The apostrophe is dying? Research suggests that sloppy grammar could be the end of some punctuation forms through social media.

  • Online platforms limit the number of characters allowed per post. This makes it easy for users to forget punctuation
  • This is the largest study of speech and writing that has been done since tech was introduced in 1990s.
  • To analyse trends in the last 30 years, researchers looked at 100,000,000 words

The apostrophe may die out because of sloppy grammar on social media, researchers suggest.

Online platforms, such as Twitter which restrict the characters allowed per post, are encouraging users to drop punctuation.

Casualties include the possessive apostrophe in plural nouns – such as ‘cats’ paws’ – or those which replace a letter, such as in ‘couldn’t’ for could not and ‘shouldn’t’ for should not.

It is the largest study to date on how language and writing have evolved in relation to the introduction of technology since the 1990s.

They say online platforms such as Twitter, which limit the number of characters per post, mean users are getting into the habit of dropping punctuation

According to them, users dropping punctuation on online platforms like Twitter (which limit how many characters you can post per day) are a result of the limited character count.

For trends analysis, researchers examined 100 million words. They found that informal and ungrammatical languages have increased in frequency over the past 30 year.

Dr Vaclav Brezina, who led the Lancaster University, study said: ‘We have experienced dramatic changes in technology, which transformed the way we communicate.

The written language is much more fluid and widely used by more people.

‘We text or message friends and colleagues and get an immediate response but we might be hard-pressed to remember when we last wrote a letter.

‘Many more people also produce content for the general audience via social media and websites.

‘One doesn’t need to be a journalist or a novelist to reach thousands or millions of people.’

The study said such use of social media has promoted so-called ‘progressive spelling’, such as ‘gunna’ for ‘going to’.

There are also abbreviations, such as ‘defo’ for definitely and ‘tomoz’ instead of tomorrow, plus initials like ‘OMG’ for ‘oh my God’ and ‘TBH’, for ‘to be honest’.

Users of Twitter often abandon punctuation, longer words and use a lot more space as their posts limit to only 280 characters. The internet has also brought in words related to technology, like ‘vlog’, ‘fitbit’ and ‘bitcoin’.

The academics looked at how often a word was used today versus the 1990s.

The study said such use of social media has promoted so-called ‘progressive spelling’, such as ‘gunna’ for ‘going to’

The study said such use of social media has promoted so-called ‘progressive spelling’, such as ‘gunna’ for ‘going to’

The researchers found that the number of apostrophes after plural nouns has dropped by 8 percent, from 308.47 per million in 1990s to 282.88 per million today.

There has also been a 52 per cent drop in the word ‘whom’ and a 60 per cent slump in ‘shall’.

Titles like ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ are declining in favour of using first names but the use of ‘amazing’ soared from 16.6 times to 88.6 times per million.

Traditionalists have been skeptical about the developments. Ex-headteacher Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘The demise of the apostrophe is a symptom of linguistic laziness and dumbing down.’

This study examined British English genres such as fiction, newspapers, television shows and blogs.