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Texting may Lead to Poor Grammar Skills Among Teens

Update Date: Jul 26, 2012 02:04 PM EDT

These days, you would think autocorrect would help some texters with their poor grammar. But it doesn't and now researchers believe that text messaging could lead to declining language and grammar skills.

Penn State researchers have concluded that tweens who frequently use language adaptations -- techspeak -- when they text performed poorly on a grammar test and that tweens write in techspeak, often using shortcuts, such as homophones, omissions of non-essential letters and initials, to quickly and efficiently compose a text message.

The findings are published in the current issue of New Media & Society,

Researchers surveyed over 200 students about their texting habits, such as how many texts they send and receive, as well as their opinion on the importance of texting. The researchers also asked participants to note the number of adaptations in their last three sent and received text messages.

Researchers Drew Cingel, said the use of these shortcuts may hinder a tween's ability to switch between techspeak and the normal rules of grammar.

"They may use a homophone, such as gr8 for great, or an initial, like, LOL for laugh out loud," said Cingel. "An example of an omission that tweens use when texting is spelling the word would, w-u-d Overall, there is evidence of a decline in grammar scores based on the number of adaptations in sent text messages, controlling for age and grade."

Researchers gave middle school students in a central Pennsylvania school district a grammar assessment test. The researchers reviewed the test, which was based on a ninth-grade grammar review, to ensure that all the students in the study had been taught the concepts.

Researchers said sending children texts with word adaptations, will probably lead to them imitating it and it could affect their off-line language skills that are important to language development and grammar skills.

However, researchers did not note that avoiding capital letters and not using periods at the end of sentences did not seem to affect the teens' ability to use correct capitalization and punctuation on the tests.

The researchers suggested that the tweens' natural desire to imitate friends and family, as well as their inability to switch back to proper grammar, may combine to influence the poor grammar choices they make in more formal writing and that technology itself influences the use of language short cuts. Tweens typically compose their messages on mobile devices, like phones, that have small screens and keyboards.

Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Penn State's Media Effects Research partly blames technology.

"There is no question that technology is allowing more self-expression, as well as different forms of expression," said Sundar. "Cultures built around new technology can also lead to compromises of expression and these restrictions can become the norm."

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