Study of children’s writing reveals online influences

Posted on June 5, 2012


A project looking at children’s writing, conducted by Oxford University Press, has shown some interesting patterns in choice of words, spelling mistakes and the effects of technology on children’s vocabulary.

The research, which analysed 31 million words used by children in their writing, showed that the children were more likely to spell difficult words, such as archaeology, correctly than everyday words. One possible explanation for this is that the children felt confident about spelling easier words, while checking the spelling of less common words.

The study also highlighted a possible side-effect of using spell-checkers. Common errors included using the word ‘dose’ instead of ‘does’. This is an example of the kind of mistake that can slip through un-noticed when using a spell-checking program, and is a sticking point for many people writing for websites. Website owners regularly use the services of content writers to avoid exactly this kind of error.

The research also looked at the use of certain terms in children’s writing, and found that words such as ‘Googling’ and ‘apps’ had made it into many of their stories, showing a clear influence of technology on the children’s vocabularies. There were also trends such as the use of American words.

This kind of pattern points to another area that’s important to consider when writing for websites, particularly when writing about a technical topic or one that has regular developments. Choice of words is vital in online writing, which needs to convince a readership that a site is up-to-date and familiar with specialist terms.

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