Academic journal article Current Research in Psychology

Exposure to "Textisms" Does Not Lower Spelling Scores for Elementary School Aged Children

Academic journal article Current Research in Psychology

Exposure to "Textisms" Does Not Lower Spelling Scores for Elementary School Aged Children

Article excerpt


"Textisms" are semi-standardized abbreviations and conventions uses in SMS text messaging. Students in the fourth and fifth grades (N = 136) were exposed to words on a spelling list as correctly-spelled words, incorrectly-spelled words, or "textisms" to determine whether short term exposure to "textisms" decreased spelling performance for elementary aged children. Multivariate ANOVA found exposure type significantly impacted post-exposure spelling, F(3,132) = 5.483, p<0.001. Individual t-tests for each group found exposure to correctly spelled words significantly improved spelling ability on spelling posttest, t(35) = 5.399, p<0.0001, unlike exposure to incorrectly spelled words, t(29) = -1.96, p<0.060. Textisms similar to traditional English spellings showed almost no change in spelling ability, t(28) = -0.064, p<0.950, exposure to non-traditional orthographic forms showed a slight decrease from pretest to posttest, t(40) = 1.39, p<0.172. Difference in posttest scores between participants in the two textism groups suggests that children may derive orthographic information from some textism forms, but do not decrease spelling abilities because of limited exposure to textisms.

Keywords: Spelling, Textism, Elementary Education, Social Influences, Technology Utilization, Cognitive Processing


As of the year 2012, over 85% of people living in the United States owned a mobile phone (Duggan and Rainie, 2012). An increasing percentage of students use cell and smart phones every day, reflecting the larger trend of constant media exposure for children under the age of 18 (Roberts, 2008). Text messaging and other forms of mobile communication are on the rise, with 63% of teens reporting that they exchange text messages on their phone daily (Lenhert, 2012). Along with this increased use of cell phones came spelling shortcuts and abbreviations used in text messaging (texting).

The new language of texting commonly involves the usage of shortened words or phrases referred to as "textisms." These abbreviations have been divided into nine categories by Thurlow (2003). Categories include shortenings (using 'vid' for video), contractions ('msg' for message), G clippings (dropping the final g in a word such a 'goin' or 'cornin'), other clippings (dropping final letters in a words such as 'hav' 'or ankl'), acronyms, initialisms (ToE for laugh out loud), letter/number homophones (using '2nite' for tonight), misspellings, non-conventional spellings and accent stylizations ('was sup' in place of 'what's up'). Texting has been demonstrated to decrease spelling ability in adults while exposure to a correct spelling can benefit spelling performance (Brown, 1988; Jacoby and Hollingshead, 1990; Dixon and Kaminska, 1997). Media coverage on the effects of exposure to textisms and text messaging on spelling and reading skills has been almost exclusively negative (Thurlow, 2006). Because of the media coverage, many parents are concerned that exposure to textisms will have negative consequences for their children.

For elementary school-aged children, exposure to correctly spelled words benefits spelling; however, there is not a significant decrease in spelling ability caused by exposure to misspellings (Bradley and King, 1992; Dixon and Kaminska, 2007; Gilbert, 1935). In order to explore this difference, Dixon and Kaminska (2007) divided 93 children into four groups. Participants were given a spelling pretest and then assigned to copy, read aloud, or read in context correctly and/or incorrectly spelled words during an exposure phase. No significant detrimental effects among the differing groups of children were found from exposure to incorrectly spelled words.

Several theories have been suggested for why exposure to incorrectly spelled words has little negative effect on the spelling ability of children. Bradley and King (1992) suggest that exposing children to phonetically plausible misspellings provides them with orthographic information that they might not previously have seen or been able to remember. …

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