Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Is texting making us more creative? Canadian researchers think so

Simon Fraser University French associate professor Christian Guilbault is studying text messages to learn how people creatively use language to communicate using cellphones.

Simon Fraser University/The Canadian Press/Simon Fraser University/The Canadian Press

Some call it a universal form of English. Others argue it's most definitely ruining the language and producing a generation of illiterates.

But researchers at three Canadian universities studying text messaging think we may have become more creative because of this new form of communication.

The academics from Simon Fraser University, Université de Montréal and University of Ottawa have been looking at how texting is affecting the way Canadians write.

Story continues below advertisement

Christian Guilbault, an associate professor in SFU's French department, said the project, called Text4Science, is part of a larger, ongoing international study called sms4Science, that began in Belgium a few years ago.

"There's a lot of misconceptions going around regarding the way people use language when they text," said Mr. Guilbault.

"A lot of people think that language is degrading over time, and it's just getting worse, and young people just don't know how to spell anymore.

"Well, we don't think it's true."

Mr. Guilbault said researchers want to analyze the texts to show people's creativity with the use of language.

"We think it's important to go take a look at it, in text message, so we can actually prove how creative people are, and we can prove that they are using English in a very specific way, in a constrained environment, which is texting."

The project began in December, and researchers have already collected more than 8,000 text messages.

Story continues below advertisement

Preliminary research findings show that contributors have used 10 different ways to text laughter, including three variants of "LOL."

OK has been texted 12 different ways, including "okay," and "k," and "see you" was four times as common as "c u."

Mr. Guilbault said Text4Science is focusing on English, the only part of the larger international study to do so.

"We're hoping to make claims about the way people text over in Great Britain, maybe, and even the U.S. to see how differently they text," he said.

Mr. Guilbault said the researchers will collect data until the end of June and begin their analysis at the end of the summer.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to