do i know its wrong: children’s and adults’ use of unconventional grammar in text messaging

Nenagh Kemp, Clare Wood, Sam Waldron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
221 Downloads (Pure)


There is concern that the violations of conventional grammar (both accidental and deliberate) often seen in text messages (e.g., hi how is ya?!!) could lead to difficulty in learning or remembering formal grammatical conventions. We examined whether the grammatical violations made by 244 British children, adolescents and young adults in their text messages was related to poorer performance on tasks of grammatical knowledge, including translating grammatically unconventional text messages into standard English. We found that variance in the production of grammatical violations in naturalistic messages was inconsistently predicted by grammatical task performance. Specifically, primary school children who made poorer grammar-based spelling choices were more likely to make more grammatical violations in their everyday messages, and university students who failed to correct more grammatical errors in a given set of messages were also more likely to make such errors in their own messages. There were no significant relationships for secondary school students. We conclude that using unconventional grammar when texting is not a consistent sign of poor grammatical abilities, although there may be links between some aspects of grammatical skill and grammatical violations in text messages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1585-1602
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

The final publication is available at Springer via


Nuffield Foundation


  • Text messaging
  • Mobile phones
  • Grammar
  • Children
  • Adults


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