Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spelling and Grammar

I admit it. I'm an English Major. Correct spelling and grammar are important to me. I also acknowledge that I don't always get it right.

However... that I'm online reading blogs and keeping up with friends on Facebook, I am often appalled by what I read. I understand that folks write quickly and don't always proofread before posting their comments. But I begin to see patterns and suspect that the error goes beyond mere typo to not knowing any better, or worse yet, not caring.

I see a group of college students responding to each other with "Woah!" Or some variation thereof. Now, I've been involved with horses for 30 years and I've had occasion to use the term. With emphasis, I might add. It is spelled W-H-O-A. When directed at a horse, it is often followed by a colorful and derogatory adjective or two. Even in the midst of an equine emergency, it's still spelled "whoa!"

I would think college students would know how to spell the word. At least one out of the group. They apparently all know what they are intending to say. But it seems not a one of them has caught the error.

I was reading a message board earlier today. The spelling and grammar was several notches below that of the above-referenced college students. So I give the students the credit due them.

Again, hastily written, emotional postings on the message board. However, repeated misspellings within the post indicate the author doesn't seem to know better. Twice, one person wrote "payed" instead of "paid."

Bloggers insist on using "to" in place of "too." I make the same mistake. Sometimes the second stroke of the finger doesn't make sufficient contact with the key. But I usually catch and correct the error during proofreading.

"I have went" as well as "myself and Joe went" are heard repeatedly on the evening news when individuals are interviewed by a local reporter. Apparently "myself went" out of the classroom during English class.

There are those who advocate establishing English as the official language of the USA. This proposed requirement generally targets adult immigrants to this country who struggle with the language. Interestingly enough, many of the folks who think it should be our official language don't speak it correctly, either. Why Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady doesn't think we speak English at all!

At one time poor spelling and grammar were enough to eliminate a job applicant. But I guess it doesn't matter any more. After all -- the person doing the hiring has to recognize the errors.

So now you know why English Majors are prone to TMJ syndrome. It results from gnashing their teeth because of rampant spelling and grammatical errors. ;-)


AareneX said...

I maintain that Craigslist has a "randomized de-speller and anti-grammerator" device installed in the software of the site.

Surely there aren't THAT many grammatical idiots in the world?

jrosey said...

My boss writes "payed". Yes, my boss. As in supposed to be smarter than me. ;) Drives me NUTS!!! Now, my grammar and spelling is not always PERFECT, but I definitely do try! I totally agree with you regarding the requirement to speak English. You make an excellent point! Another thing that I'm noticing is the laziness...sometimes at work I get e-mails from business associates in "text lingo"...are you kidding me? I like texting as much as the next guy/gal, but "text lingo" is SO not business appropriate!

Shared Glory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shared Glory said...

Haha, sorry for being an illiterate college student!
But I do have some excuse. Apparently, "The OED lists woah as a variant of woa which is a variant of whoa, which is a variant of the interjection who". I would argue that, although it doesn't make sense if you sound it out, "woah" is the contemporary spelling of "whoa". Yep, we're part of the "rap" generation. :)

Our love of the language is challenged when we see how it is changing. With the "texters", words become abbreviated so much that it is almost impossible to understand what someone means. In my opinion, spelling errors are nothing in contrast to the way tweens and young teenagers are writing and communicating. But as it has since the beginning, our language is constantly developing and changing.
As someone who goes nuts over the incorrect spellings of "there, they're and their" or "your and you're", it kills me to say this. But if the language has served its purpose of communication, what do we gain by arguing over semantics?
Yet, I suppose consistency is important in language. Can we ever hope for this if subjects like spelling and grammar are almost completely eliminated from schools? I can only remember one class out of my 15 years of schooling where these were covered. In high school and college, it was just assumed that we would know how to spell words and follow grammar guidelines. The majority of my understanding of the English language comes from my own reading. With pastimes like television and facebook taking over "reading time", I am sure that the English of the younger generation will suffer much more than that of my own.
So now that we know there is a problem with our nation's English, a question still remains. How are we going to fix it?

Oregon Equestrian said...

Sorry if I was a bit harsh. But I doubt everyone who uses "woah" in place of whoa knows the etymology of the word.

As an English major I am well aware that English is an evolving language. Otherwise we could still read Chaucer in Middle English, and we wouldn't giggle when Shakespeare uses "bodkin."

I hate to think what texting will do to the language.

I fear that the poor usage is as much laziness on the part of the speaker/writer as it is the shortcomings of the educational system.

No wonder corporations have to teach new hires how to speak and write so they don't show their employer in a poor light.

lytha said...

Since I don't live in America anymore, most of the English reading I do is online.

I am as appalled as you.

I think that my ability to write is in danger - I fear I am going to pick up these errors.

I know for certain that *hearing* bad english repeatedly infects my english with the same errors. Then again, the two languages in my head interfere with each other with no one's help (but that mostly affects sentence structure).

Oddly, as soon as I started learning German, I started questioning how to spell basic English words. *shrug*

I also notice that many bloggers use spell check, because they make word usuage errors that are spelled correctly...lots of them. It's hard to figure out what some people really want to say.

I really appreciate blogs where it's obvious the writer passed high school English.

~lytha in Germany