SMS/Texting Habits and Grammar

I recently found a piece online about children’s spelling and SMS in anglophone India:

“We have learnt to accept the fact that kids will remain hooked on the mobile phone, of which SMS-ing is an integral part. We are devising ways to help them strike a balance between the formal language that they are expected to write in their answer scripts and the SMS language,” said T H Ireland, principal, St James School.

We’ve talked about SMS and texting here on a few previous occasions. This is something new, though.

Before I got my iPhone, I made an effort to have correct spelling and grammar in my text messages. The iPhone makes that even easier, just as it makes everything in your life easier.

But I’ve developed a bit of a bad habit. The iPhone corrects your spelling, especially when contractions are involved, so I now type “dont” and “im” and “thats” with the knowledge that it will turn into “don’t” “I’m” or “that’s” as I type it.

This hasn’t quite affected my life away from my iPhone (which pretty much consists of my sleeping hours ;-)).  Then again, the readers of this blog and I tend to be an exception to the rule and not the norm.

I know a lot of you are teachers, and plenty more of you have elementary school-aged kids.  Have you seen “SMSese” and text-speak affecting kids’ writing?


26 responses to “SMS/Texting Habits and Grammar

  1. Kids? School work? I see a distressing amount of SMSese from co-workers in the software industry. The vast majority only shows up in IM conversations, but still…

  2. My boyfriend is a high school teacher and one of the exercises he conducted at the beginning of the year was asking his students to write down a few classroom rules that they thought would be appropriate. One girl wrote, “No IM-speak on written assignments. Kthxbye!”

    I know that that’s not exactly “SMSese,” but that one got me pretty good… I equate “SMSese” with “IM-speak,” anyway.

  3. As a high school teacher, I am shocked (!) when I receive papers that have “cuz” used for because or “r” used for either are or our. Maybe it’s because I teach math, so when I ask them to explain, they think they can do so in shorthand. I’ll have to ask my colleagues if this occurs in their essays and papers, too.

  4. “The iPhone corrects your spelling, especially when conjunctions are involved […]” You mean “contractions.” Duh.

  5. I appreciate you trying to police our fine country in honor of those of us who appreciate the correct usage of the English language.

    However, I believe to be successful as the “Grammar Vandal” you need to know what you’re talking about.

    Not only did you refer to contractions as conjunctions, but you also left out a pretty important punctuation mark. Bringing your attention to a punctuation mark may seem petty, but you do refer to yourself as the Grammar Vandal, no?

    I will not point out the specific punctuation mark because, being THE Grammar Vandal, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

    Keep up the good work! We’re counting on you.

  6. Helen A. Handbasket

    I concur with Mr. ST Harlequinn.

    I love it when so-called grammar experts make stupid mistakes.

    Duh, indeed!

  7. I receievd an internal e-mail this week wishing me a “Happy NY”. I’ve received e-mails from the same guy that consist solely of “TY” for whatever update I’ve sent him. It makes me NUTS. Either thank me properly or don’t bother. This isn’t IM-speak or SMS-ese – maybe he would use both if he ever wrote more than 2 characters to me at a time.

  8. I LOVE the fact that my iphone gives me the full range of punctuation, though I wonder if certain punctuation marks show up as random characters when I text to people with more basic phones. Does anyone know?

    And as far as SMS-ese, I’ve noticed it creep into facebook activity a few times (other people’s – not mine!). I recently received a wall post (from a COWORKER!) that said something like “Does that mean u’ll b back in the office 2morrow?” Cringe. Shudder. Thought about deleting it. 🙂

  9. I do the same thing with contractions on my iPhone! Sadly, it has started bleeding into other writing. Not on papers or anything else important, but I find it happening in more informal writing, like Facebook posts. Luckily, I proofread EVERYTHING I write (yes, even wall posts) so I always catch it.

  10. You pat yourself on the back pretty hard for someone who doesn’t know the difference between a conjunction and a contraction… You come off as foolish.

  11. Don’t all text-capable phones have menus which allow for full punctuation? Mine does. All it takes is a few extra “key strokes”….

  12. I teach 11th grade English and you would not believe the state of our kids’ writing. Some of my kids think I’m a grammar Nazi (their words, not mine), but in reality literature is my thing not writing or grammar. (In fact, I am a terrible speller…my kids love that!) However, I hate it when they use what I call “texting shortcuts” on their papers. I tell them that they have to learn to separate their formal papers from notes they write to each other, IMs, texts, etc. Anything else is just laziness.

    Also, I do allow my students to text me, but I make them use “real” words.

    Oh, and everyone makes mistakes… Don’t let the criticizers get you down. It’s okay to point out a person’s mistakes, but no need to belittle them.

  13. Thanks for your note in particular, Smalltowngirl. Also, as a note, I post most critical comments on here, but if you’re going to be an asshole about it, I’m not going to print what you say.

    There’s this one commentator in particular. I have no idea why she’s so obsessed with this blog. She comments over and over and over again, even coming up with new email addresses after I block her. I’ve never understood why some people seem to do nothing but post awful comments on blogs and stories. (, in my opinion, has the meanest commentators on the Web.)

  14. I am a teaching assistant at a university which has fairly stringent writing standards for accepting new students. I have wondered lately, however, if they are starting to relax these standards out of economic desperation. Not only do I receive formal written assignments laden with IM-ese, I also receive regular submissions that are so badly written that I am tempted to scrawl in the margins, “You are functionally illiterate. Please repeat high school and then return to this class.”

  15. I am also a grammar addict and iPhone user. Yay! I am nervous that the iPhone always makes “its” turn to “it’s.” So many people put in the ‘ when it’s not supposed to be there, it’s already pandemic, I think this will just make things worse.

  16. So who are these elementary kids of school age ?

  17. I work as a QA manager for a Software Company and have noticed a definite difference in the communications from my entry-level (20 somethings) and more senior employees. It really bothered me initially but now I wonder if I am going to just have to accept it. After all, we regularly add new words to the dictionary and other words go out of use. I would not be surprised to see IM and SMS spellings become the norm as these tweens and teens become the adults and professionals in our country.

  18. We are devising ways to help them strike a balance between the formal language that they are expected to write in their answer scripts and the SMS language,” said T H Ireland, principal, St James School.

    That’s simple. THERE IS NO BALANCE! Use one for one, the other for the other. They shouldn’t overlap.

  19. I’m just wondering if in all these grammar mispelling we can include the misuse of the word “kid”; I apologize for my english and appreciate any comments on it, since it can only be good as i’m actually italian, hence, I truly would not be offended:)


    An Exploration of the Use of Text Messaging in College Students and Its Impact on Their Social and Literacy Behaviors.

  21. I work as a writing tutor at a large, private university in the South. They offer a program called CFAW (College for a Weekend), in which high school students can attend classes, stay in the dorms, and experience general college life for a four-day weekend. Last September, the Student Life Department sent out an email with their latest CFAW marketing: “C U @ CFAW!” The entire email (containing information about what college is “really like” and designed to be distributed to youth across the country) was written in SMS-ese. I was horrified. Isn’t it bad enough that today’s high school students submit papers to their English teachers in text-speak? Should a university imply that such laziness and uneducated language are acceptable in any academic setting, let alone at the collegiate level? I understand that the target audience was teens, but that’s still no excuse. Barack Obama didn’t use Ebonics to try to better relate to inner-city voters. He criticized them for taking the easy way out and speaking like uneducated hooligans because he wanted them to better themselves. Why go to college if not to better yourself? We should be bringing these kids up to our level, not dropping down to theirs. Apparently, a plethora of English faculty, department editors, and writing tutors emailed their complaints. All CFAW marketing has been updated to only include proper English. Another victory for the grammar snobs!

  22. This is my first year teaching English and I had a fit at the beginning of this year after my first round of papers came in because of “u” and “bc” and “idk.” Now, closer to the end of the year, I have a lot less of those “texting” words used in papers they turn in because they know it’s my pet peeve. Still working on the “there, their, they’re,” “it’s, its,” and “you’re, your” thing though… that will be a constant battle.

    Found your blog today, it’s going on the favorites! 🙂

  23. Oh, and I just had to respond to Tami’s comment:

    If the IM and SMS speak becomes the “norm” in our society, then I will have to become a recluse. I’m with Hannah who said that we should be bringing students up from that level, and I hope it never becomes “professional” to use short cuts. I cringe when my educated friends text me and use “u,” it’s just not right!

  24. Who cares if he made a grammatical error. No one, even people who police grammar, is perfect. If perfection were the standard we held leaders (police officers, elected officials, Church leaders, etc.) to, organized society would melt down. So please, how about some comments responding to the content of the post. People who point out grammatical errors instead of posting content on blogs just look like they don’t have anything substantive to say.

  25. I will tell you why people people call you out over any little grammatical error that you have in your own blog. You call yourself the Grammar Vandal. If you are going to spend time criticizing others over the use of the language then you better proof the heck out of your own work.

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