Undergraduates’ attitudes to text messaging language use and intrusions of textisms into formal writing

Abbie Grace, Nenagh Kemp*, Frances H. Martin, Rauno Parrila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Students’ increasing use of text messaging language has prompted concern that textisms (e.g., 2 for to, dont for don’t, ☺) will intrude into their formal written work. Eighty-six Australian and 150 Canadian undergraduates were asked to rate the appropriateness of textism use in various situations. Students distinguished between the appropriateness of using textisms in different writing modalities and to different recipients, rating textism use as inappropriate in formal exams and assignments, but appropriate in text messages, online chat and emails with friends and siblings. In a second study, we checked the examination papers of a separate sample of 153 Australian undergraduates for the presence of textisms. Only a negligible number were found. We conclude that, overall, university students recognise the different requirements of different recipients and modalities when considering textism use and that students are able to avoid textism use in exams despite media reports to the contrary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-809
Number of pages18
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Exams
  • formal writing
  • language
  • SMS
  • text messaging
  • textisms
  • undergraduates


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