Friday, February 22, 2013

The Ghost of Grammar Past

The ghost of grammar past is swirling around me as two related articles/posts have recently crossed by path.

First, I came across this infographic below dealing with  a vexing question: Does Texting Hurt Your Grammar?  The concern is that when texting we take shortcuts which 'look' bad when texting professionally, and may hurt students' incorporation of grammar rules.  Here are a few examples of shortcuts:

Does Texting Hurt Your Grammar? – Infographic

This  infographic (which I believe was crated by Best Infographics and also found at and also found at relates that "Children are more likely to remember these new texting rules and abbreviations than old school rules such as “i before e except after c” or other grammar rules."

My only question is where were these results obtained, and on how many students.  That said, it still is powerful and effective at making a point:

So what's the story and what does research tell us?

According to Alan Mozes (HealthDay Reporter, 8/8/2012) A new study ("Texting, techspeak, and tweens: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills" by Drew P. Cingel and S.Shyam Sundar - first published in New Media & Society, May 11, 2012) warns that texting among young teens may be undermining their grammar skills.  This concern stems from the results of standardized language testing and surveys among 228 middle school students grades six through eight between the ages of 10-14 from central Pennsylvania. Co-author of the study, S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University noted that:
 "...this is correlational, not causal...while we see an association between texting and grammar problems among teens, we cannot say that one is actually causing the other...However...compared to those who text very little, those middle schoolers who texted a lot did much more poorly in terms of their offline grammar skills...[suggesting] that kids who are using a lot of word adaptations while texting--saying 'gr8', for example, instead of 'great' --are unable to switch sufficiently back to proper grammar and spelling when not texting."
Interestingly, (unlike the study noted in the infographic above) in this study no gender differences were found.  Simply the more a tween used text shortcuts (sending and/or receiving), the worse their overall grammar performance.

There have, however, been opposing perspectives. Susan Sotillo, associate professor of linguistics at Montclair State University noted that "Children know that when you're in school, you do not use texting's up to the teacher to say it's not acceptable." She further noted that to see the impact of texting on grammar or any language skills, researchers must study thousands of people across a variety of backgrounds and geographic regions.

To make matters more confusing, at about the same time this infographic came out, posted a blog "Most of What You Think You Know About Grammar Is Wrong: And ending sentences with a preposition is nothing worth worrying about" (written by Patricia T. O'Connor and Steward Kellarman, Smithsonian magazine, February 2013). Here are some of their myth busters - although sadly, I'm not even sure kids today would even understand them:

  • Ending a sentence with a preposition is nothing worth worrying about;
  • There is nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction;
  • Perhaps the biggest grammar myth of all is the infamous taboo against splitting an infinitive, as in “to boldly go.” The truth is that you can’t split an infinitive: Since “to” isn’t part of the infinitive, there’s nothing to split. Great writers—including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne and Wordsworth—have been inserting adverbs between “to” and infinitives since the 1200s.

    The article continues by noting where "these phony rules" originated and why they persist. Read more:
The bottom line is that regardless of whether texting is hurting kids' developing skills in grammar and/or in writing, it is here to stay.  Communication is clearly changing and we have to incorporate those changes in and out of school.  With texting, tweeting, instant messaging, and infographics, we will be incorporating writing shortcuts AND our messages will, by the nature of texting and limits of time, become shorter and more succinct. So...

Given the state of constant texting and confusing rules of grammar... Below is a list of things parents and teachers can do to help their kids:
  • When texting to kids model correct spelling, grammar, and word usage;
  • Encourage and model editing when writing/sending cards, emails, papers, etc.
  • If/when you read newspapers / articles / web posts, respond - write letters or comments back and encourage your kids to do the same (when appropriate);
  • Point out and reinforce the difference between social texting with shorcuts and writing for school and work;
  • Point out the difference between the budding hybrid language of "techspeak" or "textspeak" (what they use when texting where the text is riddled with acronyms and abbreviations)  and 'proper' (oh I hate that word - any suggestions)  English;
  • Offer diverse writing opportunities and projects;
The bottom line is that regardless of whether texting is hurting kids' developing skills in grammar and in writing, for that matter, it is here to stay.  Communication is clearly changing and we have to incorporate those changes in and out of school.  With texting, tweeting, instant messaging, our will incorporate shortcuts AND our messages will, by the nature of texting and limits of time, become shorter and more succinct. So...

Additional tools/references to help or hurt:
    • Unpack Your Adjectives
    • School house Classics: Grammar Rock

 That's it for this time!
Thanks for your visit... and please leave your opinions, reflections and suggestions in the comments.


  1. That is quite the info graphic. Thanks for linking up with me this week - I appreciate it.

  2. I hate it when people on Facebook and Twitter don't even know the difference between 'then' and 'than', 'you're' and 'your', and 'their', there, and they're..

  3. Hi! I followed you over from "The Things We Find Inside" blog hop. I am guilty of grammar errors, especially when sending texts, which I do a lot of, but this is a great post! This has nothing to do with sending texts, but I was driving past a McDonald's yesterday, and the sign facing a major road said "Try are new fish McBites". It made me laugh that they used "are".


  4. Good post. My husband, an English teacher, agreed with most of the points. I think that English is growing and changing in a very dynamic way, faster than we can keep up. Maybe this is part of the evolution.

  5. I think technology (more specifically texting) certainly does have an impact on grammar. I'm hoping Princess Nagger continues to be the grammar police when people use improper grammar. ;)

    Art Show Yawn-Fest, Funny Princess Nagger, Baby Bear Rescue and Michele Obama Dancing – Random Tuesday Thoughts Rebel

  6. Great post, as a professor I see more texting style writing in my students papers than I would prefer to see- language seems to have become too informal for my own tastes. It is not uncommon for a student to insert "LOL" in a paper!

  7. the only one I use a lot is BTW; 'll even use it in a blog post. That said, the language is always changing. I remember, e.g., that people boo hooed the introduction of the word party as a verb, and not just a noun.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  8. I believe it is. I stuck to my guns when I taught all six of my kids grammar. I believe that it is the basis of great writing.

    Royalegacy's Wordless Wednesday - A Frequent Visitor

  9. Really interesting and too true. I homeschooled my children through primary, and I am really pleased they know how to spell and write. I shared this out on Facebook

  10. I too was taught to use good grammar, and blogging has helped improve my skills and believe it is missing in our schools today! Thank you for stopping by Oh! My Heartsie Reviews

  11. Wonderful post and one I think everyone should read. Thanks for posting it.

  12. Language evolution makes it more challenging for educators to keep it interesting for students. I'd suggest incorporating texting into teaching and testing. Using match up, multiple choice, etc. (etcetera) so kids have opportunities to relate the two forms with each other.

  13. I fully believe that each type of grammar has its place--the grammar of texting looks ridiculous used in any other arena, but is totally appropriate used in the context of a text message or tweet.
    I'd love it if you'd stop by and link up to my Wordless Wednesday

  14. Language is a matter on context and convention and, of course, texting is a new context with new conventions! I tend to side with Sotillo in saying that it is up to teachers and others to point out when texting language is acceptable and when it isn't.

  15. I am guilty of short handing texts and Facebook messages, but wouldn't dream of doing it on my blog. Well, other than the occasional LOL.

  16. nice post:)
    Happy WW.

  17. Awesome post. Thank you for linking up at my blog. I've tweeted this post (everyone deserves a great grammar lesson!) and I'm wishing you a Happy Wednesday!

  18. My 12 year old is writing a research paper right now about how social networking sites affect society. The use of texting language is one of his points.

    Thanks for linking up at Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

  19. Lol is what I use mostly. In my own opinion, text language is not really advisable especially to young people..

    Gums and Gummies
    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team.

  20. Love this graphic! Unfortunately, I think that bad grammar started before texting and social media came into the picture. Texting and social media have just made things worse.

    (Note: Texting isn't recognized by my spell checker)

    I'm working very hard with my children (8 and 6) to make sure that they have excellent grammar skills. Just the other day, my 8 year old was helping her sister sound out words and she repeated something that I bet even some adults don't know. "The silent E makes the O say it's name." Simple spelling/grammar rules are not being taught.

    I think one of my biggest pet peeves is that people don't know what an adverb is. "I want it bad" want it badLY!!!

  21. Interesting myths! I don't think I'll stop worrying about ending sentences with prepositions, though - it's been ingrained. ;D

    ♥ aquariann
    Featured Photo: Painted Lady Butterfly

  22. Great post! Thanks for linking up at My Bizarre Family! I am your new follower =)

  23. It's a problem! They can't even figure out how to type up a resume. I teach college.

  24. Texting definitely harms grammar, spelling, and makes kids forget about capitalization rules too. Not knowing correct punctuation rules can be life threatening too. For example: "Time to eat, Grandma" or "Time to eat Grandma."

  25. It's amazing to me that kids in grade 12 have already lost their ability to structure sentences correctly. I wonder how they even got to grade 12 when they can't write a simple essay. And don't get me started on grammar! lol I'm a Grammar Nazi! j/k

  26. Not a grammer freak but I hate ending sentences with a preposition and spend far too much time trying to reconfigure the sentence or question.

    thanks for stopping by WW

  27. This is such an informative post. I will be sharing this post with friends.

  28. very informative, would like to tell to friends

    Happy Wordless Wednesday! My entry is here .


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