UK Study: Texting Makes for Better Spellers

Anyone who thought that texting, with all its abbreviations and lack of punctuation, might be interfering with young peoples’ spelling and grammar development may be wrong. Claire Carter, writing for The Daily Telegraph, says that a study by Coventry University and the University of Tasmania shows that leaving out capitals and punctuation and instead using text-created abbreviations is linked to increasing spelling and grammar skills.

“Our previous work has shown that the reason why we see positive associations between use of texting slang and spelling outcomes is because many of the most commonly used forms of text abbreviation are phonetically based,” Clare Wood, professor of psychology in education at Coventry University said.

Wood says that texting can give children practice in understanding how sounds and print relate to one another. It can improve phonics skills; letter-sound correspondences. An apt example would be the use of the text word, “gr8″. The reason for this kind of texting shorthand is because of time constraints or because the shorthand might be able to relate emotion more clearly for the texting crowd.

“So 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 … texting can offer children the chance to practice their understanding of how sounds and print relate to each other”.

This study was published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology. It analyzed text correspondences sent by primary, secondary, and university students and their performance on grammar and spelling tests. The analysis was repeated a year later.

Wood added: “Our work shows that the concerns that adults understandably have about this new environment for literacy are not supported by current evidence.”

The BBC, in an article written by Judith Burns, goes even further by saying that the most creative texters were among the best spellers. The mechanics were that researchers analyzed the numbers and types of spelling and grammar “violations”and then compared them with the students’ written tests.

Primary students who used creative texting spelling and grammar had a link to improved spelling ability in a year’s time. Secondary students scored better in spelling, as well. For primary students who used irregular punctuation and capital letters, their score were lower for the second test. Secondary students performed better on the second test.

Claire Carter writes in her article for Independent that four in 10 children aged 5 to 10 have access to a cell phone Three in 10 own a smartphone. The National Literary Trust has shown that children are now more likely to read on digital devices.

The only group that showed a negative impact from “text speak” were young adults. Researchers said that this may be due to their intellectual ability.