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Can texting reveal who committed crimes?

Researchers study mobile-phone texting styles to show links between text linguistics and user IDs.

Forensic experts say they are studying how text messages could be linked to crimes.

In a bid to make better use of the data mobile phones contain, psychologists at the University of Leicester in England are researching how individuals can be identified by their texting style.

"The smaller the text message the harder it is to find who said what. The police are able to tell where a phone is by triangulation but not who is holding it," Tim Grant, one of the researchers, told

"We're trying to get the individual differences in texting styles. That's the basic idea--we know we can do this for longer texts."

The university argues that linguistic analysis can reveal secrets in criminal investigations that may not be obvious.

Researchers plan to recruit at least 100 volunteers to participate in an anonymous Web study.

The volunteers will each be asked to contribute 10 anonymous text messages, which researchers will try to link to the contributer's user ID.

"As texting is both a relatively new mode of communication and a particularly informal way of using language, there is not a strong expectation that texters will follow linguistic conventions," Grant added. "This freedom therefore allows for significant individual differences in text messaging style, and this can be used to identify the text's author."

Dan Itett reported for London-based