If you have ever spent any time in the comments sections anywhere on the internet, you will be aware that people’s grammar and spelling sucks. Sometimes it appears to be laziness. Sometimes the content makes it clear the person slept through their English and Science classes. And other times that is just how that person “communicates”.
But it isn’t isolated to the internet. The borderline illiterate retired football player who is now a TV personality. The weather presenter whose qualifications start and end with how white their teeth are. The
cut and paster reporter who now relishes the fact that their company’s sub-editors were laid off. We seem to be surrounded by lazy or solecistic people.
This is a problem.
How can we effectively communicate in the marketplace of ideas if we can’t utilise proper grammar and spelling? Are we really going to wade through a 3000 word rebuttal argument that lacks paragraphs and capitalisation at the start of a sentence – seriously, try to not respond with “Would it kill you to use paragraphs?” How good will our comprehension of the points be if we struggle to understand what is written, let alone what is meant?
Now grammar isn’t as “proper” as we’d like to think. There is no reason to chastise someone for using literally in place of figuratively when the intention was for hyperbole. But damn you to spend an eternity watching Suicide Squad in a theatre full of people talking on their phones if you use theory when you mean hypothesis.
Language evolves over time. Generally language has become more concise and simplified to aid in communication. For example, if you read Robinson Crusoe in 1719, you may have noticed a few differences to the current version. Such as the title. Could you image the latest thriller using this snappy title?
The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un‐inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pirates.
Don’t worry, the novel is still
boring laborious to read. In fact, just read the original title, saves you reading the whole book.
So being a Grammar Nazi* isn’t really the goal. But demanding that ourselves and others try to communicate clearly is a worthwhile goal. Because how am I to know if I agree with DeadMeatSlab45’s points about immigration unless I’m able to parse them through the all caps and intemperate use of exclamation points? It’s time to be legible.
I look forward to spotting my grammar and spelling errors after this post is published.
*Hasn’t that term taken on some new meaning this week!
It’s quite interesting to see how the premise for any book, movie or TV show is endemic. The above example of Breaking Bad is a classic, and especially funny given the current furore over affordable health care in the USA. But there are plenty of others.
Sherlock Holmes is a classic example. Imagine a drug addicted, genius, arsehole detective in the modern age where drugs are illegal. Yep: Sherlock and the Hounds of B-Block. Also, before anyone says House, think about how long House would have spent in malpractice suits.
Robinson Crusoe would be pretty difficult to see happening in this day and age. Sure, Tom Hanks tried to convince us that modern people could be lost on an island and survive by their wits and a bunch of FedEx packages. But with modern tracking methods, mapping and the fact that no-one travels by boat now-a-days, Robinson Crusoe would be Bear Grylls or Survivor.
Huckleberry Finn is the tale of a young boy running away with his adult slave. That just wouldn’t happen these days. Now it isn’t that slaves don’t exist anymore (they do), nor the idea of run-aways. A young boy going missing in the USA with a grown man, sounds like an episode of Without a Trace.
The test of a premise really is to see if it would work anywhere else, any-time else. If it doesn’t work anywhere or any-when else, then it is interesting. If it can be transposed, how interesting was the premise to begin with?
I was having a conversation last night with someone who was questioning why science? Doesn’t it get in the way of creativity? I’ve never seen it that way, I think Heinlein, Assimov and the like would agree with me. Zen Pencils did the comic below which encapsulates why science very nicely.
Word limits are a funny thing. I’ve never had a problem being succinct, in fact I can be too brief in my writing. Yet other writers are known for sitting down with editors to cull half their manuscript. There are other writers still that should have sat down with an editor and culled half their manuscript and saved the readers all that page skipping.
This is one of the reasons to like Twitter. It forces you to practice creating a thought or sentence in a manner that may be foreign. For example, the complex phrase:
I disagree with your supposition as it is currently unsupported by any evidence, either presented by yourself or in the scientific literature, thus there is no way you can sway my position.
Can be replaced with:
This says everything that is needed and doesn’t dance around the topic. Conversely the reply to this can be shortened from:
Whilst you are allowed to disagree with me, my opinion still stands. I cannot provide a summary of the relevant scientific literature at this time, but this is information that is readily understood and referenced in the literature. Thus I will endevour to provide a few examples when I am able to, but in the meantime I’d invite you to read further on the topic, as I suspect that you will agree with me once you have.
Can be replaced with:
Well screw you and the horse you road up on.
The trick is to start with what your key points are and not overuse exposition to explain those points. The 140 character limit can help with this a lot.
In the meantime, if you aren’t a fan of See Mike Draw, I suggest you become one now.