With the advent of texting and online social networking. There has been a dictionary of new words and acronyms, based on abbreviations. I have noticed that I will misuse there, they're and their, hear and here... and the incidence of my grammatical errors has increased with the increase in longevity of my online and text communication.

I understand this is anecdotal, but I am wondering:
Are there studies showing the effects of online social networking and texting on people's written language skills?


2 Answers 2


The research on this topic is limited; it seems, however, that the advent of online and mobile communication may assist in improving literacy skills of children and people learning a second language.

The use of phonetic abbreviations, assists the learner in developing the connection between verbal and written language. The use of acronyms relies on the users knowledge of how words are spelt. Which requires a presumption of literacy.

Although some studies are inconclusive, the trend shows that texting and online chat assists in child literacy. Enforced limitations on text size, and the use of a, rapidly, evolving language, promotes creativity in the use of written language.

Recognising that many, if not most, textisms are some form of phonetic abbreviation, Plester, Wood and Joshi (2009) argue that to produce and read such abbreviations requires, in the texter, a level of phonological awareness (and orthographic awareness). While spelled incorrectly in a conventional sense, many textisms are phonologically acceptable forms of written English. Decades of research has demonstrated a consistent association between different forms of 3phonological awareness and reading attainment. David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, believes that sending frequent texts can actually help children to read and write because of the abbreviations used. “People have always used abbreviations ... They do not actually use that many in texts but when they do they are using them in new, playful and imaginative ways that benefit literacy” (Leake, 2008).

Crystal (2008) believes that the widespread concern about the impact of texting on children’s literacy is unfounded. The brevity of the text style, and the 160 character constraint of an SMS, requires the author to write economically, inventively and playfully – doing this is good practice when learning to read and write. Wood, Plester and Bowyer (2008) concur that “when texting, the children have the freedom to ‘play’ with the construction of language that they are learning about at school, and are creative in their use of it. They also have regular engagement with it.” Plester, Wood and Joshi (2009) believe that any engagement with the written word (as opposed to the spoken word) – including reading and writing textisms in digital form on mobile phones – is beneficial for children. Wood, Plester and Bowyer (2008) posit that “children’s use of this technology appears to have a positive impact on their developing literacy, as it provides children with an additional resource for learning about and experimenting with letter-sound correspondences and language, and for reading and ‘decoding’ text.” They conclude that “If our children are showing difficulties with reading and spelling attainment, it would seem that this is in spite of the contribution of textism use, not because of it.”


Evolution of language Language changes constantly. To illustrate this point, at the beginning of each school year Cindi Rigsbee, a sixth- and seventh-grade reading-resource teacher in the USA, shows her learners texts from Old English, Middle English, contemporary English from the time of Jane Eyre, and a MySpace page. Throughout the year, Rigsbee often refers back to this lesson to remind her learners of the different forms of writing (Bernard, 2008). Other teachers have contrasted IM lingo with Shakespeare to demonstrate how English has evolved (Lee, 2002)

(The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity? - Shuttleworth Foundation)

The use of texting and online chat has also promoted Second Language Acquisition (SLA). The emphasis being on the written language, and the inability to utilize body language, and facial gestures, as a bridge to overcoming learning difficulties.

It was found that text-based online chat promotes noticing more than face-to-face conversations, especially in terms of learners’ noticing of their own linguistic mistakes.


Philp’s (1999) findings pushed the agenda of research on noticing away from general evidentiary studies on the positive effect of noticing on SLA towards exploratory studies on contextual factors that affect noticing. Realizing the potential effect of learners’ memory capacity on noticing as laid out in Doughty’s (2001) cognitive comparison framework, Mackey, Philp, Egi, Fujii, and Tatsumi (2002) designed a study to explore the relationship between learners’ working memory (WM) capacities and their noticing of interactional feedback. They found that there was a positive relationship between WM capacities and their noticing of interactional feedback, and that learners at lower developmental levels exhibited more noticing than those at higher levels.

(NOTICING AND TEXT-BASED CHAT, Chun Lai and Yong Zhao, Michigan State University)

It is unclear what the advent of technological communication has upon the literacy of adult native language. Any links to current research on this would be welcome.

Note I would like to acknowledge that I have used the links provided in the comments to answer this question.

Will update answer upon acquisition of new material.


I have come across some literature in the gaming arena which I thought was relevant. Gaming is full of texting however there is also voice chat (so this might be a bit off-topic). Texting as the sole form of communication in social media has become increasingly rare.

Despite these reservations, this 2014 Swedish study (Sundqvist & Sylvén) found a significant relationship between online gaming and practising and using English especially for boys.

A 2017 Danish study found a strong relationship between gaming and English acquisition. Signe Jensen examined 107 students and found that for boys playing games with oral and written input performed better on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.


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