How important are grammar and spelling in text messages?

I say very.

Belle disagrees.

She got her first mobile phone in September this year when she started secondary school. I’m not terribly keen on the idea but she was one of the last of her friends to get one and I can see the benefits when she has a long walk every day. It has proven to be really handy for when she wants to call and ask if she can go to a friend’s house after school but has become a bone of contention when it comes to spelling and grammar.

I say it matters, she says it doesn’t. I say no one will give her a job when she grows up if she can’t put her apostrophes in the right place, she groans and rolls her eyes. You can see how quickly this would get boring for both of us, yet I harp on about it a lot.

A lot of our text conversations go something like this:

text message spelling

Sometimes I let the spelling go, but I find it hard not to let it influence my decisions. In this one for example, the very fact that she had missed the apostrophes and punctuation and not capitalised herself made me want to leave her in the rain, just to teach her a lesson:

text message spelling

Am I being overly cruel and picky or is it important to insist on correct spelling and grammar, even in text messages?

P.S. If you spot a typo in this post is was deliberate. To be ironic. Honestly.



  1. 7 November, 2013 / 4:30 pm

    I’m as anal with the children. I HATE INCORRECT GRAMMAR and spelling in texts. I even put all my commas in the right place whomever I’m texting. It takes a couple of months to finish the text, but damn it’s a thing of beauty.

    My vote is with you.

    • admin
      7 November, 2013 / 6:27 pm

      *sigh* A well constructed sentence IS a beautiful thing…

  2. 7 November, 2013 / 4:38 pm

    These days when a lot of phones have on screen keyboards and you’re not limited by length anymore really, I tend to always use proper English in my messages and find it irritating when others don’t… so I would say if she has a “smartphone” – i.e. one with a proper on screen keyboard then I would be on your side of things – using English sloppily on a regular basis will cause bad habits!

    • admin
      7 November, 2013 / 6:26 pm

      Yes, I agree – it’s not like the old days where we had to press the same key three times just to get a ‘C’ or something, and her texts are unlimited every month, so no excuses!

  3. 7 November, 2013 / 4:53 pm

    I’m now terrified to send you a text message!

    • admin
      7 November, 2013 / 6:25 pm

      You should be. I won’t come round if your grammar isn’t spot on. ;-)

  4. 7 November, 2013 / 7:25 pm

    I’m with you – I’ve been known to correct adults for misusing less and fewer. My daughter will know the difference between its and it’s if it kills us both (once she’s mastered speaking and writing. I’m not completely unreasonable)

  5. 7 November, 2013 / 11:32 pm

    I’m with you 99% of the time. I do let grammar go to the wall if I’m running out of character spaces, much as I do on twitter. There’s times where I’ll resort to “hope your ok” if that’s all I can fit, but it makes me twitch. I compromise as well on my work’s phone, texting clients who haven’t got the greatest literacy skills, but when it’s a standard message to so done who knows thee difference then I’m a stickler for good English.

    • 7 November, 2013 / 11:33 pm

      And there you see the other problem. Typing too fast on a touchscreen has come up with a couple of dubious substitutions I hadn’t even noticed.

  6. 8 November, 2013 / 9:39 am

    You’re right.

    I’m an English teacher and there’s a saying – ‘practice makes permanent’ that sticks with me and makes sense. If you don’t practise these skills in every day life, they don’t become important.

    Having said that, there can be a tendency to over mark too – I’d maybe only pick out one error, rather than point out all of them.

  7. honeybee
    8 November, 2013 / 1:16 pm

    Ooohhh! You’re her ‘Mummy’ and your role is pretty much determined by endless nagging about being proper, however, text messages are an ‘informal’ mode of communication. Therefore, a few grammatical errors are perfectly acceptable as long as the message is still understood by the recipient.
    She will undoubtedly learn the clear differences between formal and informal language usage at School, so I’m with Belle here – a quick text message to Mum doesn’t need to be assessed and marked!
    I’m a massive fan of language and literature and I think young people are too often haggled into formal language without giving them the space and creativity to use language – informally – in a way that suits them. They do, and will, learn how language should be used in different contexts. Let’s give them some room to explore and experiment with words.

  8. 8 November, 2013 / 4:43 pm

    I have to say I do wonder if we are going to have a whole generation, followed by another generation that can only write text speak, they never master written English with any degree of acceptability. But because your daughter (as an example) is growing up believing it is ok no matter what you say, then she will pass that belief onto her children, who will escalate it one stage on to whatever follows and within a hundred years English as we know it is gone.
    My granddaughter is 11 this month and still is not fluent in her tables, as they are not deemed important, and I have to say that irks me as mental maths is a building block for wider applications. Having said that I can’t mind the last time I needed to work out the height of a building using its shadow and Pythagoras.

    • Laura Pritchard
      14 January, 2014 / 4:23 pm

      “…within a hundred years English as we know it is gone.”

      On the whole I agree with using English correctly but language is, and always has been, a fluid concept. If you were transported back to the 1920’s you wouldn’t be speaking English “correctly” if you said ‘Awful’ as it was considered slang then. And if you were transported even further back to the Tudor courts no one would have a clue what you were saying because English words, grammar & punctuation have changed so gradually over the years.

      So really, text speak is really just the evolution of the English language. We might prefer the old way but the “old way” we are referring to really only existed for 100 years or so.

  9. Ellie
    8 November, 2013 / 6:10 pm

    Hi, I’m a 17 year old girl who wants to write for children in the future. I am looking to put some samples on a blog but wanted to get an idea of what parents really look for in a book for their child. I’ve made a survey to get an idea and would be eternally grateful if you could take the time to fill it out, its only 7 questions!

  10. 9 November, 2013 / 3:58 pm

    I did a course in Proofreading and bad spelling and grammar really gets on my nerves. I see mistakes everywhere I go. It’s like a curse!

    I saw something on someone’s Facebook wall this morning. Instead of putting ‘gorgeous’, it was spelt ‘gawjus’. I also never understand why people put l8ter instead of later. They have the same amount of characters!

  11. 10 November, 2013 / 1:04 pm

    My son is Dyslexic and he also had a phone to move up to secondary school with. Bizarrely enough his grammar and spelling have improved. Though he hasn’t actually grasped the fact that he only needs a few sentences to tell me what is happening and instead ends up sending me an essay. Thank goodness for Whatsapp!

  12. 10 November, 2013 / 1:20 pm

    I don’t mind getting or sending texts with ‘ltr’, tomoz etc but if the word is spelt in full and needs an apostrophe then it should be there!!! Oh and don’t get me onto to, two, too or your, you’re!!!
    I used to have a lad working for me who used ‘text speak’ all the time. I used return emails and ask for it to be written in English. His excuse was ‘I’m dyslexic’. Dyslexic my arse… just fecking lazy!!
    I used to ban text speak from all our call records too.
    My middle name is Pedantic!!

  13. 19 December, 2013 / 11:18 am

    With Smartphones around, it is harder to write in text speak as the phone does a decent job at deciphering your finger strokes.

    My grammar is not the best, but I do try.

    Maybe they should have a course on spelling and grammar before they are allowed on there phones.


  14. 14 January, 2014 / 2:30 pm

    I think that good spelling, punctuation and grammar are important. I appreciate it when people point out mistakes when I make them. I’ve given up on correcting other people though.

    It’s interesting to see this post today, actually. The length of time it takes me to type messages on my phone was the subject of a conversation last night. I purchased a new phone recently and it has a different software keyboard to the one that I’m used to. I used it to respond to a Facebook chat message, and it took me twelve minutes to type out the response. My friend was at their computer, and could see the bubbles in the chat window indicating that I was typing. They commented on the length and formatting of the message, and the length of time the response took, when I saw them last night.

    The comment was mostly favourable. They’re the sort of person that likes to type words out in full and use proper punctuation as much as possible, but they did make a good point… “You were at home, why didn’t you use your PC or laptop instead of the phone?”

  15. 29 January, 2014 / 9:41 am

    This reminds me so much of a recent text message between my two kids. I grabbed the text “K, your dead meat” with a passion, not because H was threatening her sister (again) but because she did so with poor spelling!

    I’m definitely in the OCD camp on this, it’s important to establish good habits early on in my humble opinion.

    We’ve recently been recruiting for admin staff and it was unbelievable how many applicants applied as if they were writing texts. Lack of capitals, grammar out of the window and apostrophes a rarity. I guess when text speak becomes their normal mode of communication it’s more difficult for someone to switch over without thought or effort. x

  16. 23 February, 2024 / 4:53 pm

    I completely relate! Balancing brevity with grammar can be quite the challenge, especially when character limits come into play, such as on Twitter or when sending text messages. I often find myself making compromises to fit within those constraints, even if it means sacrificing proper grammar occasionally. However, like you, I can’t help but twitch a little when I resort to shorthand or overlook grammar errors. In professional contexts or when communicating with someone who values good English, I become a stickler for proper grammar and spelling. It’s all about finding that delicate balance between efficiency and maintaining linguistic standards in different situations.

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