Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dumbing Down the English Language, Guest Post by Lynn Mosher

Don’t ever suggest a post idea to a group of writers that blog about writing. You get volunteered for the job!

Noticing a disturbing trend coming across my screen and in a number of other places of writing, I thought it might be a good subject for the ladies here at AuthorCulture. But they are so generous that they decided to share the task with me.

The topic? The dumbing down of the English language.

This trend has oozed its way into books, articles, blog posts–everywhere. More and more, publications accept work that is less than, um, well, what it should be.

I have always loved grammar and usually received good grades in school. I even belong to that small but amusing group of weirdoes who loved to diagram sentences. I care about words, so seeing a deterioration of our language is distressing to me.

Granted, any language will change over time. How many of us still speak in Elizabethan English? But those of us who have been born with English as our native tongue should have an appreciation for it.

Seeing this destruction, I wondered where the guilt should lie (lay? I am forever working on this one)…

  • Teachers? Probably in certain cases. More than likely, the school systems.
  • Parents? Yes. If the parents do not speak English properly, the children will follow the parents’ example.
  • Kids? Yes. Even college graduates have no mastery of the language.

But there is another. Not a “who” but a “what.”

So, what is the culprit? Technology. Social networking and phone texting.

Because of social networking sites like Twitter and, to a lesser degree, Facebook, the correct usage of grammar and punctuation is getting lost in translation. Many times, the formulation of a correct sentence is intelligently vacuous.

With the advent of Twitter and phone texting, a dumbing down, or should I say, the twittering down or texting down, of our mother tongue has occurred.

Like millions of others, I socialize on Twitter. It is a great place to make friends and contacts and is a great source of information. If you are not familiar with the process, in order to communicate with others on Twitter, one must do so in 140 characters, which includes spaces, punctuation and, sometimes, the person’s @name.

Those acclimated to writing in Twitterese, or 140 characters, use shortcuts to get their message into Twitter’s sardine-can post, and those texting use abbreviations to fit in the constraints of a miniature screen.

Misspellings and abbreviations abound, like thru, &, LOL, btw, @, urk for irk, u for you, and the usuals…your for you’re, me instead of I, here for hear and vice versa, their for they’re, it’s for its, and mixing to, too, two, and 2. And too many more to list.

Punctuation has taken a hit also. Comma placement is either non-existent or incorrect. I care about commas, having been dubbed Comma Momma by one of my favorites on the writer’s forum

When I pick up a book or a magazine, pick up an article or even a devotional online and find glaring grammar and punctuation errors, it is difficult to keep my mind focused on what I am reading.

I am not an English major and make no claims to having a solid command of the language, not by a long shot. But I am still learning. This ol’ brain is still trying to comprehend gerunds, clauses and phrases in parallel form, dangling modifiers, and all that other fun stuff.

We, as writers, need to care about the words of our language and their proper placement within a sentence. If we do not use proper grammar and punctuation in our work, how then will others read the appropriate use of it and have it reinforced in their minds? This is one area that I hope I never stop learning.

Here’s 2 bttr wrtng 4 all!

Lynn Mosher is a multi-published e-zine author and the author of the popular devotional blog, Heading Home.
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