Text Messages and Literacy

Does text messaging, or “texting,” affect literacy? This question is still hotly debated. Some believe texting can be a helpful communication tool and a reflection of our evolving language. Others believe it harms grammar, hurts formal writing and is less professional in the workplace. The debate has been raging since 1994. However, anxieties surrounding language and technology are nothing new. New research about the use and effects of text messaging has been published recently. Many linguists now think of texting as a new language with its own set of rules. With every new writing technology comes abbreviated text, new spellings and even entirely new words.

“People look at texting shortcuts or the abbreviation and jargon-filled communicative environments of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and other social media sites, and lament that digital writing is causing young people to butcher grammar.” – Scott Warnock, from Bad Ideas About Writing.

Instead of negative effects of texting on literacy, many researchers are finding that texting (including using emojis) actually helps improve literacy in certain contexts. In fact, texting can be an excellent educational tool. For example, in the video below, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi talks about the mobile literacy program offered by the Afghan Institute of Learning. For more information, visit the website or read the UN Solutions Summit description.

We have provided some recent research and resources about texting and literacy. Also included are activities that use texting to help teach language and literacy.

Research and writing


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