Children and teenagers using “text speak” while texting score higher on spelling and grammar tests than those who don’t, a study says.
Coventry University researchers compared the spelling and grammar of over 160 British students between the ages of 8 and 16 on two formal tests administered 12 months apart. They divided the students into groups of those who use text speak — meaning they spelled, punctuated and formed sentences according to popular text messaging styles (Im g8, C U L8tr) — and those who don't.
“They found that for the primary-age children in the sample, use of ungrammatical word forms and unconventional spelling in texts was linked to better spelling ability 12 months later,” the BBC reported on the research. “For secondary students, the use of word reduction when texting, was also associated with better spelling.”
The study found that students who used text speak improved at a more dramatic level than those who use traditional grammar while texting.
The only area that suffered in relation to how children form text messages and proper grammar use was punctuation. The study reported that primary-school children who used unorthodox punctuation and capitalization scored poorly on those portions of the tests, but this was not true of secondary age students, where no change was seen.
The problems with punctuation are attributed to the fact that punctuation is learned after basic reading and writing, so primary-school children are improvising punctuation in text messaging, attempting to copy what they observe, but do not yet understand. The researchers said that when children do this they teach themselves incorrect associations with punctuation.
Though age did seem to factor in to some areas of proper grammar, unorthodox spelling was linked to improved spelling over the 12 months across all age groups.
“When children are playing with these creative representations of language they have to use and rehearse their understanding of letter-sound correspondences: a skill which is taught formally as phonics in primary classrooms,” Clare Wood, a professor at Coventry University, told the BBC. "So texting can offer children the chance to practice their understanding of how sounds and print relate to each other."
Those findings are a “relief to educators and parents,” according to Scholastic Instructor, because the average teenager sends approximately 3,900 text messages a month. That’s nearly 130 per day or the equivalent of one text every 10 minutes.
"Negative commentary on teens’ affinity for texting hasn’t been difficult to find, such as historian Niall Ferguson’s opinion piece in Newsweek, ‘Texting Makes U Stupid,’ exemplifies the general line of attack: ‘Teens who text do not read books,’ he asserts. ‘And they have no interest in culture,’” Scholastic Instructor reported.
“Such attacks are easy to find — perhaps because they’re easy to write,” Scholastic Instructor said. “They are not based on research. No negative association has been made between texting and reading skills. In fact, if we look at studies on texting, a different conclusion emerges: Texting increases literacy, and it improves, of all things, spelling.”
Similar to Coventry University’s study, a study out of the University of Tasmania, published in the Australian Journal of Educational Development & Psychology, looked at the relationship between texting and literacy. The study found that the creativity associated with texting improves reading, writing and spelling via phonological relationships, more commonly known as phonics.
The Tasmanian study also found that the more creative the texter the less likely they were to not only not use text speak in formal schoolwork, but to be more innovative in word choice in academic settings, saying that they have an “acute and unique grasp of the language.”
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