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Is civilization falling with rise of texting?

by BERNADETTE KINLAW | December 26, 2016 at 1:50 a.m.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Hamlet Text Illustration

The first text was sent 24 years ago this December. This means that most recent college graduates have never lived in a world without texting.

A key part of texting is making long words and phrases shorter. It's just easier on the thumbs. So "thank you" becomes "TY" and "talk to you later" becomes "TTYL."

Because I was one of the last people on earth to get a cellphone, I was also among the last to start texting. For the longest time, I thought LOL stood for "lots of laughs" instead of "laughing out loud." I can remember asking two younger friends what "BFF" stood for. They tactfully avoided making eye contact with each other and showed no sign of condescension when they answered, "best friends forever."

Many people have emailed me to ask about the effect that texting has on language and literacy. Are kids forgetting how to write formally? Is everyone forgetting how to spell? Are we doomed?

I've spent many hours reading studies and articles and forums on the topic. I can only report that the answer is

unknowable. I found no consensus but many, many opinions.

I've paraphrased a few of the comments and conclusions I found:

• Texting is technology's assault on formal written English.

• No association can be found between texting use and students' spelling scores.

• Texting can help children learn to read and write because of the abbreviations used.

• Texting has a negative impact on the ability to interpret and accept words.

• Texting is helping today's youth become bilingual without realizing it.

• Text messaging could lead to declining language and grammar skills.

• A linguist often asks teachers to show him examples of texting used in schoolwork. "They never can."

• In an informal poll by, 50 percent of respondents said texting was harming students' writing and grammar.

• Text messaging is simply the younger generation's version of pig Latin.

• Texting is a new language that won't advance the cause of education for the 21st century.

• The more adept children are at text messaging, the better they do in spelling and writing.

I made an effort to ask someone in the know. I asked a middle-school teacher friend whether texting had an effect on how kids write. He said, "A little, but not as much as the media says." Ouch.

Of all the opinions, my favorite was that of Katherine Martin, senior editor of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford University Press: "It is a nature of all languages to change, and it changes all the time whether the technology changes or not. The language of youth is often criticized and someone somewhere has said the language has declined, and then the next generation turns around and says the same thing."


I caught myself spelling "consensus" wrong. I thought "census" made sense in the middle of the word. But the root of consensus is "consent."


This is something you probably knew at some point in your life, but that you never, ever think about.

A.M. is the abbreviation of Latin for "ante meridian," which translates into English as "before noon."

P.M. is "post meridian" in Latin, which translates into English as "after noon."

Sources: Penn State University; Timothy Barranco; University of Calgary; Science Daily; Lewis University; David Crystal; Kent County, Md., public schools; Newsweek; Gemini Geek; Psychology Today

Reach Bernadette at

[email protected]

ActiveStyle on 12/26/2016

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