Writing is the expression of meaning and sharing of information through the use of symbols. It functions as a way for people to communicate in order to share information, experiences, and emotions. The year 1992 marks the beginning of a phenomenon that entirely changed written communication, Short Message Service (also referred to as “texting”). With 2.4 billion active users, this text communication service component of a mobile phone device is the most widely used data application in the world.

Youth in particular, are embracing this written communication, and they are writing more than ever before. While texting can be a wonderful tool for social communication, lately I have observed how it affects youth development.

A few weeks ago, my young teenage cousin suggested that we become pen pals, and I happily agreed. When I opened her first letter, my jaw nearly dropped to the floor! I immediately noticed that she used “texting” language to compose the letter. I could not imagine how long it must have taken her to write this. After decoding it, I started to explore how this new form of communication is affecting the formal writing, spelling, and vocabulary skills of youth. Here were my observations:

The Negatives

  • The language of “texting” ignores the rules of formal writing: It lacks proper sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Youth are less motivated to expand their vocabulary and formal writing skills: Acronyms and symbols are used instead of actual words.
  • Immediate gratification: The rules of formal writing are sacrificed for speed.

The Positives

  • It can help to sharpen students’ note-taking skills almost as a form of shorthand writing.
  • The language of “texting” helps one to write a thought quickly and to disseminate information quickly to others.
  • This can be an opportunity to reinforce how important “audience” is in writing: Students can learn how word choice and style can impact communication as well as the context in which you decide how to write.


While I do think there is hope, youth must learn the difference between a formal sentence and a text message as well as understand when and where each is appropriate.

Do you think there is a way to create a boundary between formal and everyday “Texting” language?