A Little Birdie Told Me: Researching Twitter’s Effect on Formal and Informal Writing Among College Students

Student Author(s)

Allison Barnes

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jayson Dibble

Document Type


Event Date



Although technologically mediated communication (TMC) is widely used, especially among young adults, no researchers have yet examined the potential impact of Twitter use on individuals’ writing. In TMC, a texting-like language called “textese” has emerged. Within textese, textisms (or text shortcuts and variations) occur and range from abbreviations to emoticons. Twitter users often use textisms in their writing when they “tweet” due to Twitter’s character limit. Previous research found that self-reported textism usage while text messaging over a mobile telephone associated positively with informal writing scores and negatively with formal writing scores. The current study’s objective is to examine if Twitter use influences one’s quality of formal and informal writing. Additionally, the frequency of textisms within formal and informal writing will be examined. College undergraduate students will be asked to compose a formal writing sample (a scholarship letter) and an informal writing sample (an email to a friend). Both samples will be scored according to a rubric. Then participants will be asked to report on their Twitter usage frequency, Twitter habits, and how often they use specific textisms when tweeting. Amount of Twitter use as well as use of textisms will be compared to the formal and informal writing samples to determine whether any relationships exist between Twitter use/textisms and writing quality. The results from this study will expand textism research, especially in regards to undergraduate writing, and extend it to the context of Twitter.


This project was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts & Humanities at Hope College.

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