Today's poor grammar, spelling, and usage

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Hey all, as a writer, I've really been noticing how bad grammar, spelling, and usage are these days. Now, it's really hard to tell whether things are getting worse than when I was growing up. I tend to think that it is since grammar used to be taught to my parents' generation, but not really at all to my generation. However, that's no excuse :)

So, I've started a series of blog posts on my blog (see below) that some people may find of interest or humour. I'll likely be posting on this at least a few times/week until I've gone through my long list of topics starting with my 2 biggest pet peeves :)

Check it out and we can discuss the state of today's grammar, spelling, and usage :p
 
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Poor Spelling

I agree 100%. I think most of the spelling issues are a result of texting. Kids text and use many short cuts, ttyl, g2g, idk, brb, etc. The list could go on and on and those short cuts tend to be used in regular emails. Well, I went to a catholic school and if spelling was crucial. Anyways, just thought I would throw my 2 cents into this conversation. Happy Friday :)
 
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I agree 100%. I think most of the spelling issues are a result of texting. Kids text and use many short cuts, ttyl, g2g, idk, brb, etc. The list could go on and on and those short cuts tend to be used in regular emails. Well, I went to a catholic school and if spelling was crucial. Anyways, just thought I would throw my 2 cents into this conversation. Happy Friday :)

Actually, you're surprisingly wrong. There was a study recently published that got a bunch of press.

The Effect of Text Messaging on Spelling - Growing Kids (UK)

It might be that the causal chain goes in the opposite direction that you're thinking: spelling hasn't deteriorated because of the new texting language, but the development of the new language may have been influenced by poor spelling. I'm just speculating, though.

Most of texting's purposeful misspellings don't seem to make their way into writing (I mark 1st and 2nd year papers). The sort of spelling errors that I come across are fairly predictable and almost systematic. However, there is definitely a noticeable difference when you see online forums and hand-written work: you see precisely how poor someone is at spelling. The online case is a little worse since there's a damned spellcheck built in!
 
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I think what you'll find is that people who speak English as a second language have a much better grasp of grammatical concepts than native speakers. Same for any language really. People who take up another language tend to speak the standardised version of it and thus have better knowledge of the tools and concepts that are employed and how they work. Ask someone in non-literature career path, they probably couldn't tell you what a pronoun is... and just then I had to look it up myself. Your native tongue is managed and exercised on a whim without a second thought ('though some people should hold their tongues more often and think before they speak :detective:) and you become naturally accustomed to formulating appropriate language structure.

Just to be harsh, I'd say the 'dumbing down' of English is a reflection of today's up and coming tech-centric generation and the convenience-oriented/time-restricted world we live in. If people no longer have to fully type "Talk to you later?" then they will, especially if it meant saving a text message from rolling over into a second. In that context it makes sense; if technology is limiting, then so will any subsequent constrainable items. However, that in itself becomes too mentally hard-wired and it spills out into emails, social networking sites, instant messaging and even speech. That's when I believe it goes from acceptable to ludicrous. Saying "lol" instead of laughing -even sarcastically- just makes you seem more withdrawn and antisocial.
 
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First, I agree that people who become fluent in English through ESL have a better grasp of the basic grammatical concepts of English. But, that's only because they are TAUGHT those concepts and native english speakers are not (in my experience). It surely isn't the case that grammar is no longer taught in our schools, but at least among my colleagues it was rare at best. Asking someone what a "past participle" is will elicit blank stares. (I can sense people googling this right now!)

Second, again, I disagree that it is texting and instant messaging behind poor spelling/grammar. Evidence indicates that this is not the cause, but perhaps only a symptom. Then/than, you're/your, their/there/they're, it's/its, and all the other mistakes that I'll be blogging about first have nothing to do with texting/instant messaging. I don't see spelling mistakes where people can't spell the contents of lol/ttyl/bbl/omg, etc. These contractions contain SIMPLE words to spell. So, people ubiquitously using "stfu" doesn't diminish people's ability to spell "shut" "f*ck" and "up."

Look, people's vocabulary has diminished noticeably. People know how to spell simple words (for the most part), but the grammar is often missing. I'm not writing about the "dumbing" down. I'm writing about the misuse of language. You can dumb down language and still be grammatically correct with proper usage...but even the dumbed down posting on internet forums displays terrible grammar/usage/spelling.

Then/than, your/you're, their/there/they're errors are in nearly every thread! :wallbash:
 

Chillhouse

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I see absolutely no problem. No generation has been smarter, more informed, more educated, and more intelligent than the teens growing up right now.
 
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I understood grammar really well as a kid, and I am still don't know any one of my peers who can use the semicolon correctly. I could never spell though, and I still can't. What I have noticed though is that some people use grammar incorrectly, yet it makes sense for the sentence flow. I'm taking Ethics, and we have to read a lot of published arguments. In these papers, there is poor grammar everywhere. Every other sentence is a run-on. But the flow is perfect, and that's really all that matters.
 
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I understood grammar really well as a kid, and I am still don't know any one of my peers who can use the semicolon correctly. I could never spell though, and I still can't. What I have noticed though is that some people use grammar incorrectly, yet it makes sense for the sentence flow. I'm taking Ethics, and we have to read a lot of published arguments. In these papers, there is poor grammar everywhere. Every other sentence is a run-on. But the flow is perfect, and that's really all that matters.

Yeah, don't look to philosophers for great grammar ;) (I am one, so I read a tonne of it). Most of them are much more concerned with content than style...but the thing is that those with good style and good content often stand out and are MUCH more successful for it. One huge error that philosophers use is subordinating too many clauses in one sentence (usually producing the run-on that you're speaking of). It is not uncommon for there to be 10 (TEN!) commas in a single sentence...and with more than one of these sentences in a single paragraph...it's just gross. So, I guess that I disagree that "sentence" flow is a good excuse for poor grammar. There are always ways to rewrite a sentence to be grammatically correct and have great flow (odds are that these sentences would be better if grammatically correct and re-arranged and/or trimmed).
 
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Well, a 10 clause sentence has to be pretty hard to write with flow, but other non-grammatically correct sentences do seem to flow better. I see what you're saying about how a sentence with proper grammar flows better, but sometimes it makes a lot more sense to just throw in an extra comma that shouldn't be there.
 

Raccoon

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L33t is a new language, or at least a dialect. I don't say it is "wrong" - it's where you use it. The way we speak in formal writing, face-to-face conversation, to small kids, and in text are all different.

L33t has a throwaway quality to it, an implied temporariness that doesn't befit writing meant to be reread later, maybe much later, and by many people. Does L33t corrupt? Only if you let it. It isn't equipped or designed to be precise or have the depth of meaning of "proper" writing; words and phrases aren't meant to carry multiple shades of meaning, and the rhythm, even rhyme aren't all that important; it doesn't impart a person's style well as there is often a limited range of vocabulary to impart a particular thought. It does what it is designed/evolved for: saying simple things with few characters and without misunderstanding. (It doesn't lend itself so well for saying complex things with the same clarity.)

Where discussion of more complex things is important, especially where clarity is important, and one wants to have things read widely and repeatedly, it is useful to have a grasp of how to say them. As to a general dumbing down of language... where this is so, I think it's caused by many factors, including the simple fact that a whole lot more communication is going on in the world and a huge amount of it is of a kind that doesn't demand or require high formal standards.
 

Pramrider

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I rarely read Youtube video comments anymore because the grammar/spelling is many times a real chore to make sense of. True, some of it is out of the habit of texting, but a lot of it is obviously just poor (horrible at times)writing/spelling skills. These aren't little kids replying because the vids are on subject matter that wouldn't appeal to younger viewers.

Good oral and written communication skills are a must for any decent kind of employment, and are always part of the basic required qualifications on a higher paying job listing. People are only hurting themselves down the road by not developing these skills to the maximum while still in school.

~Pramrider
 
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My thoughts on the matter have been rather well-articulated on this forum, so I won't fully re-hash them here.

I see absolutely no problem. No generation has been smarter, more informed, more educated, and more intelligent than the teens growing up right now.
Actually, sorry Chillhouse, but you're dead wrong. Flynn factor aside, reading general documents from years gone by (e.g. a 1920s "McGuffrey Reader") shows just how utterly far we've fallen in most of these counts. Information is nothing without attention, and we seem to be suffering from a lack of attention--or perhaps an over-abundance of distraction--today.

Second, again, I disagree that it is texting and instant messaging behind poor spelling/grammar. Evidence indicates that this is not the cause, but perhaps only a symptom. Then/than, you're/your, their/there/they're, it's/its, and all the other mistakes that I'll be blogging about first have nothing to do with texting/instant messaging. I don't see spelling mistakes where people can't spell the contents of lol/ttyl/bbl/omg, etc. These contractions contain SIMPLE words to spell. So, people ubiquitously using "stfu" doesn't diminish people's ability to spell "shut" "f*ck" and "up."

Look, people's vocabulary has diminished noticeably. People know how to spell simple words (for the most part), but the grammar is often missing. I'm not writing about the "dumbing" down. I'm writing about the misuse of language. You can dumb down language and still be grammatically correct with proper usage...but even the dumbed down posting on internet forums displays terrible grammar/usage/spelling.

Then/than, your/you're, their/there/they're errors are in nearly every thread! :wallbash:
Exposure and use.

If you look at the list of words most-used in language today, you'll find that our linguistic depth (measured by where a word appears on a "word frequency" table) has become more shallow, and our breadth (number of words known) has diminished. The very richness of the language is itself threatened and becoming increasingly reductionistic. When, for example, the nuances that come with "dysthmic" or "anhedonic" get crushed into merely "sad," we lose meaning. If one were to run the sausage machine backwards--teach only "sad" rather than all three words--then our very emotions become increasingly stilted.

"How sad are you?" can only elicit an answer along the lines of, "very sad," rather than a more telling, "I'm not sad, so much as anhedonic," or "I'm depressed."

When we ultimately reduce down to 5,000 words--and and additional 10,000 nouns such as brand names--then so too will we reduce our tableau of available thoughts, feelings, and actions.

It's really quite distressing.

Or, as we'll reduce the claim for this argument down to 100 years: "I'm sad."
 

Fire2box

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Hey all, as a writer, I've really been noticing how bad grammar, spelling, and usage is these days. Now, it's really hard to tell whether things are getting worse than when I was growing up. I tend to think that it is since grammar used to be taught to my parents' generation, but not really at all to my generation. However, that's no excuse :)

So, I've started a series of blog posts on my blog (see below) that some people may find of interest or humour. I'll likely be posting on this at least a few times/week until I've gone through my long list of topics starting with my 2 biggest pet peeves :)

Check it out and we can discuss the state of today's grammar, spelling, and usage :p

Waht are you imlypnig? My seplling is aewsmoe.

As Mcihael Jkacosn siad in south park "your just ignorant!"


(Someone had to do it. But you do have a point since I personally skipped the whole topic. It's awesome being right.. right?)
 
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My thoughts on the matter have been rather well-articulated on this forum, so I won't fully re-hash them here.


Actually, sorry Chillhouse, but you're dead wrong. Flynn factor aside, reading general documents from years gone by (e.g. a 1920s "McGuffrey Reader") shows just how utterly far we've fallen in most of these counts. Information is nothing without attention, and we seem to be suffering from a lack of attention--or perhaps an over-abundance of distraction--today.


Exposure and use.

If you look at the list of words most-used in language today, you'll find that our linguistic depth (measured by where a word appears on a "word frequency" table) has become more shallow, and our breadth (number of words known) has diminished. The very richness of the language is itself threatened and becoming increasingly reductionistic. When, for example, the nuances that come with "dysthmic" or "anhedonic" get crushed into merely "sad," we lose meaning. If one were to run the sausage machine backwards--teach only "sad" rather than all three words--then our very emotions become increasingly stilted.

"How sad are you?" can only elicit an answer along the lines of, "very sad," rather than a more telling, "I'm not sad, so much as anhedonic," or "I'm depressed."

When we ultimately reduce down to 5,000 words--and and additional 10,000 nouns such as brand names--then so too will we reduce our tableau of available thoughts, feelings, and actions.

It's really quite distressing.

Or, as we'll reduce the claim for this argument down to 100 years: "I'm sad."

I'm feeling pretty starbucks today, but not quite wal-mart.
 

WoodlandWanderer

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First I'll address the misuse of words such as their/there/they're affect/effect and so on. In my opinion, this is largely down to the absence of grammar being taught in schools. When I was in my first school (up to age 12), we had a grammar lesson each week, as past of our English lessons. In those we learnt about the basics of the english language: sentence structure, verb forms, punctuation usage etc.

It seems that now, sadly, less and less people are learning about grammar; some people don't even know how to spell the word grammar! I find it amazing how many people can't give an example of what an adverb is.

Exposure and use.

If you look at the list of words most-used in language today, you'll find that our linguistic depth (measured by where a word appears on a "word frequency" table) has become more shallow, and our breadth (number of words known) has diminished. The very richness of the language is itself threatened and becoming increasingly reductionistic. When, for example, the nuances that come with "dysthmic" or "anhedonic" get crushed into merely "sad," we lose meaning. If one were to run the sausage machine backwards--teach only "sad" rather than all three words--then our very emotions become increasingly stilted.

"How sad are you?" can only elicit an answer along the lines of, "very sad," rather than a more telling, "I'm not sad, so much as anhedonic," or "I'm depressed."

When we ultimately reduce down to 5,000 words--and and additional 10,000 nouns such as brand names--then so too will we reduce our tableau of available thoughts, feelings, and actions.

It's really quite distressing.

Or, as we'll reduce the claim for this argument down to 100 years: "I'm sad."

The reduction in the range and depth of the average person's vocabulary, in my view, but be put down to something rather simple - a lack of reading. When I was younger, reading was encouraged (as it is in most primary school I believe), yet when you get older that seems to change. At 16, the amount of people who read books for pleasure is remarkably small. In fact the culture where people don't read has got to such a point that some find it funny to think you read for fun. Yet there is probably a correlation between amount of reading and english grades.

I believe this is responsible for the vocabulary issue, and also for the grammatical issue as well. Reading not only helps you to widen your vocabulary, but through reading you may also learn how to use words properly.

So there's my two cents. Maybe if we could get everyone reading again it would help the problem, unfortunately it's unlikely to happen.

EDIT: to carry on the theme here, it's getting quite a melancholy feel isn't it?
 
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TBH, it's not just 'not reading' but not reading GOOD writers. Too much pulp fiction filling the shelves. These books won't challenge and expand one's vocabulary.
 

baconbit

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Most of the things you listed in your blog as mistakes your going to talk about, as well as the ones you already did are very simple concepts to get correct. I blame the common use of slang and incorrect grammar when speaking causes many writing mistakes. Weather a person is taught grammar here is much based on the teacher. Curriculum do not include grammar as a mandated topic but several teachers do teach it through warm-ups/drills. Although if you read well written books by good authors you would probably pick up decent grammar.

I do hope you touch the use of comas, semi colons, and colons; because just as periods, explanation points, and question marks they are important punctuation and need to be correct. Many people don't realize the difference or uses of the three.
 

Raccoon

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Anhedonic? Dysthymic? Alexithymic? I donterstand. I am double-plus sad also double-plus-unsad.

I think this goes beyond just vapid, thin content, and a more compact vocabulary and syntax, the causes of which are I have available as for-purchase premium content. (Though they'll doubtless turn up in a later post, once they're reposted for free and have lost their "new content" aroma, and are available as reduced-to-clear day old information.)

Information is available en masse, we are glutted for choice. So we snack at the buffet, sample a bit here and there, only occasionally indulging in a meal with structure, continuity, and with a self-organising architecture.

You can have as much information in Twitter format as you can in a library, an archive, where information is formatted in a relational sense, a narrative, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But it takes greater length and depth of concentration to absorb, and there are competing tendencies to enjoy or use fewer things more richly, and instead more things less fully. The former also takes more work. There is an illusion that the number of things processed equals the amount of meaning contained therein: much of the meaning is actually in the relations between the objects, the architecture.

Well. that was dense. I think I just created one of those brief mini-black holes, from which no enlightenment can escape.
 
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teddy564339

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First, I agree that people who become fluent in English through ESL have a better grasp of the basic grammatical concepts of English. But, that's only because they are TAUGHT those concepts and native english speakers are not (in my experience). It surely isn't the case that grammar is no longer taught in our schools, but at least among my colleagues it was rare at best. Asking someone what a "past participle" is will elicit blank stares. (I can sense people googling this right now!)

Second, again, I disagree that it is texting and instant messaging behind poor spelling/grammar. Evidence indicates that this is not the cause, but perhaps only a symptom. Then/than, you're/your, their/there/they're, it's/its, and all the other mistakes that I'll be blogging about first have nothing to do with texting/instant messaging. I don't see spelling mistakes where people can't spell the contents of lol/ttyl/bbl/omg, etc. These contractions contain SIMPLE words to spell. So, people ubiquitously using "stfu" doesn't diminish people's ability to spell "shut" "f*ck" and "up."

Look, people's vocabulary has diminished noticeably. People know how to spell simple words (for the most part), but the grammar is often missing. I'm not writing about the "dumbing" down. I'm writing about the misuse of language. You can dumb down language and still be grammatically correct with proper usage...but even the dumbed down posting on internet forums displays terrible grammar/usage/spelling.

Then/than, your/you're, their/there/they're errors are in nearly every thread! :wallbash:


Here's the way I see it...it's not that the act of texting itself is diminishing people's grammatical knowledge skills. I agree that texting is a symptom and not a cause.

But...it's the notion that texting (among plenty of other things technology related, such as cell phones in general, the internet, and the large entertainment of HD TV's and movie effects and whatnot) encourages people to become LAZIER that is important. A lot of kids are so used to being entertained constantly that they don't want to work to learn something properly. They don't have as strong of a work ethic.

From nearly everyone I talk to, teenagers today as a whole don't have as strong of a work ethic as they have in the past. No, I don't have any scientific studies or evidence to prove this or back this up, but it's a trend that pretty much anyone I talk to has noticed. I think it's a large mix of the technology/entertainment and the fact that at least in the US, parents are so busy that they don't teach their kids the same way.

And it goes back to reading as well...when there are so many other forms of entertainment and pleasure (and when parents don't encourage as much reading) kids aren't going to read as much, and that's when the whole reading for pleasure idea gets ridiculed too.
 
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The reduction in the range and depth of the average person's vocabulary, in my view, but be put down to something rather simple - a lack of reading. When I was younger, reading was encouraged (as it is in most primary school I believe), yet when you get older that seems to change. At 16, the amount of people who read books for pleasure is remarkably small. In fact the culture where people don't read has got to such a point that some find it funny to think you read for fun. Yet there is probably a correlation between amount of reading and english grades.

I believe this is responsible for the vocabulary issue, and also for the grammatical issue as well. Reading not only helps you to widen your vocabulary, but through reading you may also learn how to use words properly.

So there's my two cents. Maybe if we could get everyone reading again it would help the problem, unfortunately it's unlikely to happen.

EDIT: to carry on the theme here, it's getting quite a melancholy feel isn't it?
Precisely. This is a good portion of Bauerlein's argument in The Dumbest Generation; that kids aren't reading. At all. I would read for fun and devour books when I was younger; the unfortunate (and strange) thing is that today, in academia, I read far less than I did in my youth. And I'm suffering for it, I think.

TBH, it's not just 'not reading' but not reading GOOD writers. Too much pulp fiction filling the shelves. These books won't challenge and expand one's vocabulary.
Yes and no. Mere exposure to pulp is better than nothing at all. Look at Harry Potter--it's pulp. It's certainly not anything resembling High Art by any stretch. Yet it provides a stage for the imagination--simple words and sentence structure totally aside--that visual forms of entertainment cannot grant or fulfill.

Anhedonic? Dysthymic? Alexithymic? I donterstand. I am double-plus sad also double-plus-unsad.
Excellent. I was going to put those in there, but was curious to see if anyone would get the reference and obvious path I was laying out.

Information is available en masse, we are glutted for choice. So we snack at the buffet, sample a bit here and there, only occasionally indulging in a meal with structure, continuity, and with a self-organising architecture.

You can have as much information in Twitter format as you can in a library, an archive, where information is formatted in a relational sense, a narrative, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But it takes greater length and depth of concentration to absorb, and there are competing tendencies to enjoy or use fewer things more richly, and instead more things less fully. The former also takes more work. There is an illusion that the number of things processed equals the amount of meaning contained therein: much of the meaning is actually in the relations between the objects, the architecture.
When information has the illusion of being freely available, it is not as treasured. Hence, everyone--to use your analogy--is a piggish snacker of junk-words. Expertise--again, extending your analogy--requires a corpulence and habitual devouring that doughy snackers just cannot achieve.

But...it's the notion that texting (among plenty of other things technology related, such as cell phones in general, the internet, and the large entertainment of HD TV's and movie effects and whatnot) encourages people to become LAZIER that is important. A lot of kids are so used to being entertained constantly that they don't want to work to learn something properly.
That's edu-tainment!

They don't have as strong of a work ethic.

From nearly everyone I talk to, teenagers today as a whole don't have as strong of a work ethic as they have in the past. No, I don't have any scientific studies or evidence to prove this or back this up, but it's a trend that pretty much anyone I talk to has noticed. I think it's a large mix of the technology/entertainment and the fact that at least in the US, parents are so busy that they don't teach their kids the same way.
I'm going to disagree with you here. But watch how I do this: Teenagers today have a work ethic that is just as strong as that of old. However, they are so focused on instant and immediate payout, on making over $100,000 per year in their first post-high school job, that they are genuinely crushed when they enter the work force. They are crushed because, removed from their precious gilded cocoons, they must compete on a reasonably level playing-field, one that does not forgive because you're a little Princess or Pumpkin. As a direct consequence, their work ethic becomes blunted and dulled and finally shattered by their blind (and stupid) ambition. After all, if you can't make CEO directly out of high school, then why bother? Clearly no one understands just how awesome you are--this is the line that children are fed; a steady diet of utter, ungrounded shit.
 
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