Short paper: The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity?

Texting refers to the use of abbreviations and other techniques to craft SMS and instant messages. Texting does not always follow the standard rules of English grammar, nor usual word  spellings. It is so pervasive that some regard it as an emergent language register in it’s own right. This is largely due to the proliferation of mobile phones as well as internet-based instant messaging (IM).

Girl textingFor a number of years teachers and parents have blamed texting for two ills: the corruption of language and the degradation in spelling of youth writing. Is there any good to come from this “modern scourge”? In the evolution of language, are we witnessing a major change akin to that brought about by Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th-century author who wrote in vernacular English language, rather than French or Latin?

To answer these questions, I wrote an issue paper that explores the issue of texting, first by defining literacy, then describing the empirical research available on the effects of texting on youth literacy, which underpin the positive perspectives a number of linguists ascribe to texting. Examples of positive interventions – in classroom and informal learning contexts – that leverage the popularity of texting are outlined. Finally, research questions regarding texting in the South African context are offered. All comments welcome!

Download paper (pdf)

(Image: Texting by adotjdotsmith. CC-BY-SA-2.0)


12 responses to “Short paper: The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity?

  1. A fascinating topic and a great paper. Thanks for this insight!

  2. I just wanted to say thankyou for attributing my photo and correctly putting the CC license. It really makes me very happy when people do. Thankyou. :)

  3. Thank you,
    very interesting article

  4. I’m a student at Coventry University, and I’m currently typing an essay on the effect that text messaging has on the English Language.

    This article has proved to be very useful so I just wanted to send my thanks. If I may, I would like to put this article in my list of references. I will of course credit fully to you as the university requires students to do in its version of the harvard referencing style.

  5. @Rob,

    I’m glad you’ve found the article helpful! Yes, please do reference this piece and also send me your essay once it’s done.


  6. Hi!
    I seemed to stumble upon this page after doing some research on my honors topic.I plan on looking at the effect of IM’ing on the English language, something very similar to Rob’s topic. but at the University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa).
    Your work seems very interesting and inspiring and up-to date.
    I would like to know if i can use it in my research. Your full details will be referenced of course.
    Many thanks for your contribution to this topic

  7. Hi Steve,

    Do thank you so much. Do you have an email I can send to? I cannot seem to locate it…

  8. Hi @Shanil,

    Yes, please do use it in your research.


  9. Steve, just a note to say that I noticed the email that you liked my essay.

    Thanks very much. =D


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