Grammar going extinct: Majority of young adults think proper spelling doesn’t matter anymore

LONDON — They say Latin is a “dead language.” Well, English may join it one day, as a new study reveals that the majority of young adults butcher the language in their everyday messages. Specifically, a survey of 2,000 people discovered the shocking demise of proper spelling and punctuation among young people on social media and messaging platforms.

Less than a quarter of Gen Z use periods, commas, and quotation marks in their casual communications. In comparison, more than half of people (55%) over the age of 65 say they’re always sticklers for proper grammar while texting or posting online.

The poll of 2,000 people found they are most likely to use correct punctuation in text messages (69%). However, this tails off on social media platforms, with less than 10 percent bothering with such formalities on Snapchat and TikTok.

Most people say it simply takes too long (22%) and that as long as the meaning is conveyed, the technical accuracy of the writing doesn’t matter anymore. Just half of Gen Z and Millennials bother to differentiate between “their,” “there,” and “they’re” — but this rises with age to 80 percent among people over 65.

This is similar when it comes to the use of capital letters. Just a quarter of those between 18 and 24 use capital letters correctly, compared to 61 percent of seniors. Just 16 percent of Gen Z always use periods at the end of sentences, with only 28 percent of millennials doing the same.

Their, there, They are text on asphalt ground, feet and shoes on floor, personal perspective footsie concept
Their, there, They are text on asphalt ground, feet and shoes on floor, personal perspective footsie concept (© MichaelJBerlin –

Don’t show the boss your bad grammar

Only a third of Gen Z bother to proofread their messages before sending them. Advocates for proper grammar say this trend has serious implications that could dent the career prospects of young people.

“I’m not the least bit surprised at the results of this study,” says Tony Maher, general manager of the Plain English Campaign, in a statement. “When I look at social media, I can see that young people get the rules wrong, probably because they don’t want to appear different from their peers.”

“People learn bad habits very quickly nowadays. Once they get into the habit, they continue to use it. We first saw this in the 1960s when they began teaching the phonetic alphabet. Once you’re used to using abbreviations or the wrong spellings, you forget to do it correctly,” Maher continues.

“This will catch you out at the worst time. You might make the mistake on your CV or on a formal report. It might seem small, but it could cost you a decent job.”

"I am silently correcting your grammar" coffee mug
“I am silently correcting your grammar” coffee mug conceptual photography (© Charles-Édouard –

BTW, abbreviations are more popular than ever

Instead, the study by OnePoll found that younger generations are much more enthusiastic about abbreviations. Two-thirds of those under 35 regularly use abbreviations, compared to just 21 percent of those over 65.

Interestingly, all generations use common abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud), OMG (oh my God), and BTW (by the way). Younger people, however, are far more likely to use a variety of phrases such as IKR (I know right), NP (no problem), and IMO (in my opinion).

For example, 56 percent of Gen Z regularly use IKR compared to just five percent of people over 45. Other lesser-known abbreviations used by younger generations include LMK (let me know), OMW (on my way), and BC (because).

South West News Service writer Martin Winter contributed to this report.

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