Yo, dude! Thz stdy iz Gr8!!!1 The relationship between new technologies and grammar scores in college student
Student Researchers

Cynthia Casebere, Drew Cingel, Paige Maloney, & Chiwei Tsui (Undergraduate Students)
This paper is based on a project from an undergraduate Media Effects course.

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar


Recently, there has been much discussion between educators, parents, and linguistics professionals as to the presence of techspeak, or online/texting shorthand,  in the classroom. Some argue that this new language is destroying the core of English grammar, while others argue that it simply is a natural evolution of language. This study attempts to determine the effects of techspeak on English grammar; does the use of techspeak online or via texting lead to lower grammar scores?


H1: The more time a participant spends chatting online each day, the lower their scores on a regular English grammar test.

H2a: The more a participant sends or receives texts each day, the lower their scores on a regular English grammar test.
H2b: Participants who receive more texts will view texting as a “cool” thing to do.

H3: Participants who indicate high levels of study time will do better on an English grammar test than those who do not spend as much time studying, regardless of time spent chatting online or texting.

H4: Participants who major in Communications will have the highest scores of all majors due to increases in writing-intensive classes needed for the major.


A survey was chosen as the best method by which to collect data. Researchers sent participants a link to an online survey hosted by surveymonkey.com. Overall, 180 people responded, constituting our sample. After the removal of surveys that were deemed incomplete or inaccurate, our final sample size was 147. The independent variable in this study are identified as “Amount of text messages sent in a day”, “Amount of text messages received in a day”, and “Amount of time spent chatting online in a day.” There were two dependent measures used in this study, “Grammar Test Scores” and “Participant Opinions on Text Messaging”. Grammar test scores were distributed from a lowest possible score of 0 and a maximum of 20. Research participants were also asked to give their opinions on the following statements about text messaging on a 7-point Likert Scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 7=Strongly Agree). Demographic questions were also included in order to mask the intent of the survey as well as to gage internet and texting usage.


Following an ANOVA analysis, researchers found a significant relationship between time spent chatting online and grammar scores. Participants in the medium usage distribution exhibited significantly lower grammar scores than participants in the low or high condition.

Figure 3: Fit y by x- Grammar Score by Time Spent Chatting Online Trichot

Also, researchers found a relationship between the amount of texts sent and received per day. Once the number of texts sent or received surpasses the 87 per day threshold, grammar scores decrease significantly. In addition, participants who received a high amount of texts per day (87 +) rated texting to be more fun and more cool than those who received a smaller amount of texts per day.

Figure 4: Fit y by x- Grammar score by Text Messages Sent.

Figure 5: Contingency Analysis of Texts Received by “Cool”

However, we did not find any significant relationships between the amount of time spent studying per day or the college major of the participant.


With this study done in response to educator and parental worries about the effects of techspeak, it is important to apply the findings to these groups. Educators and parents need to make clear the appropriate and inappropriate times and places for techspeak. There is a difference between scholastic writing and casual conversation and children need to be aware of that from a young age. If enforced properly, this will reduce the strength of cultivation effects.  In addition, teachers especially should be informed about observational learning and effective ways of using it. Observational learning can be applied to the formation of writing skills. Educators should use this to their advantage in order to teach grammar skills. The classroom often naturally demands attention and retention of information, but the skills must be practiced and the students must have motivation to remember this method of writing. Educators should make this a priority in future lesson planning and legislation of standards. This being said, the results of this study should indicate to educators that current college-aged students should not be of great concern in regard to this issue. Most of them seem to have already had their grammar skills established before the explosion of techspeak with new technologies and therefore do not show negative effects on grammar skills. This does not mean, however, that this is true for younger or older generations, which is worth investigating.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University