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Grammar, spelling, and other language skills in the 21st century

Discussion in 'Around the Grinder' started by tryppyr, Feb 25, 2012.

  1. tryppyr

    tryppyr KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 5, 2010
    Recently in another forum someone made a comment about the communication skills of another poster. That post was predictably not well received. And yet for some of us, it is frustrating reading messages fraught with spelling errors, punctuation errors, and generally poor grammar. That's because we're older, generally, and were raised in a time when communication skills were thought to be important.

    Not that long ago I read an article in Wired magazine that essentially stated old fogies like me are out of touch with the dynamic nature of the English language in the 21st century. When we correct people for misspelling and bad grammar, it is actually US that are mistaken. Language is not a static thing. It never has been. It moves and evolves as the people change their usage and styles. The introduction of text messaging is one good example of how things evolve. While us old farts hate to see it, the newer generations find it to be a more efficient (and no less effective) form of communication. We hard-liners see it as lazy and ugly... and we're just plain wrong for seeing it that way.

    I told my wife all this and she railed against the change (predictably). "We worked hard to learn to do things right, and it's a shame to give up and accept the wrong ways," she opines. Well, the simple truth is change happens, and you either adapt or get left behind.

    So while I have no interest in changing the way I communicate, I will at least temper my desire to "correct" those whose mode of communication is less formal than mine. Have at it! I'll understand what you say... even if I don't respond in kind.

    - Greg
  2. David Loukides

    David Loukides

    Mar 17, 2006
    Hi Greg,
    I am not a judge in grammar.
    But as a older toolmaker I am usually black and white about things in general.
    Do you want a doctor to talk to or work on you in a way that is unprofessional?
    When it comes to spending money people will also think about how the seller communicates.
    This is in my opinion or IMOP:D
  3. Shaughnessy


    Apr 11, 2007
    It's one thing to have the ability to read, write and communicate effectively, and then CHOOSE to be lazy or follow the latest trend. It's a completely different thing, when that is your only means of communication. Sometimes it's hard to get the CEO to understand that I really am, "The Shizzo"....LOL! :D

  4. sunshadow


    Oct 2, 2006
    Wired is a magazine of the twentysomethings who live on the web, their take is somewhat weighted towards "d ppl tht lolz roflmao" Communication is imperiled when grammar and spelling are thrown to the wind. There is no excuse for encouraging the perpetuation of illiteracy. Yes the English Language is dynamic and changing, however there is no excuse for sheer laziness. Poor syntax and horrible spelling is not keeping up with the change, it is failure.

  5. Fanglekai


    Jan 7, 2007
    Jonathan Swift wrote something about this that I always think about when I hear about language changing over time:

    "The language of this country being always upon the flux, the STRULDBRUGS of one age do not understand those of another; neither are they able, after two hundred years, to hold any conversation (farther than by a few general words) with their neighbours the mortals; and thus they lie under the disadvantage of living like foreigners in their own country." (Gulliver's Travels, part 3 chapter 10. http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/jswift/bl-jswift-gull-3-10.htm)

    Language is always going to change and that's just how it is. We don't talk like people did when Beowulf was written, or when Chaucer or Shakespeare were alive. 19th century English, with all its ornate, flowery sentences is gone too.

    There have always been people with poor grammar and there will always be people who are interested in literature and proper writing. In the US at least less emphasis is placed on proper writing and grammar than on learning to take tests. Since most people aren't interested in grammar or proper writing/speech, language will always continue to change over time because the people who want to preserve language more or less the way it is are outnumbered by those who cannot understand why there are grammatical rules or their importance.

    As far as texting goes shorthand is used for convenience. I'm in my 20s and I don't use abbreviations. I type out full sentences so my meaning comes across clearly. It seems the majority of people I text also type in full sentences. I imagine that younger teens and people who don't understand grammar would be more likely to type gibberish. It seems like a phase that a lot of people go through in order to reach the promised land of typing and texting full sentences.
  6. rkmoore


    Oct 30, 2010
    How's this for ya?
    I got an email from my daughter's teacher (7th grade) in response to a question I had about an upcoming test. Her response was all of five sentences long and contained 3 spelling errors, one punctuation error and one grammatical error. This is from a woman who has a masters degree.
    I think that a lot of this is due to either being too lazy to proof read or too busy.

    Idk ma b its jus me. :D
  7. GTH11


    Feb 21, 2011
    Cool topic, im in my upper 30's and have not made my living using a key board or communicating in anysort of manner that considered anything other than getting the task at hand achieved, in the construction FIELD feelings arent often considered and opionions better left unsaid, especially if they can effect your days pay! That being said, i strive to communicate here better than i do in real life, kind of like an exercise in keepin up with the times, however i dont even know how to spell check, i just reread and fix! I recently was asked to move out of the stone age because i asked a customer to mail me a check for his knife instead of paypal? I obliged, but told him 3% percent was more than a stamp, needless to say the check is in the mail. Im getting ready to do my first show, and im more concerned with that ol saying about judging books by there covers, its nothing i dont believe a hand shake, and an eye to eye conversastion cant overcome, but reaching out for that hand shake sometimes is hard for me to do! So ive been working on my meeting and greeting skills and trying to do a little catching up on communicating in the 21st century!
    I think ill go trim my beard!
  8. Esav Benyamin

    Esav Benyamin MidniteSuperMod Staff Member Super Mod

    Apr 6, 2000
    A sharp knife cuts better than a dull one. Some people use their knives abusively and don't need them for slicing food later. That's fine for them, but it doesn't justify saying dull is best.

    Communicating clearly takes standard practice into account. It makes communicating with a broad range of strangers easier, rather than pandering to a particular group's differences.
  9. Justin King

    Justin King

    Nov 8, 2009
    Proper writing skills are as important as they ever were. Some changes to a language make it more versatile, others just debase it and make it less than it was unless kept in a reasonable context, such as modern text abbreviations and acronyms. The standard of the English language may have broadened to encompass newer forms of communication and new terminology but the structure remains intact, and when it no longer does we will be left with a pidgin language that can no longer be accurately communicated by the written word.
  10. powernoodle

    powernoodle Power Member Gold Member

    Jul 21, 2004
    To me, the decline of language is a shadow or precursor of the broader decline of civilization. When we recoil against the decline of language, we may be subconsciously fighting against the general society decay we see all around us. Character is in decline, as is decency, morality, self respect and reliance, and on and on. So for my part, the decline of language is just a subset of broader decline of everything around us. A Bible thumper like me sees this also in Romans 8, where the apostle Paul writes of the whole universe groaning in travail, awaiting its liberation from bondage to decay. The second law of thermodynamics spares nothing and no one - not even the written word.
  11. Esav Benyamin

    Esav Benyamin MidniteSuperMod Staff Member Super Mod

    Apr 6, 2000
    Actually, I see literacy and its primary goal, which is information, as growing greater. Modern technology is not simply a quicker way to communicate, it organizes out ideas and shares them. Of course, many or most people don't care how much information is readily available on the ancient Babylonian language. But they can access their bread and circuses to an amazing degree. And apply for jobs professionally and successfully, all over the world.

    That some people do not take advantage of their opportunities, and some even disparage the need to do so, is the modern equivalent of the fox who decided the grapes were sour -- because they were outside his reach.
  12. tryppyr

    tryppyr KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 5, 2010
    Well, it's nice to see that I'm not the sole pedantic soul among us.

    However, I will echo (and amplify) the sentiment I put into the base post. We should acknowledge that every generation has the right to put their imprint on the language. We did it while we were growing up, and our parents railed that we represented the downfall of society. Let's be clear that what we once did is fair game for those who will inherit the earth upon our passing. I don't begrudge the kids of today for making changes to make it THEIR language.

    All I'm really saying is we should be tolerant of those whose language skills differ from our own, and whose communication expectations are set at different targets. Yes, I agree, it is unprofessional to use malapropisms in communications with customers... but not so much a problem in casual communications on message boards. Even if your customers read message boards, I doubt they expect you to write like Steinbeck every time you post here.

    In days gone by I used to chide people for their spelling and grammatical errors. My personal pet peeve is use of apostrophes for pluralization. Some of you have done that on this very board. Every time I see that I grit my teeth and groan.

    What I found, though, is that if I am going to correct others for their errors, I damn well better be PERFECT in my communications, or I'll be called out on every perceived flaw. That's a standard I don't care to live up to. I like a LITTLE looseness, even in my own personal communications. And that being the case, I am inclined to cut others a LOT more slack that I cut for myself.

    - Greg
  13. Robert Dark

    Robert Dark KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 27, 2004
    When I was in the ninth grade (Circa early 60's), my teacher, a gentleman in his 70's, made a statement to the class that has stayed with me for all these years.

    He said, "Your success in this short journey on earth depends greatly upon your mastery of both the spoken and written word". Although my success to this point may be questionable, I always try to be clear and concise in both spoken and written communication.

    I suppose that if one gets the point across, then he/she has achieved the intended purpose. Similar to making knives........ Can I just get by, or do I want the best that I am capable of producing?

  14. foxx


    Sep 5, 2010
    We would hope that younger generations help to evolve our language, not de-evolve it. Have you seen the movie "Idiocracy"? Five hundred years in the future, the english language has withered down to a combination of Valley Girl, redneck, slang, curse words, and grunts, or something like that. It's a semi-stupid sort of movie, yet it's based on a certain fact about a lack of education.
  15. tattooedfreak

    tattooedfreak Steel mutilater is more like it. Gold Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    I rarely correct anyone on spelling or grammar and if I do, it's usually my wife (which isn't well received :). I think the main things in this age is that people are in too much of a hurry to get their words seen, so they expect spell check and grammar check to do the main work for them. In some cases, I think it's just plain laziness, which is why we have new acronyms everyday. The shorter we can make a word or phrase, the fast we can get on to something else and the less work it takes to get there. All in all, I agree with you, Greg but while language does change, it rarely devolves to a lesser aspect. We gain words and acronyms, of course but those short forms are rarely used in formal settings.
  16. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    There's quite a bit of difference between evolving with a language, and simply not being able to cobble together a coherent sentence.
  17. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    As a moderator, I read thousands of posts. The quality of communication skills is depressing today. I also talk to a lot of youth. Many can't even talk well, because they have lost so much of their communication skills. I have noticed reading skills have fallen ,too.

    I come from a family of educators, a good number of them English teachers, and have seen the decline for over a half century. I am not as concerned with the inability of people today being able to converse easily with people 200 years from now.....my concern is people 200 years from now being able to converse easily with each other.

    I can look at a post and almost always get an idea of age of the poster. I can usually tell when he is using his cell phone,too.

    If that was the all of it, it would merely be annoying to me, but I can live with such change - I just don't have to change myself if I don't want to.

    What bothers me is the immaturity of many of these posters. They don't want to be bothered with grammar, spelling, and taking the time to ask a full question and give full details, but want a full answer. Here is an example:

    i wnt 2b a knifmkr and need 2 know what i ned 4 my 1st knife. tks m8

    To this request, they want a detailed half book, clearly written reply. Just giving them where to find the info isn't acceptable, because they would have to go and read it all. They want it now, and want it spoon fed to them. They also want to finish the knife tomorrow afternoon.
  18. tryppyr

    tryppyr KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 5, 2010
    I have to say at this juncture that we cannot excuse educators as a class either. My wife has on numerous occasions complained about the spelling and grammatical errors she finds in e-mails and Facebook posts made by the educators (in one or two cases English instructors) that are among her friends and acquaintances. Invariably, she adds the comment, "and these are the people teaching kids to speak and write!"

    I may have mentioned before that she is even more pedantic and unforgiving than I am.
  19. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    She could not be worse than my late aunt. She would correct letters people sent her in red pen, and send them back with notes about the right words they should have used. It was not a surprise that she died with very few friends.

    One of the things I found when doing her estate was a card from Issac Asimov. He was thanking her for catching an error in his grammar. She had caught an error where he used the word irregardless, when the proper word is regardless.( irregardless actually makes no sense)
    She used to proof read books and articles for authors, looking for such things. I know she knew Issac Asimov, but don't know if she proof read for him.

    Her other big peeve was "I could care less." which should be,"I couldn't care less."
  20. Raymond1000

    Raymond1000 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 8, 2006
    Bladsmth, there are many variables here. A huge one is changing expectations.

    For most of human literacy, illiteracy was the rule. Only a small fraction of the population was literate. That was okay because there was little need. The peasants and the working poor were frankly illiterate. You don’t need your letters to follow a plow or carry a hod.

    In the fifties our schools worked fairly well. But they didn’t aim everyone at college. You could make a living—and raise a family—working in some trade. Most men did. Who cared if they flunked bonehead English?

    Today we assume every child should go to college. That’s the way high schools behave, anyway. Now you need to prepare a huge population of bonehead English students for university.

    Study the health of high school athletes. Now study the athletes and the high school couch potatoes. No behavior has changed, but the second study shows dispiriting results.

    When you look at apparent educational devolution, factor in this social change.

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