In this excerpt from Hillsdale College's K12 Education course, Dr. Dan Coupland discusses the effect of texting on grammar.

Has Texting Ruined Grammar? Should We Care?


The ease, speed, and efficiency of texting has revolutionized our ability to stay connected to one another—but at what cost? Language is the medium through which culture, religion, and history are recorded and passed from generation to generation. Can modern technology ruin our ability to communicate these central ideas, simply by destroying our grammar?

The following video is a clip from Q&A 7 of Hillsdale’s Online Course: “A Proper Understanding of K-12 Education: Theory and Practice,” featuring Dr. Daniel B. Coupland, Associate Professor of Education at Hillsdale College, and John J. Miller, Director of the Dow Journalism Program.


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John J. Miller:

Has text messaging ruined grammar?

Daniel B. Coupland:           

It certainly hasn't helped. I think what we're trying to do here at Hillsdale is to slow our students down, give them time, give them space in their day when they also are using a technology to slow down and say, "Let's look at language," and let's try to keep these important elements in our language and to understand how the language actually works.

John J. Miller:          

I'm interested in text messaging, because I get them from my kids all the time. When I reply, I'm always being perfectly grammatical. I'm putting in commas, and they think this is hilarious, that I bother sticking to commas, and I'm telling them, "I want you to write grammatically." Is this a battle worth fighting with your own kids? It's just a text message.

Daniel B. Coupland:           

Right, after all and it's just a text message. Yes, but once again, I would go back to this idea of being able to communicate with each other. It is worth having a standard and adhering to that standard? Yes, we're in a hurry and we want to be able to communicate ideas very quickly, but then at what cost?

What do we lose in the process, especially with kids when they're interacting with language, if they're never held accountable for quality grammar? I'm not talking about a text message or anything like that. If they're never held accountable to that standard, what is their language going to, eventually, look like?

Then what happen[s] to our language as a culture? Once again, I would go back to the historical argument. How much does that separate us from our heritage and being able to read great works? Now, once again, language is always changing and it is evolving. I struggle to read Old English and even middle English.

English itself has been changing. The longer we can hold onto the principles, the standard of what English actually is, that gives us access not only to who we are but to the ideas that actually shaped us.

I don't want to have to read things in translation of my own language. I want to have access to those ideas in my language, those ideas that were expressed in the language itself.