The Effect of Text Messaging on Spelling

Most of us have mobile phones these days and since their widespread take up, they have revolutionised the ways in which we communicate with each other.

One of the most widely used applications is text (SMS) messaging, particularly amongst teenagers and children even younger.

One of the most cited criticisms, particularly by academics, is that text messages have encouraged the ‘dumbing down’ of our youth when it comes to spelling but it’s important to look at the whole culture of text messaging before jumping to conclusions.

The Culture of Text Messaging

Text messages have become a common everyday means by which many of us communicate at a distance on a daily basis.

For children who have mobile phones in particular, it is probably the most used application on their phones often because it’s far cheaper for them to send text messages than it is to make calls.

When considering spelling and text messages, however, it’s important to remember that the culture of text messaging is all about speed and instant communication.

Text Messaging, Speed And Instancy

When people send text messages, they rely on the speed of the communication as well as often having an expectation that they’ll get a response quickly.

Some people even have virtual ‘text conversations’ whereby two people will send several text messages back and forth in a similar manner as if they were speaking to each other face to face.

Therefore, in order to make this as instantaneous as possible, an entirely new culture of ‘text speak’ has emerged.

This involves texting using abbreviations and symbols, instead of correct spelling, to shorten the length of time it takes to write a sentence without diluting its meaning. Here are some examples and what they mean.

  • OMG = Oh my God
  • Str8 = straight
  • 2moz or 2moro = tomorrow
  • 2G2BT = too good to be true
  • LOL = laugh out loud (to indicate a person’s laughing in response to a text)

There are literally thousands of these abbreviations which people use when texting as alternative spellings to words, simply to save time and to make communication more instant.

Is Text Messaging Bad For Spelling Then?

This is a question that’s often asked and there is divided opinion both for and against. Opponents will point to the fact that text messaging doesn’t encourage young people to learn how to spell correctly whilst those in favour will state that abbreviated spelling is just a quick and easy method to convey a message by text.

Basically, what it is important to understand is that text messaging has its own unique style and culture – particularly amongst teenagers and young people.

For example, take the word ‘cool’ which young people will often write in a text as ‘kewl’.

Here, it’s plain to see that the length of the two words are the same so no time has been saved.

However, it’s also important to recognise that the use of ‘kewl’ has been adopted more from a ‘fashionable’ and culturally appropriate viewpoint.

Therefore, although opinion might be divided, there is no clear scientific evidence that text messages can be blamed for dumbing down the spelling skills of our youth.

Granted, some children will learn to spell correctly far more quickly and easily than others. However, even the poorest spellers in the world would probably be able to tell you that the text spelling of ‘str8’ for ‘straight’ is incorrect in terms of using proper English.

For those critics of text messaging, it’s often worth pointing out that the vast majority of good spellers and English speakers will often use words and language in written form that they would never use in verbal conversation anyway.

Therefore, as a direct correlation, this could also be applied to ‘text speak’. It is, after all, not meant to be seen as a written form of communication but an extension of how we might have a conversation if we were speaking over the phone.

Therefore, it’s probably better to perceive it in that way as opposed to being overtly critical about spelling in text messages as the vast majority of people who use ‘text speak’ know only too well that they’re using incorrect spellings – whether or not they know how to spell a particular word correctly.

See Also
Boy and girl on their mobiles
Children and Mobile Phones
Social media smartphone icons
Teenagers, Facebook and Internet Use