Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Textspeak is an informal term for the abbreviated language used in text messaging and other forms of electronic communication.

The term textspeak was coined by linguist David Crystal in Language and the Internet (2001). Crystal argues that "texting is one of the most innovative linguistic phenomena of modern times" (Txtng: the Gr8 Db8, 2008). Not everyone shares his enthusiasm.

Examples and Observations

  • "[I]n 2003 a story was widely circulated that a teenager had written an essay entirely in textspeak, which her teacher was 'totally unable to understand.' As no one was ever able to track down the entire essay, it may well have been a hoax . . .. The reported extract began like this: My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-@ kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc. And it was translated like this: My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place. If I'd been the teacher, I would have given the student 10 out of 10 for her linguistic ingenuity, and 0 out of 10 for her sense of appropriateness (or alternatively, 10 out of 10 for cheek). . . .
    "[I]t is worth noting that the sentences use (informal) standard English grammar. The second sentence is really quite complex, with its careful use of tense forms, coordination, and word order." -(David Crystal, Txtng: the Gr8 Db8. Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • "Instant messaging and texting condense language to its lowest common denominator; these forms misuse grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation for the sake of brevity.
    "But this is still communication. We need to understand 'textspeak' in all kinds of situations, because it is one of the languages our students use daily." -(Judy Green, How Bullets Saved My Life: Fun Ways to Teach Some Serious Writing Skills. Pembroke, 2010)
  • "I wish you wd tell me how u.r. when u. write." -(Thomas Hardy, letter to Mary Hardy, 1862; quoted by Michael Millgate in Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford University Press, 2004)

Cons and Pros 

  • "Some observers are decrying textspeak as a product of modern-day inertia and laziness-inducing technologies. Helprin ([Digital Barbarism,] 2009), for instance, cautions that such forms of communication, and the internet generally, produce an addictive effect on how people process information, rendering them much less pensive and less inclined to appreciate artistic and literary greatness. Others respond that textspeak is no more than an efficient way to create written messages for informal communication. People use textspeak, not to generate thoughtfulness and literary communication, but to keep in contact and to facilitate communication. In no way does this imply that people have lost the desire to read and reflect upon the world." -(Marcel Danesi,  Language, Society, and New Media: Sociolinguistics Today. Routledge, 2016)

Textspeak Baby Names

  • "Yes, we're all getting stupider, or at least some of us are. This is the clear message behind the story of 'text-speak baby names' appearing on birth certificates. Britons have become so addicted to abbreviation, it is claimed, that names such as Anne, Connor and Laura have been rendered An, Conna and Lora. Six baby boys have been christened Cam'ron rather than Cameron. There are, apparently, several Samiuls on the list. The online parenting club Bounty lists a Flicity. 'Given the unstoppable rise of text language,' says the Daily Mail, 'it was only a matter of time before children's names went the way of traditional English.'" -(Tim Dowling, "Is 'Text Speak' Really Shaping Baby Names?" The Guardian, April 1, 2008)

Textspeak in a Business Setting

  • "Write Like you're Texting!
    "Apologies--I should have written, 'Wrt lk yr txting!' The proliferation of texting has created a brave new world of incompetence. Does textspeak get the point across? Almost always. Does textspeak in a business setting make the writer look like a semi-literate 12-year old? You betcha!" -(Jeff Havens, How to Get Fired!: The New Employee's Guide to Perpetual Unemployment, 2010)

The Lighter Side of Textspeak

  • "You're saying LOL. You're verbal texting. . . . If you’re going to ‘laugh out loud,’ why aren’t you laughing out loud? Why say it? Why not just laugh?" -(Larry David, "Palestinian Chicken." Curb Your Enthusiasm, 2011)

Alternate Spellings: text speak, text-speak

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "textspeak." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/textspeak-definition-1692463. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). textspeak. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/textspeak-definition-1692463 Nordquist, Richard. "textspeak." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/textspeak-definition-1692463 (accessed March 24, 2023).