It’s easy to get old and grouchy. You get a bit past thirty and everything new seems to start sucking pretty hard. It was better back in your day. You get convinced that people are getting stupider, even though studies show that’s not true. And you might get convinced that all the newfangled iPhone thingamabobs and what’samajigs are ruining kids’ minds, and that texting is destroying their grammar.

Fortunately, science has never been a friend of narrow-minded old people, and new research shows texting isn’t driving a generation toward writing like illiterates, and in fact may have some beneficial effects. In other words, they know the difference between texting and more formal writing.

Nenagh Kemp, senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Tasmania and UK’s Coventry University Professor Clare Wood and Ms. Sam Waldron conducted a year-long study of 243 young people in the Conventry area. They obtained all the texts sent during that period, and analyzed them for grammar errors.

Kemp writes that most common issues were:

• omission of capitalisation and punctuation (hi how are you)

• omission of words (common in casual speech but not standard writing, as in am going out now. want to come?)

• unconventional punctuation (using multiple punctuation marks (??!!!), or emoticons ☺, kisses (xxx) and initialisms (lol) in place of normal punctuation)

Other less common violations included “apparently deliberate violations such as is you and does they, and word reductions such as hafta, tryna for have to, trying to.”

The researchers also tested the kids’ grammar at the beginning of the study, and tested it again at the end.

“Overall, we found no evidence that the use of grammatical violations in text messages is consistently related to poorer grammatical or spelling skills in school students,” Kemp writes.

There are some issues. Younger kids who omit capitals and punctuation did have poorer spelling in primary school. The same was noted in university students, although for that group Kemp writes it off as “explained simply by individual differences in general ability level, rather than anything specific about texting.”

On the positive side, primary and high school kids who used ungrammatical word forms, and high school kids who omitted capitals and punctuation, actually showed better spelling development.

In fact, playing around with and transgressing grammar rules actually gives the young person who writes “thanx” instead of “thanks” a chance to engage with and understand grammar better and improves reading and spelling skills, she finds.

So its time to untwist those panties when it comes to texting. As usual, the kids are alright.

“Young people seem well aware that different types of communication require different ways of writing. As long as young writers can maintain this awareness, then the violations of grammar common in digital communication need not be perceived as a reduction in writing skill, but rather as the addition of an alternative, casual style to the writer’s repertoire,” Kemp concludes.

[Source: The Conversation]

Image From Wikimedia Commons

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