Social Networks compared: Twitter users are most illiterate

The social media phenomena continue to rage, with hot social websites still seeing mind blowing engagement. To illustrate this point, Twitter recently announced that they are seeing over 400 million tweets every single day. However recent research from Brandwatch indicates that Twitter is the home of the worst spellers out of all leading social networks.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Brandwatch found that Twitter users made an average of one mistake per 150 words

British people have a well-documented problem with their spelling the words in their own language, and with one word out of every 150 being spelt wrong on Twitter, it seems that the popular micro blogging platform is sitting right at the heart of the problem.

Facebook users make a spelling error every 323 words on average, which trumps Google+, where users make a spelling mistake every 238 words. So the bare facts show that Twitter users are the worst by a distance, with almost twice as many spelling mistakes being registered as Facebook users.

In reality though, most of these ‘spelling’ mistakes are actually grammatical errors, or to be even more accurate, they are perhaps an indication of the changing times and shifting practices of the English language. To illustrate, the Brandwatch survey looked at a range of sites that contain user generated content, including the leading social networks as well as vertical specific forums. They looked for misspellings but also for grammatical errors, like missed apostrophes, but they also counted social acronyms like LOL (laugh out loud) and TBH (To Be Honest) as misspelling.

Can social acronyms like LOL really be counted as a ‘mistake’ in an environment which is delivering a paradiym shift in the use of the English language?

Yet micro blogging sites like Twitter have redefined the way that people use the English language. By limiting a person’s update to 140 characters or less, sites like Twitter are causing the most profound, fast and impactful changes to the English language in history, even allowing for the relatively short-lived ‘text speak’ faze. In an arena where every character counts, users are finding ever more inventive ways to say more with less characters. If a draft tweet is 141 characters, it’s no surprise that the apostrophe may find itself getting the cut.

In an age of mass media consumption, speed is king in a World of ever decreasing attention spans. This point was broadly picked up by Simon Horobin, an English professor at Magdalen College, Oxford recently. Horobin suggested that words like “they’re”, “their” and “there” could be spelt in the same way, as people need to be more fluid in their interpretation of the English language. He suggests that a more holistic approach to spelling may be needed, especially within social media.

Enhanced by Zemanta