How Twitter has ruined our ability to spell

So Twitter users can’t spell? Well there is no big surprise there then. With only 140 characters per tweet to compose your pithy message, you haven’t got much choice. You have to to truncate your message – or commit one of a whole host of grammar sins.

imageResearch by Brandwatch and a cool infographic shows that we can not spell. Twitter is the worst offender when it comes to spelling. Users are almost twice as likely to deviate from official English than they are on Facebook and 25% more likely to misspell than on Google+.

The US are slightly worse at spelling than UK Tweeters. Females are worse spellers than men with 1 in 169 misspelling words compared with 1 in 192 males.

Interestingly though, females tend to elongate certain words such as ‘looool’, ‘ohhh’ and ‘awww’ whereas males on the other hand shorten words. Males use words like ‘kinda’, ‘gotta’ and ‘wanna’ in their tweets.

The top five grammar errors highlighted by the study are: im, wont,dont, cant and id. The missing apostrophe  is obviously down to the limits of 140 characters in a tweet.

This limit has also encouraged us to use acronyms liberally such as ‘lmao’, ‘lol’ and ‘omg’.

We also misspell words on Twitter. Words we tend to get wrong are: definitely, weird, surprise, separate, embarrass, government, argument and achieve.

We are however becoming slightly more literate in our online conversations – but only by 0.01% per year. At least we are moving in a positive direction.

It is difficult to get your point across in such a succinct way on Twitter when limited by characters. Having to abbreviate words and missing out vowels is not new. We have been using mobile phone ‘txt spk’ for years when texts were limited to 160 characters per message. We have happily transferred our abbreviated language onto Twitter.

But this short form language is now prevalent our day to day verbal interactions. Listen to your children and your friends.The spoken word is now peppered with WTFs, OMGs and LOLs  We are using verbal emoticons to describe how we feel instead of using the longer description.

Twitter and texting has provided us with new language forms and it is not surprising we are adopting these shortened forms of language as our lives become busier and busier.

Perhaps blog posts will start to go the way of the tweet becoming shorter and shorter to avoid the curse of the ultimate blogger insult, TL:DR

Credit: Sammy0716

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

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3 thoughts on “How Twitter has ruined our ability to spell

  1. brucelynn

    Here’s a question – does spelling matter? Is spelling an artifact of an earlier age that has lost its relevance in today’s world? Like so many rigid programming architectures and convention that have fallen into disuse with the emergence or more dynamic and resilient approaches.

    I’m reminded of aviation lingua franca. The “standard” international language of the skies is “English”. But not “British English”…”American English”. This distinction was explained to me that American English is notoriously more flexible and adaptable. This makes it easier to learn and easier to use (some would say “abuse”). Yes, people coin crazy made-up words, but the fact is that those words get the point across effectively and clearly. More so than some sesquipedalian artifact from the bowels of the OED that no one without an Oxbridge degree really knows. When you are at 30,000 feet and have a problem, getting your point across is more important than grammatical niceties.

    Maybe the title of your article should be “Has Twitter Made Spelling Obsolete?”

    1. eileenb Post author

      Bruce, you just reminded me of the ‘International English’ I had to learn whilst at sea. In order to get clarity across the world, we chose our words carefully — much more carefully than some of the people who tweet.
      Good point about the title… Twitter is making more than spelling obsolete – it is making traditional news obsolete :)

  2. John Breakwell (@JohnBrea)

    This bit is wrong: “The missing apostrophe is obviously down to the limits of 140 characters in a tweet.” Apostrophes are not usually on the default keypad and therefore take multiple steps to select so get dropped by the lazy. Also, not everyone knows how to use them so get dropped by the ignorant. I would suggest those people dropping it for space reasons are in the minority.

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