Does Correct Grammar Matter In Text Messages?

Does Correct Grammar Matter In Text Messages?

It’s no secret that text messaging has changed the way we communicate, but it has also changed the meaning of sentences, punctuation and grammar. Does proper grammar matter to you in text messages? If so, when is it important?

Disregarding the occasional autocorrect mistake or touchscreen typo, text messages offer a different type of communication method to a phone call. In the UK, text messaging is the most popular form of communication on mobile devices, and a number of studies have suggested that texting changes the way we communicate. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. One researcher from Simon Fraser University suggests the efficiency of a text message is related to creativity:

“I think it will make other people see how creative the younger generations can be and how efficient, because that’s what language is all about,” he said. “It’s a tool to communicate – the more efficient you are, the better.”

It’s not just about the words used in a text message; grammar also includes punctuation. In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, English professor and author Ben Yagoda discusses the way punctuation has changed the meaning of text messages:

My 21-year-old daughter once criticised my habit of ending text-message sentences with a period. For a piece of information delivered without prejudice, she said, you don’t need any punctuation at the end (“Movie starts at 6”). An exclamation point is minimally acceptable enthusiasm (“See you there!”). But a period just comes off as sarcastic (“Good job on the dishes.”).

Punctuation might not be something you think about when you’re sending or receiving a text, but it could have a subtle impact on meaning. The exclamation points you use (and how many) change the meaning of a sentence. Even a missing full stop might make a statement sound less harsh.

Yagoda raises a good point in the New York Times: how much does grammar and punctuation matter?

So let’s hear it. Do you sacrifice grammatical accuracy in text messages, maybe ignoring an apostrophe or period? Do you go all out and write barely readable streams of text? Or do you painstakingly punctuate and check for perfect grammar? Tell us in the comments.


  • I hate using abbreviations. I’m nineteen and i’ve rarely abbreviated my texts in the five years I’ve owned a mobile. It makes you sound stupid when you do it. The period at the end coming off as sarcastic is unfortunately too true. To be polite you find yourself exclaiming everything unless you use emoticons.

    • I completely agree with about the full stop. It goes beyond merely ending a sentence, and definitely changes the tone of whatever precedes it.



  • I teach uni students and have seen SMS style writing in student assignments! Do what you like in texts to your mates but please refrain from “ur”, “cos”, “dunno” and similar terms in assignments if you want your lecturer to take you seriously.

  • I always use correct spelling and grammar in texts. It’s a formal method of communication, and should be used as such, just like emails.

    • 100% agree. Particularly with so many plans offering free SMS, and just about every phone I’ve ever seen today offering SMS wrapping if you exceed the character limitations. There’s no point in abbreviations, especially with the new, fast keyboards such as Swype. It just makes the author look illiterate.

  • I have always hated it when people use text message abbreviations, but I could understand its necessity back when you were limited to 160 characters in the message. Now that phones can join messages together when sending to get around that limit I think it is unacceptable to write that way.

  • I only use a few abbreviations and try and use punctuation as much as possible. Sometimes it’s hard enough to understand what someone means in a text message even with punctuation , without it, it’s just ridiculous.

  • Broke up with a girl once because she didn’t know (worse didn’t think it was important to know) the difference between their, there and they’re.

  • I am quite an advocate of correct grammar, but I think that in alone to one medium, such as SMS, it’s not that important. It’s a question of utility, how long is it going to take you to find and correct your errors, versus the total extra time that it would take your audience to translate your incorrect use of language. If you have a small audience, then taking time to get it right is not as important.

  • Language exists to convey meaning, first and foremost. Knowing that, you should be able to recognise which grammar is necessary and which isn’t.
    In the case of text message I’ll have to agree with the loss of the unnecessary full stop at the end. The reason for the full stop being there is to tell the person you are messaging that the sentence has finished and another may follow but that same meaning is conveyed with the break between your message and theirs or your first message and your second message.
    English has lasted this long because of it’s ability to adapt over time better than other languages can. It would only make sense that these type of redundant grammatical signs disappear over the coming years.

  • On my opinion, if you want your grammar skills to improve. The best way to do so is to practice A LOT! In today’s technology saturated world, why not practice your skills while texting, using Facebook, etc.?

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