Is “textese” poor spelling and bad grammar?

Does using textese to communicate with friends on your smartphone equal bad grammar? Certainly not. Do not let pseudo scientific studies, carried out by language apprentices at some English departments, fool you into thinking that this language, used by an individual to connect with a friend, is bad per se.

Is “textese” poor spelling and bad grammar?
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Gregory Ferenstein reported in Techcrunch.com that a “study” carried out by two “researchers” from Wake Forest University and Penn State University concluded, in brief, that texting is bad for grammar and spelling. According to the “research study”, English grammar and composition skills are worse in those students who text often. Not everyone believes this. Text abbreviations are now called textese, and, according to NCBI, this form of texting could actually positively affect literacy.  

When a youngster is texting a friend, relative or acquaintance, over the cell phone, she is communicating privately, and the message is meant for one person. The way to convey the gist of the idea the person wishes to express is up to that individual and nobody is qualified to criticize how private messages are written or even spelled.

If instead of “for you” I text “4U”, what’s the problem if my girlfriend understands it? And if she answers “gr8” for “great”, what’s the beef? LOL has been around for years and we all understand it. How could these shortcuts damage my grammar and writing skills?

We all know that monks in the Middle Ages, working in their Scriptoriums (or scriptoria), where one of them recited aloud and the others copied, used shortcuts to speed up the process of copying. The most famous is the Spanish “Ñ”. The double n (nn) in Latin, annus, for example, was shortened by writing only one “n” and placing the diacritic tilde on top, to indicate the absence of an “n”, adding thus a letter to the Spanish alphabet, and turning annus into “año”. This practice we will find in French, Portuguese and German, to mention only three other languages. Was this detrimental to language skills?

Nobody seems to object to nite, for night; or to thru, for through; or lite for light, and yet these spellings can be read on billboards, advertisements, and in private, informal writings. What about the by now famous ASAP? ASAP for “as soon as possible,” abounds in business letters, disregarding good manners and proper business etiquette.

Contractions like we’re, I’m, I’d, didn’t, doesn’t are now accepted in formal writing and in some publications. Perhaps you have noticed that I do not use such contractions in my posts or blogs. I avoid shortcuts, I believe, out of respect for my readers. If someone is going to take the time and make the effort to read what I have written, she should have a clean and fair copy of it, instead of some gobbledygook hard to decipher.   

Eye dialect, (wanna, gotta, gonna, lik’er), has been around for years. Pick up a comic book for children, or even for “adults”, and start bemoaning the fate of the English language.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) wrote his famous and very interesting Diary in “tachygraphy”, in shorthand, a system that has been used until recently, with different forms, in many languages. Often, the only secretary able to read the shorthand written text was the writer herself. This method of writing was not detrimental to the grammar or spelling skills of people.

The Romans and Greeks used abbreviated systems also.

If students have bad grammar and spelling, teachers should make extra efforts to remedy the malady instead of blaming cell-phone texting, or “textese,” which is a harmless activity.

Also read: Keeping alive the art of penmanship

Textese is used by both young and older people alike, although it´s more prevalent in youth. Is it considered poor spelling? #texting #textese #spelling #grammar

Delfín Carbonell Basset

Delfín Carbonell is a graduate of Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Ph.D. in Philology from Madrid and has authored 35 books in both English and Spanish, published by McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Larousse, Anaya and Serbal. He has taught at Pitt, F&M, Scranton and Murray St. University.