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Text-message abbreviations and language skills in high school and university students


Address for correspondence: Nenagh Kemp, School of Psychology, Locked Bag 30, University of Tasmania, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia. E-mail:


This study investigated the use of text-message abbreviations (textisms) in Australian adolescents and young adults, and relations between textism use and literacy abilities. Fifty-two high school students aged 13–15 years, and 53 undergraduates aged 18–24 years, all users of predictive texting, translated conventional English sentences into textese using two methods: writing messages down and typing them into mobile phones. Participants produced a variety of textisms, and in both translation methods, adolescents and young adults used textisms in nearly identical ways. This was true for the proportion and types of textisms used, textism categories produced and consistency with which textisms were spelled. The use of textisms was negatively correlated with scores for reading, nonword reading, spelling and morphological awareness, but some of these relationships were accounted for by participants' usual text-messaging frequency. For these age groups, concerns that frequent texting may mask or even contribute to poor linguistic skills cannot be dismissed.