Can Texting Damage Writing Skills?


I often talk to my students about whether they feel texting has caused people to have more difficulties with their writing skills.  I personally see a lot of first-year students who abbreviate quite a bit, lack punctuation skills and don’t write in complete sentences. 

Young and younger children are receiving cell phones. It may make parents feel safer knowing they can reach their children. Tweens are learning to type in text abbreviations which may affect their ability to write well. reported “The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month—more than 100 per day, according to the Nielsen Co., the media research firm. Adults are catching up. People from ages 45 to 54 sent and received 323 texts a month in the second quarter of 2010, up 75% from a year ago.” recently posted a survey asking the following question to see if text messaging is harming students’ writing skills:  “IYO txtng = NME or NBD?” If you have no idea what that means . . . Translation: “In your opinion, is text messaging the enemy, or no big deal?” asked, Mike Darcher, English instructor for 20 years if he felt texting was hurting our students’ writing ability.  He said he could not make the connection of bad texting habits being carried over into student’s writing. “In terms of writing skills, there is no way of measuring its impact,” Darcher said.

TimesDaily reported the results of a report of a study from Pew Internet and American Life Project. “The study was prompted in large part because of growing concerns over how text-based electronic communications affect the writing ability of students who are immersed in electronic media. Out of 700 youth aged 12-17 who participated in the phone survey, 60 percent say they don’t consider electronic communications – e-mail, instant messaging, mobile text – to be writing in the formal sense; 63 percent say it has no impact on the writing they do for school and 64 percent report inadvertently using some form of shorthand common to electronic text, including emotions, incorrect grammar or punctuation.”

Some linguists are mixed on the effect of texting on writing skills. There are those who think that this may not last and may just go the way of some slang words that are no longer used.  Some think that learning texting is just like learning another language.  As long as the students can keep them separated, then they see no problem with it. 

Texting may be a passing thing, but it is definitely here for now.  If you are trying to figure out what that text is or that abbreviation that someone sent you, you might want to check out the following list from the Vancouver Sun:

The top 10 commonly used abbreviations in texting — translated to plain English:

  • 411 — All the information
  • BBIAS — Be back in a second (also BBIF — be back in a few, and BBL — be back later)
  • BFN — Bye for now
  • ETA — Estimated time of arrival (used for deadlines and when to expect something/someone)
  • FYI — For your information
  • KK — Okay, okay (I understand what you’re saying)
  • LOL — Laugh out loud
  • OMG — Oh my God
  • TTYL — Talk to you later (also TTYS — talk to you soon)
  • UOK — Are you okay?

If you want to know what your kids are saying to each other, here are some common text abbreviations to watch for. Parent alerts include:

  • PAW or 9 — Parents are watching
  • POV — Parent over shoulder
  • CD9 — Code 9, meaning Parents are around
  • P911 — Parents coming into room alert
  • PIR — Parents in room
  • PSOS — Parent standing over shoulder
  • KPC — Keeping parents clueless
  • NP — Nosy parents (But this is also used as “no problem”)

Want to know your kids’ relationship status? Nothing to be alarmed about if they text:

  • LYLAB — Love you like a brother
  • LYLAS — Love you like a sister
  • LDR — Long distance relationship

But you don’t want to see:

  • 420 — Let’s get high/marijuana use
  • LGH — Let’s get high
  • LH6 — Let’s have sex
  • LHOS — Let’s have online sex
  • LIK — Liquor

How is their day going? Here are a few common indicators:

  • 2MTH — Too much to handle
  • ADIH — Another day in hell
  • ADIP — Another day in paradise
  • LTHTT — Laughing too hard to type
  • HHIS — Head hanging in shame
  • CWOT — Complete waste of time
  • IMSB — I’m so bored
  • BOOMS — Bored out of my skull
  • 121 — One to one (private chat invitation)

If your son or daughter texts you a status report, you should be familiar with:

  • BHL8 — Be home late
  • CUL8R — See you later
  • G2G — Got to go
  • G2R — Got to run
  • ILBL8 — I’ll be late
  • TTYL — Talk to you later