Is the internet killing off language?

Are mobile devices and 140 character limits changing language?

There's little room to worry about grammar in 140 characters, goes the argument, and besides, conforming to the rules of engagement in the Twitter-sphere is far more important than old grammatical rules. "With people consuming so much content on their mobile devices with services like Twitter and Facebook, it is only natural that they are influenced by it and respond in the same way," says Hammar. "Reading short bursts of poorly constructed content from a young age impacts on the learning experience and filters into our everyday lives."

Not that any of this is the fault of Twitter et al. "It is the web culture itself rather than mobile devices and social channels that are driving some of the negative aspects of language standards," says Parreira.

Gavin Hammar, founder of Sendible

Gavin Hammar, founder of Sendible

It's all about context

Arguably none of this matters, except it does when those who get so used to using text-speak enter the world of work where basic online-isms like LOL (laughing out loud) – however basic that might seem to some – can easily mean 'lots of love' (thanks, David Cameron).

It's therefore best for those entering the workforce to assume nothing and communicate formally with older co-workers and clients, at least at first. "The lines between internet communication and business communication are being blurred, with millennials finding it difficult to switch between the two styles and identifying which one is appropriate and when," says Hammar, who thinks that people will soon struggle to express themselves in a business environment where a formal tone is usually the standard.

"It's still now difficult to imagine senior executives using LOL and ROFL when signing a deal," he says, advising that you can use shorthand to give your company a personality online to delight customers, but only if it's used very wisely. "Remember, 'BRB' (meaning 'be right back') and 'I will be away from my desk for the next two hours. I will respond as soon as I get back,' are not interchangeable – it's important to know when to use which message."

He advises allowing clients to begin with emoticons, smilies or even basic text-speak before indulging in anything other than well-constructed, grammatically correct formal language.

Why changing online language doesn't matter

Since society as a whole has about as much control over language as it does over earthquakes, this is a moot point at best. "Culture has a way of evolving and that's exactly what we're experiencing with language," says Parreira, who points out that the iOS spelling fix on the iPhone has improved of late. It also now offers to finish words as you type and arguably brings at least an illusion of accuracy.

Education will need to change, too. "It will become less of a priority to educate the youth in strict grammar usage, since the world will no longer expect it," says Hammar. 'Standard' grammar is evolving, too, since digital shorthand and text-speak are now creeping into spoken language.

"We are now hearing people actually saying 'sad face' at the end of a sentence as in 'The weekend was a disaster. Sad face'," says Kermode, who asks if it will eventually be replaced by a new linguistic idea. "Yes, of course, it's just that none of us know exactly what that will be yet… quizzical face, winking smiley, rainbow."

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),