Texting (Text Messaging)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

girl texting on phone

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc./Getty Images

Texting is the process of sending and receiving brief written messages using a cellular (mobile) phone. Also called text messaging, mobile messaging, short mail, point-to-point short-message service, and Short Message Service (SMS).

“Texting isn’t written language,”says linguist John McWhorter. "It much more closely resembles the kind of language we’ve had for so many more years: spoken language" (quoted by Michael C. Copeland in Wired, March 1, 2013).
According to Heather Kelly of CNN, "Six billion text messages are sent every day in the United States, ... and over 2.2 trillion are sent a year. Globally, 8.6 trillion text messages are sent each year, according to Portio Research."


"When Birdy texted again, I was only a mile from Glades City, and the junkyard owned by Harris Spooner, so I was feeling tense and alone on this dark country road, until I read her message:
"On way home, no luck. Will call when reception better. Sorry!!! ☺
"I felt like saying Yippee! a word I've never used, and my spirits, which had been low, rebounded. ... So I left a message, then replied to her text: Am near Glade City exit, how about glass of wine? Where U? As I hit Send, I noticed car lights behind me and was relieved when I saw that it was an eighteen-wheeler."
(Randy Wayne White, Deceived. Penguin, 2013)

Myths About Texting

"All the popular beliefs about texting are wrong, or at least debatable. Its graphic distinctiveness is not a totally new phenomenon. Nor is its use restricted to the young generation. There is increasing evidence that it helps rather than hinders literacy. And only a very tiny part of the language uses its distinctive orthography." (David Crystal, Txtng: the Gr8 Db8. Oxford University Press, 2008)

Texting and Instant Messaging

"[A]bbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons are less prevalent in American college student IM [Instant Messaging] conversations than suggested by the popular press. To move beyond media hyperbole regarding text messaging, we need corpus-based analyses of texting.
"Judging from our sample, American college-student text messaging and IM differed in several interesting ways. Text messages were consistently longer and contained more sentences, probably resulting from both cost factors and the tendency for IM conversations to be chunked into sequences of short messages. Text messages contained many more abbreviations than IMs, but even the number in texting was small." (Naomi Baron, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford University Press, 2008)

A Good Text

"A good text, a well-timed text, a text that expresses some bullet of revelation, some reminder of love, some thoughtful association or ball-busting paraphrase of what we agree on reconnects us when that is all we ever wanted--connection--in the midst of the chattering, indifferent cloud of humanity."
(Tom Chiarella, "Rule No. 991: It Is Entirely Possible to Write a Good Text Message." Esquire, May 2015

Teenagers and Texting

  • "In the United States, 75% of teenagers text, sending an average of 60 texts a day. According to Pew Internet research, texting is teens' most common form of communication, beating out phone conversations, social networks, and old-fashioned face-to-face conversations." (Heather Kelly, "OMG, the Text Message Turns 20. But Has SMS Peaked?" CNN, December 3, 2012)
  • "For teenagers now, . . . texting has been largely superseded by instant messaging--as Stephanie Lipman, a 17-year-old Londoner, explains. 'I did text for a while, but instant messaging is so much better-- like a constant stream-of-consciousness. You don't have to bother with "Hello. How are you?" or any of that. You just have this series of conversations with your friends which you can add on to when you're in the mood.'" (James Delingpole, "Texting Is So Last Year." Daily Telegraph, Jan. 17, 2010)
  • "[F]or young people, blogs are work, not play. A 2008 Pew research project found that while 85% of 12 to 17-year-olds engaged in electronic personal communication (including texting, email, instant messaging and commenting on social media), 60% didn’t consider these texts to be 'writing.' Another study in 2013 revealed that teenagers still distinguish between the 'proper' writing they do for school (which may be on blogs) and their informal, social communication."(Mel Campbell, "Should We Mourn the End of Blogs?" The Guardian, July 17, 2014)

Textspeak in the 19th Century

This S A, until U I C
I pray U 2 X Q's
And do not burn in F E G
My young and wayward muse.
Now fare U well, dear K T J,
I trust that U R true--
When this U C, then you can say,
A S A I O U.
(Final verses of "Essay to Miss Catharine Jay" in Gleanings From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, Science and Art: A Melange of Excerpta, Curious, Humorous, and Instructive, 2nd ed., "collated" by Charles Carroll Bombaugh. Baltimore: T. Newton Kurtz, 1860)

Predictive Texting

Predictive texting is a program in many cellular (mobile) phones that predicts a complete word after a user has typed in just one or two letters.

  • "[Predictive texting] significantly reduces the number of key-presses, but there are costs alongside benefits. An early study (2002) reported that only just over half the participants who had predictive messaging actually used it. The others did not use it for a variety of reasons. Some said it slowed them down. Some missed the option to use abbreviations (though one can code them in). Some said their system did not offer the right words and found the task of adding new words slow and annoying." (David Crystal, Txtng: the Gr8 Db8. Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • "[W]hile Predictive texting might be good for the nation's spelling, it is not always easily understood. Try typing 'he if is cycle, he'll in to get his awake and come go to red of' and see what happens when the right combination of buttons throws up the wrong words.
  • " . . . Researchers might find an intriguing answer for why a 'kiss' often turns out to be on the 'lips.' Are chefs aged? Is it boring to be coping? Is art apt? Is it always good to be home in the hood? Or has everyone gone? And if you try and do something 'asap' why does it often turn out 'crap'?" (I. Hollinghead, "Whatever Happened to txt lngwj:)?" The Guardian, Jan. 7, 2006)
  • - "Concern about the widespread infiltration of text messaging conventions into written English may ... be misplaced, as 'predictive texting' becomes more common and sophisticated. ... While it seems certain that our accepted notions of standards in language will be influenced by electronic forms of communication, it is very hard to predict in any detail and with any certainty what this impact might be." (A. Hewings and M. Hewings, Grammar and Context. Routledge, 2005)

Alternate Spellings: txting

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Nordquist, Richard. "Texting (Text Messaging)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/texting-text-messaging-1692536. Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Texting (Text Messaging). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/texting-text-messaging-1692536 Nordquist, Richard. "Texting (Text Messaging)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/texting-text-messaging-1692536 (accessed June 9, 2023).