Saturday, March 05, 2011

Where is that grammar going

and what is that basket it's riding in?

Techdirt. (2010, Feb. 2). Technology blamed for bad grammar despite total lack of causal evidence.

The following article will put you in the middle of a controversy, already well documented, as to whether Twitter and constant texting improve or detract from students' grammar. I've weighed in on that one elsewhere, but it occurs to me that it is impossible to separate out an argument whether people's grammar has improved or gotten worse, when the entire environment they are in has changed so radically.

In the article students flunk out of an entrance exam that requires grammatical knowledge; one author blames texting. A whole range of comments follows where people weigh in on the results of excessive texting.

I copied one comment (#37, by someone named "Rekrut") verbatim that I think represents the average person's take on grammar and texting in the modern world.

I never went to college, and I didn't have access to the internet until long after I'd left school. I've never sent a text message in my life.

I'll admit that at times, I've used some shorthand in messages, such as BTW (by the way), but I usually try to use correct grammar and spelling. I make typos and plain old mistakes, not to mention that my use of grammar would probably be considered terrible by most college professors, but at least I try.

Every single day that I read forums, I see messages from people who don't know the difference between "there", "their" and "they're", or "to" and "too". I see people putting "ed" on the end of words like "wake" or "bleed". People leave out punctuation and capitalization. They use texting conventions like "u", "ur" or "ther". I've seen messages that were so garbled that I couldn't even figure out what they were trying to say.

Such things may make sense when texting due to the more complicated process of typing on a cell phone, or the small size of most phone keyboards, but there's no excuse for it on the net. The people writing these messages are using desktops and laptops with full keyboards.

Go read the comments for ANY YouTube video and then tell me that you think the use of grammar is improving.

My comment to the author: It would be impossible to compare YouTube and online fora today to what we had twenty years ago, because we didn't have YouTube or online foran twenty years ago. The fact is, there is far more informal writing today than there used to be, and this gives people far more opportunities to spell things however they want.

I share the author's chagrin at people who don't know the proper spelling of to/too/two. It always seems to me that, for example, an ESL teacher aware that other ESL teachers are among his/her "friends" on Facebook, for example, would simply get the right one, even in an informal environment such as Facebook. But it's an informal environment; what kicks in an automatic editing response for me, may not do that for other teachers, and, though I had thirty years to develop that editing response, and use it pretty much all of the time (since 99% of the time it was required) - for today's teacher, 30% may not be enough of the time to make it kick in instantaneously as I would expect.


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