Prior research has linked content analysis drawn from text narratives to psychopathology in trauma survivors. This study used a longitudinal design to determine whether linguistic elements of narrative memories of first hearing about the events of 11 September 2001 predict later post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Narratives and self-report PTSD symptoms were collected within 1 week and again 5 months after 9/11 in 40 undergraduates. People who used more “we” words at Time 1 had fewer acute PTSD symptoms. Use of more cognitive mechanism words, more religion words, more first-person singular pronouns, and fewer anxiety words at Time 1 were related to more chronic PTSD symptoms. Linguistic characteristics accounted for variance in chronic PTSD symptoms above and beyond acute PTSD symptoms. This study provides evidence that lasting PTSD symptoms can be predicted through language in the immediate aftermath of the trauma. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.