Your SMS style can land you in jail...


Written on Tuesday, October 10, 2006 by Gemini

The way you send text messages could be as distinctive as your handwriting – and could be used as evidence in court. Psychologists are researching whether texting quirks, such as dropping pronouns or relying on particular abbreviations, can identify the sender of the message.

The study will help police decide whether or not a particular person sent a text message—crucial when trying to stand up an alibi.

Scientists at the University of Leicester are studying SMSes sent in by more than 160 members of the public to test their theory and are appealing for further volunteers. Forensic linguist Dr Tim Grant said: “What we want to achieve is a more scientific understanding of variations in text-message style so that we can determine whether it can identify the person who sent it. “At the moment the police are able to work out where a mobile telephone was during a call by triangulation and so on, but that can’t tell you who was holding the phone doing the texting.

Researchers are already examining more than 1,500 texts. Grant said: “We are looking at variations such as whether people use abbreviations or not, and what kind of abbreviations they are. What happens quite often is that people miss out words – and different people leave out different words, such as pronouns.” He added: “We are finding, for example, that when two people text each other a lot their texting style becomes more similar.”

In February this year, Hertfordshire gamekeeper Christopher Nudds was jailed for the murder of traveller Fred Moss after texts sent from the victim’s phone around the time of his death raised suspicion. The words were spelled correctly – but Moss was illiterate.

In 2002, a lorry driver Stuart Campbell was convicted of murdering his niece Danielle Jones. He sent texts to himself from her phone to cover his tracks. But the SMSes Campbell said were from Danielle were all sent in capitals. She preferred lower case.

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