change depending on circumstances, perhaps arguing that textese features would not be carried over to school work.

Teachers are worrying that children will bring textese into the classroom as suggested by Verheijen (2013, p. 587). A study to support this theory would be the one conducted by Mampa, Mphahlele and Kwena Majhamaite (2005, pp. 161–8; cited by Verheijen 2013, p. 587) who explored the influence of textese in South Africa. They noted increasingly more use of textese in work and believe that students are “victims of SMS language” and blame exposure on the media.

Some newspapers have implied that texting is negatively affecting literacy, as according to Woronoff (2007; cited by Wood, Kemp and Plester, 2014, p.24) “texting influences kids to spell incorrectly”. In 2004 the Daily Telegraph stated that “pupils resort to text language in GCSE exams”. In addition,  in 2003 the BBC highlighted the alleged case of an essay written by a 13-year-old where textese was used repeatedly.  However, Crystal (2008, p. 151) implies that these essays may not have even existed. So how reliable are these sources in determining that our language is being affected by texting? Crystal states that “[e]vidence from examiners […] suggests that the vast majority of students are well aware of the difference, and do not use textisms in their writing” (2008, p. 166). It could be that pupils resorted to text language in the early 2000s as texting only became popular in the mid-1990s. This could play a role as the craze of texting was fairly new and it was likely deemed ‘cool’ to write in textese. However, now in 2015 it would be less likely that children would use textese in their schoolwork, as the craze has died off.

Texting and CMC is not always viewed negatively. Many linguists believe that it is positively influencing language. Varnhagen et al. (2010, p. 719) state that “electronic communication has generated a new language of abbreviations”. For example ASAP and PS are used daily in emails. Crystal (2008) suggest that texting encourages the coining of interesting neologisms such as ‘unfriend’ and ‘tweet’ which would not exist without social network sites. Crystal (2008, p. 41) also suggests that we already use initialisms, such as ‘BBC’ which is fully integrated into the English lexicon. So why are initialisms such as OMG and TBH seen as such a negative? Textese is slowly becoming more accepted as words such as ‘OMG’, ‘chillax’ and ‘unfriend’ have been added to the dictionary.

More recent views on this debate would suggest that texting is an addition to language. For instance, Tagliamonte and Denis claim “CMC is not destroying literacy skills or ruining this generation, but [is] an expansive new linguistic renaissance” (2008, p. 27). Baron (2008, p. 161) states that “[d]istinguishing between language change and language decline is a very tricky business”, so maybe prescriptivists cannot accept that language is evolving, and choose to believe that CMC is dumbing down literacy. Aitchison’s (1997) ‘crumbing castle’ metaphor would apply as the idea that language should be ‘preserved’ would suggest that teachers believe school work should stay standardised. My personal opinion is that technology does encourage creativity but would not have an effect on my literacy. All things considered, this debate is a matter of opinion. Some will believe that texting has a negative effect, and some will support the advancements in technology and encourage new additions to language.

MEGAN ARMSTRONG, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Aitchison, J. (1997). The language web: The power and problem of words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baron, N. S. (2008). Always on: Language in an online and mobile world. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.

BBC. (2003). Is txt ruining the English Language. BBC News [online], 6th March 2003 . Retrieved November, 3, 2015.

Crystal, D. (2008). Txting: The Gr8 Db8. New York: Oxford University Press.

Henry, J. (2004). Pupils resort to text language in GCSE exams. The Telegraph [online]. Retrieved November, 2, 2015.

McIntyre, D. (2009) History of English. Oxon: Routledge.

Mphahlele, Mampa L., and Kwena Mashamaite. The impact of Short Message Service (SMS) language on language proficiency of learners and the SMS dictionaries: A challenge for educators and lexicographers. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning (2005), 161–8.

Tagliamonte, S. & Denis, D. (2008) Linguistic Ruin? LOL! Instant Messaging and Teen Language. American Speech (83) 1, pp. 3-34.

Varnhagen, C.K., McFall, P., Pugh, N., Routledge, L., Sumida-MacDonald, H., & Kwong,. T.E. (2010) LOL: New language and Spelling in Instant Messaging. Reading and Writing 23, pp. 719–733.

Verheijen, L. (2013) The Effects of Text Messaging and Instant Messaging on Literacy. English Studies, 94 (5), pp582-602.

Wood, C., Kemp, N., & Plester, B. (2014). Texting and literacy – The evidence. London, UK: Routledge.

Woronoff, P. (2007). Cell phone texting can endanger spelling. Retrieved November, 1, 2015.

Texting and Literacy: Tears of joy or tears of sadness (emoji..!). JOHANNA BOISSON investigates

The fast rise of technology has resulted in an increased availability of communication devices to the public domain. This has led to the belief that it has caused a decline in literacy skills. Does the use of technology make the lines between the spoken and written register blur? Or, as Tagliamonte and Denis (2008, p. 5) acknowledge, is there a whole new “hybrid register” that stems from computer mediated communication (CMC)?

Vosloo (2009, p. 2) acknowledges the negative stigma that is received from both parents and teachers as regards texting affecting literacy. Plester, Wood and Joshi (2009; cited by Vosloo, 2009, p. 3) found no association between texting and the spelling scores of 10 to12-year-old children. There was, however, an association between textisms and phonological awareness, suggesting that exposure to a wider variety of types of language, even in a non-academic context, may result in children developing their comprehension of the construction of language (Wood, Plester and Bowyer, 2008; cited by Vosloo, 2009, p. 4).

Crystal (2008; cited by Vosloo, 2009, p. 4) acknowledges that abbreviations in language are constantly used, for example ASAP (as soon as possible), thus textism abbreviations such as BRB (be right back) encourage creativity in language. Verheijen (2013, p. 586) supports this notion that texting allows creativity in language, suggesting that the use of technology and CMC “would motivate young people to read and write” and therefore develop their literacy skills. This is shown by Durkin, Conti-Ramsden and Walker (2011; cited by Verheijen, 2013, p. 589) who found that teenagers had better literacy skills when they were likely to reply to a text message, particularly from writing longer messages and using a variety of textisms.

Craig (2003; cited by Verheijen, 2013, p. 587) believes that “as language naturally evolves these novel creations may eventually become part of the Standard English lexicon”. This has been illustrated recently as the Oxford English Dictionary has announced the word of the year for 2015 as “face with tears of joy emoji” (Parkinson, 2015), which shows that CMC is becoming more accepted. Baron (2008, p. 177) acknowledges that as technology develops, changes to language may occur, such as the introduction of new words to accommodate innovations like email. Also, when neologisms appear, they should be considered rather than disregarded straight away because “distinguishing between language change and language decline is a very tricky business” (Baron, 2008, p. 161).

Although these all demonstrate the positive side to texting and CMC, it has also been shown to have an adverse effect on literacy skills. Geertsema, Hyman and van Deventer (2011; cited by Verheijen, 2013, p. 595) found that students would incorrectly use punctuation and also non-Standard English spellings, which therefore had “a negative impact on student’s academic achievement”. De Jonge and Kemp (2012; cited by Verheijen, 2013, p. 595) state that textisms could be used by some young students to deter from their underdeveloped literacy skills. Although these are differing views of the effects of texting and CMC relating to literacy, it is difficult to definitely determine whether there is an association. Verheijen (2013, p. 596) states that we should acknowledge that different results in studies can be obtained through using different independent variables, such as age, gender and education level of the participants. There will also be differences when considering how familiar a participant is with mobile phones and texting (Verheijen, 2013, p. 596).

So, are the literacy skills of future generations doomed by the existence of communication through technology? Not as much as some may think. There may isolated examples involving children are not being able to distinguish when is suitable to use textisms. However, in my opinion, most children have sufficient knowledge that CMC is in its own category for use. Therefore they would be less likely to use it in academic contexts. In my experience of academia I have not witnessed the use of textisms in any person’s work; it is more likely that someone may make a grammatical or syntactical error, which is something that can be corrected with proper guidance from teachers and thorough proofreading of work. Any encounter with language should be seen as a positive one and we should make the most of using technology to communicate. Who knows where it will take the English Language to next!

JOHANNA BOISSON, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Baron, N. S. (2008). Always on: Language in an online and mobile world. New York: Oxford University Press.

Craig, D. (2003). Instant Messaging: The Language of Youth Literacy. The Boothe Prize Essays, 116-33.

Crystal, D. (2008). Txting: The Gr8 Db8. New York: Oxford University Press.

De Jonge, S., & Kemp, N. (2012). Text-message abbreviations and language skills in high school and university students. Journal of Research in Reading 35(1), 49–68.

Durkin, K., Conti-Ramsden, G., & Walker, A. J. (2011). Txt lang: Texting, textism use and literacy abilities in adolescents with and without specific language impairment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 27 (1), 49–57.

Geertsema, S., Hyman, C., & van Deventer, C. (2011). Short Message Service (SMS) language and written language skills: Educators’ perspectives. South African Journal of Education 31 (1), 475–87.

Parkinson, H. J. (2015, Nov 17). Oxford Dictionary names emoji ‘word of the year’ – here are five better options. The Guardian.

Plester, B., Wood, C., & Joshi, P. (2009). Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 145-161.

Tagliamonte, S., & Denis, D. (2008). Linguistic Ruin? LOL! Instant Messaging and Teen Language. American Speech 83(1), 3-34. Doi: 10.1215/00031283-2008-001

Verheijen, L. (2013). The effects of text messaging and instant messaging on literacy. English Studies, 94(5), 582-602. doi: 10.1080/0013838X.2013.795737

Vosloo, S. (2009). The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity? Shuttleworth Foundation (1), 1–8.

Wood, C., Plester, B., & Bowyer, S. (2008). A Cross-Lagged Longitudinal Study of Text Messaging and Its Impact on Literacy Skills: Preliminary Results. Poster Presented at the British Psychological Society Developmental Section Conference, Oxford Brookes University, September 2008.

How gr8 iz txtng? AMY SARGESON investigates

The first text message was sent in 1992 by Neil Papworth wishing Richard Jarvis a “Merry Christmas” (Arthur 2012) and ever since then, text messaging has become a global phenomenon. In fact, in 2011, Alexander (2011) claimed that 60% of human beings are active ‘texters’ – that’s approximately 4.2 billion people! Nevertheless, not everyone is keen on the idea of texting. Many linguists, teachers and parents believe texting is dumbing down literacy and are concerned that it is affecting students’ schoolwork. But can sending a text really affect how well you do in school?

Ross (2007:4) shows that many teachers in America believe students are making countless mistakes in writing assignments because of the abbreviated language they are using in text messages and bringing into the classroom. Pew Internet & American Life Project also conducted a survey involving US teens and found that 64% admitted that ‘some form of texting has crept into their academic writing’ (cited by Lenhart et al, 2008).

In terms of texting affecting UK students, the BBC (2003) provided its online readers with the following essay written by a 13-year-old Scottish schoolgirl: “My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & th 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it’s a gr8 pic” (translation: ‘My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York, it’s a great place’). This is just a short extract of the full essay the schoolgirl wrote, but it seems to show that in this instance text message shorthand is being used in the completely wrong context, as traditionally, you are taught to use Standard English when writing an academic essay.

However, Crystal (2008:151) implies this essay may not have even existed. Then again, McIntyre believes it does not matter if this essay is real or not; as what is important is that examples like this generate “a moral panic concerning the falling standards in literacy” (McIntyre 2009:12). Plester, Wood and Joshi (2009) conducted a study to find out whether texting is actually the cause of the alleged falling standards of children’s literacy. They used 10 to 12-year-old participants and found that there was actually a “strong association between textism use and phonological awareness” (Vosloo 2009:3). This seems to show that maybe texting can actually be a good thing, as it helps children to understand how to pronounce words (for example the ‘textism’ ‘2nite’ shows how to pronounce the word ‘tonight’).

In addition, even though a lot of people are concerned over text messaging affecting literacy, McIntyre (2009:123) proposes that these people are forgetting how our writing can change as a result of what kind of circumstance we are in. If children are really using text-message shorthand (or ‘textisms’) in their academic work they need to master ‘the more appropriate register of English’ (McIntyre 2009:124).

Although there are examples of students using ‘textisms’ in their schoolwork, children often make other mistakes in their writing. As Crystal suggests, these mistakes are not a result of the use of text messaging, they are “evidence of carelessness or lack of thought rather than a systematic inability to spell and punctuate” (Crystal 2008:153).

In my opinion, to say text messaging is affecting literacy is quite extreme, as in my academic career I have never witnessed anyone using textisms (including myself) in academic work. There are many examples of text messaging affecting literacy, but there are also many linguists (for instance) who believe text messaging is actually a good thing. I for one do not believe text messaging is something to worry about, especially in terms of literacy.

AMY SARGESON, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Alexander (2011) [Accessed 18th November 2014].

Arthur, C. (2012) Text messages turns 20 – but are their best years behind them?. The Guardian [online]. 3rd December [accessed 18th November 2014]. 

BBC (2003) Is txt ruining the English Language. BBC News [online], 6th March 2003 [Accessed 7th November]

Crystal, D. (2008) Texting: The gr8 db8. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lenhart, A. et al. (2008) Writing, Technology and Teens. Pew Internet & American Life Project: Washington D.C.

McIntyre, D. (2009) History of Engish. Oxon: Routledge.

Plester, B. Wood, C. & Joshi, P. (2010) Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 27(1), pp.145-161.

Ross, K. (2007) Teachers say text messages r ruining kids’ riting skills. American Teacher, 92(3), pp.4

Vosloo, S. (2009) The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity? [Accessed 8th November 2014].


Linguistic vandalism or efficiency? CHRISTIN KLUGE explores the pros and cons of text-messaging

News about the influence of mobile phones on children can be read everywhere. Since the rise of text messages, the ‘new language’ users have been labelled as being “vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours eight hundred years ago … pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary” (Humphrys, 2007). The way it is presented, it seems inevitable that in the near future pupils will not only use this style in writing but also in speaking. The question is, does texting lead to a decay in literacy?

Woronoff (2007) claims that when spelling skills are not yet established, heavy use of texting will harm the ability to spell. On the contrary, what about all the abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms that we use regularly in our writing and speaking? Seldom people make the effort to say “North Atlantic Treaty Organization” for NATO or “British Broadcasting Corporation” for BBC. Nevertheless, they are accepted and fully integrated in the English language. As the world is developing, the demand for more vocabulary rises, and it needs to be quick to write as we live in a fast-paced society.

On the one hand the problem seems obvious. There is a proverb –  “a three must be bent while it’s young”. It’s not unusual to assume that children who first learn to write text messages will stick to the spelling later, which worries parents and teachers. However Prof. Crystal (in Kleinman 2010: 3) states that “in fact only 10% of the words in an average text are not written in full.” This is just the tip of the iceberg. Pupils don’t seem to be able to differentiate between informal texting and formal assignments in school. According to Lenhart et al 2008 (cited by Vosloo 2009: 2), “64 percent of US teens confessed that some form of texting has sneaked into their academic writing”. This opens an opportunity for teachers to speak about the right usage, says Professor Sterling (in Lewin 2008).

On the other hand there is history. More specifically, there have been many changes and shifts in languages during centuries. Today, no one could imagine speaking like Shakespeare or not having a standard dictionary. Why is it that modern texting is feared? Back when you needed to send a telegram for long distance communication every character was required to be spent wisely. One of the reasons for abbreviations in the last 20 years was to keep messages under the 160-character limit (Crystal 2008: 5-6). In times of smart phones and constant internet connection this is no longer required but it still saves a lot of time.

Kemp and Bushnell (cited in Verheijen 2013: 590) argue that fluent texting leads to better literacy skills. It seems that composing, understanding and replying to a text message correctly can only be achieved by people with great literacy skills. In contradiction to Woronoff (2007), Crystal (2008: 162) suggests that those skills are mandatory as “children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literacy awareness”. Without the knowledge of their offspring, parents lack the skill of decoding a text message. Can it be called decay if one requires better literacy skills?

Should we be worrying about our language? For now no clear results are found in case studies. Before we jump to conclusions there is a need for more research. Up to this point past studies are not comparable. Possible topics could include longitude studies with the same children during primary school or if the same impact of texting occurs in other languages. If there is decay, one way of slowing it down is to improve other parts of literacy. One possibility would be giving children books for Christmas instead of the newest gadgets!

CHRISTIN KLUGE, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Crystal, D. (2008) Txtng: The Gr8 Db8. New York: Oxford University Press

Humphrys, J. (2007) I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language. Daily Mail [online], September 24 [Accessed 3 November 2014], 2.

Kemp, N. Bushnell, C. (2001) Children’s Text Messaging: Abbreviations, Input Methods and Links with Literacy. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, pp. 18–27.

Kleinman, Z. (2010) How the internet is changing language. BBC [online], 16 August [Accessed 22 November 2014]

Lenhart, A., Arafeh, S., Smith, A., & Macgill, A. R. (2008) Writing, Technology and Teens. 

Lewin, T. (2008) Informal Style of Electronic Messages Is Showing Up in Schoolwork, Study Finds. New York Times [online], 25 April [Accessed 22 November 2014]

Verheijen, L. (2013) The Effects of Text Messaging and Instant Messaging on Literacy, English Studies, 94:5, pp.582-602.

Vosloo, S. (2009) The Effects of Texting on Literacy: Modern Scourge or Opportunity?Shuttleworth Foundation. pp.1–8.

Woronoff, P. (2007) Cell Phone Texting Can Endanger Spelling. Articlesbase [online], 6 December [Accessed 3 November 2014]

Texting: apocalypse or noble tradition? CHRISTINE GILBERT investigates

Texting – the medium of communication most people cannot live without. Whilst texting seems pretty harmless, it has become the subject of an ongoing uproar concerning the impact on children’s literacy. Texting has been placed under scrutiny by those claiming that it is a phenomenon which is irrefutably negative. For example, John Sutherland comments that text language is ‘unimaginative’ (Verheijen 2013: 587). Thurlow (2006, cited by Verheijen 2013: 585) notes that it is also viewed as ‘apocalyptic [and] criminal’. But are these claims true and is texting responsible for the dumbing down of literacy?

Craig (2003, cited by Verheijen 2013: 587) adopts a perspective which recognises the relationship between the use of textisms and literacy as one which highlights the role of texting in establishing language abilities such as the ability to communicate ‘effectively’. Crystal (2008, cited by Vosloo 2009: 4) notes that texting ultimately encourages creativity, through language play, and the ability to communicate concisely in spite of character restrictions imposed upon users of CMC (computer mediated communication). Such limitations challenge individuals to communicate what they intend whilst maintaining a degree of clarity. Striking this balance results in effective communication. As effective communication is also required of alternative written contexts, surely language skills acquired and developed through texting may be utilised in formal contexts for example, written examinations. This therefore suggests that the language skills acquired through texting are not limited in use to the one mode of communication, texting. However, a Guardian (2004) article –  Texting ‘is no bar to literacy’ acknowledged the concern surrounding the intelligibility of messages sent via (CMC) and in particular, those in the form of text messages. The text language adopted by text-messagers proves problematic for those not practicing the sweeping phenomenon that is texting as comprehensibility is believed to be compromised.

Crystal’s (2008) Guardian article, “2b or not 2b?” homes in on the controversy surrounding the use of non-standard forms. He claims that the use of non-standard forms goes back centuries. The process of abbreviation is one which dates back as early as 1618. Despite the current non-standard textism ‘pandemic’, the sustained use of abbreviations may lead us to believe Craig’s (2003, cited by Verheijen 2013: 587) conclusion which states that one day textisms will appear in the Standard English lexicon. The eventual integration of abbreviations and textisms into the lexicon would surely reflect a degree of acceptance by speakers. Alternatively, we may be tempted to adopt a stance similar to that of John Sutherland in claiming that text language and use of abbreviations is simply a ‘mask[ing of] dyslexia, poor spelling and mental laziness’ (Guardian 2008).

Lenhart et al (2008, cited by Vosloo 2009: 2) notes the alarming percentage (64%) of US teenagers pleading guilty to incorporating elements of texting into their academic writing. The concern that children cannot decipher context-appropriate language is often highlighted by the media. The 2004 Guardian article however highlights an initial study comparing the spelling and punctuation of children in given written tasks. The children were studied in two groups: texters versus non-texters. Findings showed that whilst both groups demonstrated grammatical and spelling errors, textisms were avoided, highlighting their awareness of context. If bilingual children are perfectly apt to perform the switch between languages depending on setting, why doubt a monolingual child’s ability to switch their language according to mode of communication?

So, is texting really causing ‘the dumbing down of literacy’? Is there any need to maintain this hostile approach to non-standard forms and in particular textisms? It is important to note that influential and respected writers such as Charles Dickens have willingly adopted examples of abbreviations in their literature. On a final note, whilst there is evidence in support and against the current debate, Plester, Wood & Joshi (2009, cited by Vosloo 2009: 4) conclude ‘that any engagement with the written word […] including reading and writing textisms […] is beneficial for children’.

CHRISTINE GILBERT, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


 Craig, D. (2003) Instant messaging: the language of youth literacy. The Boothe Prize Essays,  pp.116-133.

Crystal, D. (2008) 2b or not 2b. The Guardian [online], 5 July [Accessed 1 November 2014] 

Lenhart, A., Arafeh, S., Smith, A. & Macgill, A. (2008) PewReseach Internet Project [Accessed 11 November 2014]

Plester, B., Wood, C. & Joshi, B. (2009) Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1), pp.145-161.

Thurlow, C. (2006) From statistical panic to moral panic: the metadiscursive construction and popular exaggeration of new media language in the print media. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 11(1), pp.667-701.

Verheijen, L. (2013) The Effects of Text Messaging and Instant Messaging on Literacy. English Studies, 94 (5), pp.582-602.

Vosloo, S. (2009) The effects of texting on literacy: modern scourge or opportunity.  Shuttleworth Foundation, pp.1-8.

Ward, Lucy. (2004) Texting ‘is no bar to literacy’. The Guardian [online], 23 December. [Accessed 6 November 2014]