Youngsters were asked to write an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. The competition attracted more than 120,000 entries and the winners were announced on Radio 2 last month.
Experts at OUP found that the hashtag has entered children’s vocabulary in a new way. Rather than simply using the symbol as a prefix or search term on Twitter, they are using it to add a comment in their stories. As one entrant wrote: “The only thing I knew for sure was that I was going to get eaten (#frightened!!!).”
“Language is constantly changing and adapting,” said Vineeta Gupta, OUP’s head of children’s dictionaries. “Children are true innovators and are using the language of social media to produce some incredibly creative writing. What impresses me most is how children will blend, borrow and invent words to powerful effect.”
As well as social media, other aspects of life that have influenced children’s creativity and use of language over the past year include the Ebola epidemic and the First World War.
Becoming famous online was a common theme among the 500 Words entries and the most popular characters from real life and fiction to feature in the children’s short stories included Cinderella, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Superman, One Direction, and Harry Potter.