By Beth M. Wood
Are you familiar with text messages like this one: “how r u?” Although it may seem harmless—after all, texting is supposed to be fast—there may be some consequences.
Is Text Grammar Hurting Real Grammar?
Pennsylvania State University’s Media Effects Research Laboratory conducted a study that confirms the negative effect of texting on grammar skills. According to the study, teens who frequently use text-speak “performed poorly on a grammar test.” Lori Lipkind, an eighth grade Language Arts teacher in St. Louis, MO, agrees.
“It definitely impacts their writing skills.” And her concerns are growing with the advent of Instagram and Snapchat. “These seem to be replacing even the texting that we thought was so bad. How much worse are kids’ language skills going to get?”
Regardless of the findings, teens are still texting, and their grammar is suffering. So what can we do to make sure our kids learn how to write correctly? The good news—grammar for teens who excel in language arts isn’t affected by texting. But for teens, like my son Jack, who struggle in language arts, texting habits only seem to make it worse.
Improving Texting And Grammar
Have no fear—you can help your teen not only curb the text-speak, but improve their written communication in the classroom and beyond. First, let your teen know what you expect. Understand that when he texts with his friends, he’s still going to use abbreviations. But when he communicates with you he’ll need to use proper grammar and spelling. He may roll his eyes, but he’ll catch on quickly.
Jack is a bright 15-year-old, but grammar has always been his weak point. The English major inside of me cringed at his text-speak and worried that it would only worsen his writing skills. I decided to do something about it.
I began correcting Jack’s texts in my replies. Our text conversations looked like this:
Jack: “Your takn us 2 practice, rite?
Me: Not until you text me back correctly.
Jack: Your taking us to practice, right?
Me: Better! But “your” is possessive. You mean “You’re” which is short for “You are.”
Jack: You’re. : )
Many times, I would respond with a simple “No” and he’d know to rephrase the message. Believe me, when he wanted something, he was willing to work a little harder.
Slowly, over the course of a year, I noticed changes in his text messages. He began spelling out words and using the correct form of a word. His writing at school improved markedly that year, too. I’m sure it had more to do with his teachers than my text message “lessons,” but I’m proud nonetheless.
I was thrilled to find that, contrary to popular belief, texting could help, rather than hinder, spelling and grammar skills. Mobile phones—and texting—are here to stay. So, we might as well use the technology as a tool for learning, rather than deterioration.
Despite Jack’s progress, and my ongoing lessons, there is one text message that I’ve never corrected. “Luv u!” Anytime I receive this one I let it ride. I’m always happy to get the message and wouldn’t want him to think I was more concerned with the way it was delivered than the fact that it was delivered at all.
But now Jack spells out that text, too. And what could be better than getting a text of “I love you, too, Mom!” from your teenager?
Beth M. Wood is an award winning freelance writer and mother of two teenage sons and one nine-going-on-teenage daughter in St. Louis, MO.