73% of Teachers Think Social Media and Texting is Bad for Grammar and Spelling

Another school year has kicked off and, to gear up, teachers equip themselves with staplers, scissors… and Snapchat? According to a study released today by Dictionary.com, the leading online and mobile English-language resource, a vast majority (73%) of teachers think social media and texting are bad for grammar and spelling but half (50%) use it to better understand their students. Perhaps the online world is making both teachers and students apathetic to these skills because one-third (32%) of teachers say they see their students struggle with grammar, yet admit they care very little about it (15%) in comparison to other skills, like meaning and comprehension (64%).

This survey was conducted online within the United States by YouGov on behalf of Dictionary.com from Aug. 4-8among (do you know if we can say more than 800 instead of 801?) 801 teachers. Respondents range from teachers at elementary schools through postgraduate schools.


“Social media’s impact on language and communication, especially among younger generations, adds a new layer of complexity for teachers trying to relate to and understand their students,” said Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com. “These findings show how American teachers grapple with this shift in language – what, if any, slang or social shorthand is considered acceptable? Does comprehension matter more than spelling in a world of auto-correct?”


It seems that social media has infiltrated the American classroom. Not only do teachers refer to social media to better understand their students’ pop culture references (50%), more than one-third of teachers are scooping up that knowledge and using memes, emojis, and GIFs (37%) to drive home a point taught in their classrooms. Yet, at the same time, teachers think social media and/or texting have a negative impact on their students’ grammar and spelling skills.

  • One-half (50%) of teachers agree that social media helps them better understand their students’ pop culture references. Interestingly, elementary school teachers (53%) refer to social media more than high school teachers (48%).
  • More than one-third (37%) of teachers have used memes, emojis and GIFs to help make a point or teach a lesson in their classrooms.
  • A majority of teachers (73%) think that social media and texting negatively affects their students’ grammar and spelling skills.

Great expectations… vs. reality

Ever wonder what a teacher would think of your written blunders? Teachers say they think the majority of their students don’t believe grammar and spelling are important (66%). Perhaps students know best because grammar and spelling rank low on teachers’ priorities when reviewing their students’ work (15% and 6%, respectively). In fact, one-quarter (25%) of teachers who taught a subject other than English do not penalize their students for incorrect spelling and grammar.

So what do teachers really care about? Meaning and comprehension top the list (64%). And be careful how you choose your words because a majority (88%) of teachers are irked by improper use of basic words (e.g. their, there and they’re).

  • Teachers say they most see their students struggle with grammar (32%), meaning and comprehension (21%), having a wide and varied vocabulary (20%), and spelling (17%).
  • But what really matters most to teachers are meaning and comprehension (64%), having a wide and varied vocabulary (20%), grammar (15%), and spelling (17%).
  • Two-thirds of teachers say students don’t seem to think that grammar and spelling are important (66%). In particular, high school teachers agreed with this statement (73%) more than middle school (69%), college (63%), and elementary school (58%) teachers.
  • Do teachers penalize students for incorrect spelling and grammar in written work? A quarter (25%) of non-English teachers do not. Yet it bothers nearly nine in 10 (88%) teachers to see students improperly use basic words and phrases.
  • Slang no more. A vast majority of teachers (75%) are bothered by students using popular slang or text speak in their school work.

“No matter where Americans struggle with the English language, whether it is understanding slang in social media, encountering a new acronym via text, or simply being ‘in the know’ in the classroom, Dictionary.com provides users with tools that uncover meaning and unleash creativity with language,” McMillan continued.

When in doubt, look it up… 

It’s not just students who are looking up words online: 33% of teachers use online dictionaries/reference websites in the classroom at least a few times a week. Of these websites, 21% of teachers who tell students to use online dictionaries/reference websites tell students to “Dictionary.com it” or look it up on Dictionary.com, and 15% say they do so at least a few times each week.