How Texting Is Changing English

Think texting is all about making things shorter? Think again! Texters have created a new English conjunction—”slash”—and they spell it out instead of using the punctuation mark.

Mignon Fogarty
8-minute read
Episode #366


Texting Isn’t Just About Making Things Shorter

This leads in to something I’ve been noticing for a while: reducing keystrokes isn’t the only force behind the way texting is changing language.

That may seem obvious to some of you, but a lot of ranting about how text messaging is ruining English focuses on abbreviations such as “L8” for “late” and the letter “u” for the word “you,” and I’ve certainly heard arguments that people write this way because they’re lazy and trying to save keystrokes.

Writing out the “actor/model” slash and the conjunctive use of “slash” are a huge affront to the idea that people who text or write social media posts are lazy. First, people are writing out s-l-a-s-h instead of using the symbol, which would only be one character. Second, people are using “slash” when they could use a shorter word such as “and” or, in some cases, they could even leave out any kind of word in the “slash” position.

Take this example from one of Curzan’s students:

I really love that hot dog place on Liberty Street. Slash can we go there tomorrow?

It would mean the same thing without the word “slash.” If anything, the new “slash” is a sign of wordiness or chattiness, not thrift or laziness.

“KK” Is Not Shorter Than “OK”

Here’s another example where thrift isn’t the goal: I have two friends who write “kk”  instead of just the single “k” that I’m familiar with as a text messaging abbreviation for “okay.” I searched Twitter and quickly found more examples of people using “kk,” and I found quite a few instances of “kk” in the texting corpus from Singapore. (1)

kk  i go check. thanks!

Lol kk see ya later =)

No responsibility! Lols jk. Kk cya

Both friends seemed perplexed when I asked them why they write “kk.” After some thought, one said it seems fun, and the other said she thought it felt less formal than “OK”—friendlier—and she laughed because she realizes that “OK” is already pretty informal.

The first example of “kk” I found on Twitter also seemed to be in a joking context.

My takeaway is that people use “kk” because it’s fun and light-hearted.

"BTdubs" Is Longer Than "BTW"

One of my “kk”-writing friends told me that her daughter often writes “BTdubs,” a fun—and longer—way of saying “BTW,” which is an abbreviation for “by the way.” A Twitter search showed that “BTdubs” is rampant, much more widespread that either “slash” or “kk.”

Next: How Texting Bleeds Into Speech


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.