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July 27, 2012

Texting tweens score lower on grammar tests, researcher says

WASHINGTON — In his second term, President Theodore Roosevelt tried to “reform” U.S. spelling, to make it simpler and easier to write words. But what Roosevelt failed to do, the practice of “texting” may succeed in doing. And not everyone thinks that's a good thing.

Drew Cingel, a doctoral student at Northwestern University, says the group of adolescents known as “tweens” are forming poor language skills and he blames texting. When people send texts, they tend to shorten words, use abbreviations and initials.

These usages quickly spill over into everyday usage. Cingel says more tweens are performing poorly on grammar tests.

Gr8!

"They may use a homophone, such as gr8 for great, or an initial, like LOL for laugh out loud," said Cingel. "An example of an omission that tweens use when texting is spelling the word would, w-u-d."

Cingel said the use of these shortcuts while texting, especially if they do a lot of texting, may hinder a tween's ability to switch between techspeak and the normal rules of grammar. The consequences can be severe, such as not getting a job because you wrote “i wud b a gr8 worker:)” on a job application.

To prove his point, Cingel gave middle school students in a central Pennsylvania school district a grammar assessment test. The researchers reviewed the test, which was based on a ninth-grade grammar review, to ensure that all the students in the study had been taught the concepts.

The researchers then gathered information about each student's texting habits.

Decline in grammar scores

"Overall, there is evidence of a decline in grammar scores based on the number of adaptations in sent text messages, controlling for age and grade," Cingel said.

Not only did frequent texting negatively predict the test results, but both sending and receiving text adaptations of words were associated with how poorly they performed on the test.

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