Spelling, Grammar, Kids and College

by Samantha on October 20, 2011

My last post on Kids and Cell Phones made me think more about the whole mobile phone phenomenon and the resulting effects on our kids, not just regarding health and safety.

In the past 10 years, text messaging has become a standard for the younger set. A whole new lexicon of words - if you can call them that - has emerged as a result of SMS, cell phones and the convenience of sending a quick message.

Full disclosure: I will say for the record here and now that I am a bit of a spelling and grammar fanatic and get more than a bit perturbed by errors in this area. Not that I don’t make them - I do - but I try to keep the errors to a minimum and make a concentrated effort to use the correct words and spellings whenever I can. But that’s beside the point.

There’s a much larger issue at play these days, something that’s way beyond this particular blogger. The issue of kids and their general literacy is one with which we should all be concerned.

The Spelling and Grammar Fairies Are Sleeping.

This is clearly the case as the uptake of mobile phone adoption and text messaging continues to increase by younger and younger children. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m still shocked by the fact that kids as young as six and seven are toting cell phones and texting like it’s the norm. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, sadly, and increasingly it looks like this trend is here to stay. But that’s another story.

Image courtesy of http://www.hotgurgaon.com

Getting back to the topic at hand, there does seem to be a relationship, between the increase in using short-form spelling like what is commonly used via text-messaging and the ability to properly spell and understand language and grammar. As a parent, I’m concerned. Concerned that there will need to be a more concentrated effort in teaching my younger children the importance of knowing how to spell, write and communicate effectively and correctly. About the fact that the use of proper grammar is extremely important in the real world, especially when one goes out to seek a job and start a career. As much as kids these days think it’s alright to abbreviate words in their texts, online and increasingly their written correspondence, it is not. If one is not able to articulate their positions intelligently, grammatically correctly, and spelled properly, they will lose out on not only future opportunities but so much more.

Those who are able to convey their thoughts coherently have a much better chance at getting into college or university, which we all know will help them with a leg up in this increasingly competitive world. For kids to grow into contributing adults who hold down responsible jobs and careers, they must be able to spell. It’s as simple as that. Putting a sentence together is a basic skill, and sadly it’s being lost. 

So that being said, I do feel pressure to perhaps underscore the importance of reading, spelling and grammar in general to my younger kids, more so than I would have, if there SMS messaging was not the norm. How successful will I be? Well, time will tell, I guess.

For more on this topic, check out my blog series Parenting in the Digital Age:

Blog Series - Parenting in the Digital Age

Parenting in the Digital Age - The Medium is the Message

Parenting in the Digital Age - Technology in the Classroom: Part 1

Parenting in the Digital Age - Technology in the Classroom: Part 2

Parenting in the Digital Age - Gaming Includes interview with Technology Expert Marc Saltzman

How about you? Are you concerned about the ability of children in general to spell and use grammar correctly? How can parents overcome the tendency of kids to use short-form spelling and incorrect grammar in their daily lives?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica October 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm

It's something that annoys me to no end. Even when I text, I usually use full words.

That said, I have learned to accept that language will continue to change, as it has since the beginning of time. There's a reason why Shakespeare is difficult for most people to read, and it is that we have adopted a modern language.

Perhaps these changes are more difficult to accept because of the speed that they are happening?

I agree that children need to be taught 'correct' spelling and grammar, but I also think that they need to be allowed to keep up with their peers in methods of communication or risk being left behind.


championm2000 October 21, 2011 at 12:21 am

As an English major, a former English teacher, and now an instructional coach for English teachers, I often hear this same fear.

Without getting into all of the research of grammar, language, and linguistics, I think my simple answer is that we must teach our children to navigate various communication environments. While "standard" English is the preferred means of communication in most interactions, text messaging has its place-in certain situations, using certain tools, and when communicating with certain audiences. I've had students take an Emily Dickinson poem, turn it into a text message, and the compare the two. What's gained? What's lost?

Ultimately, I think our challenge is the same with all language varieties. We must continue to teach children "standard" English and help them learn to switch back and forth between varieties in order to fit audience and purpose.

Most students with whom I work know that text message lingo isn't appropriate for academic writing. Do they still try to use it? Yes-out of laziness and carelessness. Making accuracy/content/writing relevant is still the real challenge of teaching.


Samantha October 21, 2011 at 1:09 am

@Jessica Hi Jessica,

I agree with allowing the kids to have their own methods of communication with each other. I don't have an issue with that, it's really when the short forms and slang are to the detriment of proper language, and when the kids are not able to put together a cohesive sentence that I think is a shame. Certainly the slang and colloquialisms that we all use are fine - if the users of these terms also know how to speak and/or write equally well in their mother tongue. Unfortunately this isn't always the case.
Thanks for commenting.


Samantha October 21, 2011 at 1:13 am

@championm2000 Hi Melissa,
I think you hit the nail on the head and I'm in complete agreement. Certainly there is a time and place for everything - texting included; the problem is when the texting takes over and proper usage of full words or phrases is not even a thought. Or perhaps it's a thought but the person texting has no idea of how to do it. I've spoken with teachers who are amazed at the level or lack thereof of literacy of what should be fairly literate students. It's even scarier when you're talking about teens who are 14 or 15 years old and on their way into a world without even the basics of language under their belts. After all, these are the people who are our future. That being said, they should at least be fluid in the language - both written an orally.
Thanks for your comment.


katlupe October 22, 2011 at 12:10 am

My husband's granddaughter and her friends add extra letters to all their words when texting on Facebook. They have even changed their names to have double letters at the end. I know they are just being kids. But some kids will have difficulties spelling when they are older I am sure.


Melanie October 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I've definitely noticed that when I type quickly I often use text messenging shortcuts…I think reading a TON helped me become a great speller…


Audra Kirkpatrick October 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm

I agree with Melanie- I can tell almost immediately on Facebook, message boards, forums, and other social media outlets who was/is a reader. Sometimes people misspell a word so badly I just want to ask them, "Have you ever read a single book?" It's breaking my heart what's happening to the English language!


Samantha October 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm

@Audra Kirkpatrick I agree, Audra; as well, I find that many of the worst spellers are completely unaware that there's anything wrong with what they put down. Before it can be rectified, they have to be accepting that there's a problem, and they're not. We have a long way to go, unfortunately.
Thanks for your comment.


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