Friday, March 30, 2007

The bell tolls for proper writing

Yes, you will all have to suffer through another schoolmarmish post by me.

I'm sure I have mentioned in the past that I believe the internet is the death knell of grammar and proper writing. Upon further reflection, I have concluded that this is not the case.

The rise of the net is great in that there is such a wealth of information readily accessible by anyone. Remember the days when research meant going to the library and looking through periodicals? Remember waiting for the next day's newspaper for sports scores and stats (or the day after that for a night game)? The internet is great for many things except for the fact is also has the unfortunate side-effect of giving every ordinary joe a voice.
(Clearly, this could be considered somewhat ironic because I myself am an ordinary joe spouting my opinions as facts online. At the very least, claiming people shouldn't have a voice is the height of hubris on my part, feeling my opinions are more valid than others'. Well, tough. Live with it.)

Spelling and grammatical mistakes really bother me. I'm not talking about simple typos, either. I myself am guilty of inadvertent errors. Nobody is perfect. Rather, I mean all those who write poorly but don't know that what they write is improper. This begets a terrible ouroboros of linguistic deficiency. How will people learn the language when all they are exposed to is an ersatz version?

The following really grind my gears:
-should of/would of (which doesn't even make sense, people! Come on, think for a second!)

As mentioned up top, I have reached a new conclusion. My cause and effect theory that the internet is causing poor language skills is somewhat backwards. Yes, if people have the net as their only source of reading, they will have a skewed idea of English. However, I believe that people were always bad at grammar and vocabulary. It's just that, in the past, the only reading we would do would be from books and magazines, sources that went through an editor to be cleaned up before reaching our eyes. The advent of self-publishing on the net bypasses the screening process, allowing people to post their ignorance unfettered.

Moral of the story: please, everyone, read proper books. And lots of them.


antsy said...

Agreed. Here is a great paper written on the subject, written by George Orwell. Give it a read.

Masta said...

Sigh... fine... I'm going to defend my people, the spelling morans of the world. You see, some people aren't really detail minded. I was talking to a prof who was editing a paper and the idea of combing through it to pick out spelling errors rather than examine the content is extremely boring. At the other end of the spectrum are people who are obsessed with spelling and vocabulary. But clearly that disposition begets a terrible ouroboros of linguistic pomposity whereby the importance of getting an idea across is compromised to indulge an obsession with showcasing the vocabulary itself. A hman bieng is prefctly cpable of rdeaing txt as effed up as thsi without losing the meaning. But saturate your writing with words like ersatz and ouroboros and you limit your audience to Frasier and Niles.

We're talking about the internet here. I can't shake the image of you going on some message board and turning up your nose at some spelling mistakes about the latest rumors about who will be in the next Trek movie. And while you're fuming because they wrote, "They should OF cast Halle Berry as Uhura," the 14 year old who wrote it has moved on to download porn while he eats a fruit roll up. The vast majority of people will never be able to spell which is a good thing. It seperates relevant reading material from blogs. But clearly exposing yourself to the horrors of bad grammar is a reflection of how easy and convenient it is to read a load crap written by whoever rather than something put together by an expert.

Anonymous said...

It seems my point flew straight over your head. I'm not complaining about internet shorthand or typos or even simplistic language. I'm just talking about people not knowing the language. Grammatical mistakers and typos are fine if they are just that: mistakes, a situation where the writer actually knows better but was not thinking or just didn't care. That's fine. But when people actually believe it's "should've" is "should of", there is clearly something wrong. Ignorance like that takes me straight out of whatever it is I am reading and makes me lose the respect of the writer, effectively rendering their point meaningless. It's a clear sign that the writer doesn't read often or at all because had he, he would definitely have come across the proper spelling.

Masta said...

I mean, bad grammar is a sign of bad writing but when someone goes out of their way to use words like ouroboros (greek) ersatz (german) I think that's more jarring, like a man stuffing his crotch with socks to make his package look bigger. For me, I love it, cuz that's the loveably pompous Vrej I've known for years. I can see you hissing the word ersatz with the mock fervor you use that lets everyone know you're aware of how hilarious it is to use that word in casual conversation. And I know the word ouroboros simply because you make it a point to use it once a month. And every month I'm like, "What the HELL does that mean?" And you explain it. And I go, "Oh yeah..." But you've said it yourself... people are stupid. You read a book, you'll find the author knows how to spell. You read a blogs and message boards obviously you get an overrepresentation of less educated people and more often children. The fact is, if bad grammar bugs you, you're too good for the internet. Make a trip to the library.

But that being said, a lot of the times if you can get past bad craft (bad writing, bad directing, bad acting) then you might be able to get the opinion of someone who's not terribly educated, but they have something to say anyway and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

chicounet said...

Please clarify the meaning of the word ouroboros.

And what are you talking about? Vrej being too good for the Internet? He IS the Internet. Remember how he found the Greystache picture? Now who else could do that?

Anonymous said...

Dude, I didn't find the Greystache pic. I MADE it by taking a screencap from the episode I downloaded. It was yet another instance in the internet failing me.

chicounet said...

Well then.. I guess you are too good for the internet after all.