A small study conducted by Nenagh Kemp at the University of Tasmania has found that while the abbreviations and shorthand used in mobile phone text messages and popular instant messaging applications may not be destroying users’ ability to spell, those messages do take much longer to read and comprehend than everyday English.
Who’d have thought?
Kemp asked 65 undergraduate students to create messages in both ordinary English and so-called “textese,” then read them aloud. Students were considerably faster to compose messages in textese, but about half the students took twice as long to read those messages aloud. Students also made more mistakes reading the textese messages than the ones in everyday English.
Kemp noted that while text-isms are often blamed for eroding users’ spelling skills, the use of textese does not seem to have any impact on spelling skills in adults. However, Kemp told Reuters: “It’s fine to use textese on a mobile phone, as it saves you time, but you have to make sure your reader understands it. And don’t let it creep into your emails, student essays or job applications. Keep the boundaries.”