The present study examined text messaging in adolescence, in particular relationships among textism use, language and literacy skills. Forty-seven typically developing (TD) 17-year-olds and 47 adolescents of the same age with specific language impairment (SLI) participated. Participants completed standardised assessments of cognitive, language and literacy abilities, an interview about frequency of text messaging, and were asked to send a text message in reply to one sent by the experimenter. Adolescents with SLI were less likely than their TD peers to reply to the text message. Non-senders with SLI (32%) had significantly lower reading abilities than senders with SLI. Senders with SLI composed shorter texts and used less text language than did TD peers. Correlational analyses revealed significant positive relationships among textism density, number of types of textism used and measures of literacy in adolescence. Implications of these findings for educational technology instruction in how to text are discussed. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.