Last week my blog featured a post that dealt with some yeas and nays to consider when writing dialogue and narrative. After perusing the piece, my wife said, “Hmmm, not bad. Because you mention grammar and dialect, you should consider a blog about how writing has evolved––in particular, text speak and poor spelling.”
I countered my wife’s “Hmmm” with one of my own. Her concept appealed to me. Ideas for another post pinballed inside my brain until they finally had to escape.
As a Baby Boomer––and like many generations before me––I was educated via the old-school principles of Readin’, ’Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic. Cursive writing, basic rules of grammar, phonics, and regular spelling bees were all part of the curriculum. Throughout my many years, knowing and utilizing the simple principles I learned in elementary school have served me well. From what I read daily via e-mails, texts, and social media, however, I question whether emphasizing the Readin’ and Ritin’ phases of the Three Rs has lost its importance in our educational systems and society. So, I have to ask, “What happened?”
From my perspective, the government effect likely initiated the ever-increasing demise of grammar and spelling. Anyone who has either worked for or with a federal, state, or local government agency quickly learned about acronyms. Whether referring to an item, a person, a location, or a phrase, most everything bore a more frequently used shortcut that rolled off the tongue so much faster.
Then there’s the high-tech world of RAMs, ROMs, e-mails, and text messaging that perpetuates the downward spiral of grammar and spelling. Text speak has converted you to U, are to R, okay to K. Oft-used abbreviated phrases abound. OMG! LOL! LMAO! Some folks even create catch phrases on the fly. Unfortunately, when ardent text-talkers, e-mailers, and social media buffs expand their communications with words rather than acronyms, too often their lack of grammatical comprehension stands out like a silver dollar in a box of pennies. Homonyms such as there, they’re, and their; your and you’re; far and for; are, our and or; to, two, and too appear to be particularly troublesome. All of the aforementioned are good words, but each carries a different meaning/usage. Some indicate possession. Some are two-word contractions. But, although each pairing is phonetically similar, none of them are interchangeable. Recognizing the timely usage of I and me; us and we; see, saw, and seen represents another major problem. Time to, please, learn the difference.
And, how often do people write with pen or pencil anymore? Cursive penmanship, I’m afraid, has become an art lost with Baby Boomers. Instead, generations today peck at their keyboards (Yes, as I did to compose this piece.) or hover kinked thumbs above their smartphone or iPad screens to e-mail or text all communications. Many smartphones and pads also offer voice-prompted texting and e-mailing, which can be quite entertaining (or further disappointing) when the tiny person hiding within the device interprets the user’s vocal message to the printed version posted on the screen. You know, I find it terribly ironic that most people who live with their cell phones rarely use the appliance to actually talk to other people. If mankind continues down this path, based upon the theory of evolution, people in the future won’t need fingers anymore, just hands that resemble mittens.
Overall, it seems as though people today are in such a hurry that composing complete sentences or spelling words correctly is deemed unnecessary––a waste of time––totally! But what does this departure from good grammar indicate? Has professional etiquette been overwhelmed by a beat-the-clock attitude? Has the educational system failed us? Has society become too grammatically lazy to care? Or, as a Baby Boomer and writer, am I just more aware of the misuse/abuse?
Photo courtesy of MS WORD Clip Art