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OMG! Texting may not make teens bad spellers!

September 24, 2009 |  4:16 pm

U R prolly not going to believe this, but chatspeak doesn't turn kids into bad spellers.

Srsly.

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A new study found that regularly using chatspeak -- the official term is simple messaging service -- doesn't automatically make teens bad spellers. This is a major concern among some parents who think that frequent texting will transform their children into abbreviating, acronyming, emoticoning adults who think "what" is really spelled "wat."

Chatspeak was analyzed from about 40 students ages 12 to 17. The teens were also asked to take a standard spelling test. The Canadian researchers discovered the young people used an enormous range of types of new language, and that girls outranked boys in use of new language.

But they didn't find much evidence that using abbreviated words, shortcuts, word combinations, letters and numbers or even phonetic spellings was connected with bad spelling. Overall, general spelling ability was linked with making spelling errors, not with using new language in instant messaging. The researchers did discover that boys who were poorer spellers tended to use more new language and more abbreviations.

In a news release, lead author Connie Varnhagen, a psychology professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, said: "Kids who are good spellers [academically] are good spellers in instant messaging. And kids who are poor spellers in English class are poor spellers in instant messaging."

The study was recently published in the journal Reading and Writing.

-Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

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