How to Analyse a Text Message
Quick revise

Purpose(s) and audience of message

  •  (e.g. transactional – to make a transaction – or interactional – to create/maintain relationship – or both!). Why this medium (i.e. text messaging) has been chosen.

Lexis / Semantics

  • Non-standard spelling due to speed/predictive texting accident! – but also use of texting conventions (use the word!): vowel deletion (e.g. ‘lv’ for ‘love’); phonetic spelling (e.g. ‘ur’ for ‘you’re’ or ‘your’); homophones (e.g. ‘r’ for ‘are’, or ‘u’ for ‘you’); replacement of words with numerals which sound the same, i.e. are homophones (e.g. ‘2’ for ‘to’, or ‘4’ instead of ‘for’); rebus-like constructions (e.g. l8r); symbols (e.g. @ for ‘at’ – used to seem ‘cool’?).
  • Idiolect (the particular way an individual uses ‘text language’/abbreviates, etc); sociolect (eg youth sociolect); any aspects of non-standard dialect if relevant. Also why used: to reflect group identity/create sense of belonging? Influence of society/other text users?
  • Texting collocations – e.g. lol (for ‘laugh out loud’), or TB (text back) – popularly used among people who text a lot (and also age-related? Youth sociolect?). NOTE: ‘lol’ is also an example of an acronym (if pronounced ‘loll’) or initialism (if pronounced as individual letter sounds – L-O-L). ‘TB’ is a popularly used initialism.


Sentence types (simple/compound/complex) and why used / effect. Also sentence functions – i.e. whether a sentence is an imperative/interrogative/declarative, exclamation. 

  • Ellipsis (e.g. of subject pronoun in ‘Hope you’re OK’ rather than ‘I hope you’re OK’), and contractions, which are also more commonly found in speech (e.g. ‘you’re’, not ‘you are’)
  • Any other grammatical points. Include word class (e.g. you may well find lots of personal pronouns due to the personal/social nature of text messaging); word class types (e.g. dynamic verbs, modal verbs [primary or auxiliary, deontic or epistemic!], proper nouns); tense/aspect/finite/non-finite verbs (e.g. ‘am coming’ is present progressive; ‘am’ in this verb phrase is a primary auxiliary and a finite verb; ‘coming’ is non-finite.......). Try very hard to link your identification of grammatical terms to the reason why such words have been used.
  • Average length of sentences (short? why?) and average number of syllables in words. Why?

Discourse Structure:

  • Opening and closing sequences, and use of convention (e.g. Hi; TB; luv ....; Cu sn)
  • Speech-like features: what Tim Shortis calls pseudo-prosodic features – i.e. symbols and letters used to convey paralinguistic information (e.g. capitals for SHOUTING!; emoticons to indicate humour/irony/facial expression – but link to Crystal, who thinks emoticons are crude/basic, and John Humphrey, who thinks they’re ‘futile’ – do you agree, in the context of this text message? Perhaps lead to a brief discussion of what a prescriptivist/descriptivist would think – attitudes towards texting.....)
  • Any discourse structure (opening/main body/closure)
  • Any indication of adjacency pairs (e.g. if you get a ‘thread’ of text messages – a group of text messages on the same topic, with the same people discussing the same issue) – and turn-taking and length of turns / how this is different to ‘normal’ spoken conversation.
  • Politeness features (e.g. ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; mitigated directives, such as ‘wd u mind’ rather than issuing imperatives); accommodation, if relevant

Any relevant comments with regard to speech/writing – the extent to which text messages are planned, compared to everyday speech and letter-writing; the ephemeral nature of text messages (i.e. they’re not usually stored for long- they’re not permanent), unlike more traditional forms of writing, but they’re more permanent than speech.... How might these things be relevant in the context of the text message you are analysing?

Limitations of text messaging: confusion; brevity (the ‘briefness’ of the message – you can’t say much!), as well as advantages (speed; cheapness)

Gender issues (more ‘empty’ adjectives, such as ‘lovely’ or ‘divine’ for women? More phatic talk? More ‘grooming’ talk? More tag questions to denote their social insecurity?! More intensifiers, such as ‘really kind’ or ‘so easy’)? (Note: these intensifiers are adverbs, too!)

How has the text been influenced by technology?

Average: 4.8 (4 votes)