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Camille Styles

Poor Grammar Online: WTF or LOLz?

August 12th, 2015

TypewriterGirlOk, let me first caveat the following by saying I am NOT an English professor, I don’t diagram sentences for fun, and while I took a proofreading class in college, I actually found it fairly tiresome. Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s call in the grammar police. Bad grammar online is kind of starting to get to me! I mean, I’m all for the casual, chatty note and nailing a well-placed emoji when emailing with friends, but I try to respect a certain formality when it comes to professional correspondence. When I find obvious spelling or grammar mistakes in emails, in my favorite blogs or news sites, I’m embarrassed to admit that I find myself silently shaking my head and even “you should know better”ing the author. Am I just getting old, or does this seem to be the way things are heading? Laptop and Coffee.I guess it’s easy to blame the internet, social media and emerging technology for this shift in grammatical acceptability. We’re so accustomed to texting and tweeting, where slang and shortcuts are commonplace, it seems that we’ve developed a new norm for communicating. I receive “formal” emails all the time, from people I don’t know, that are peppered with slang and misspellings (don’t we all have spell check?) and laden with egregious grammatical mistakes. And every time I feel my blood boil when someone misuses “its” and “it’s” (a personal favorite of mine) I force myself to take a deep breath and ask, does it even matter? Maybe so, but maybe not. First of all, in today’s workplace most people are wearing multiple hats­ – writer, fact checker, proofreader – and they are doing all these jobs with less time. I can totally relate to the feeling of pounding out an email in a hurry and pressing send only to realize you forgot something important. Then, there’s the reality that maybe there’s a little less pressure online where you can, in fact, often go back in and make changes and corrections quickly. Depending on how quick you are, it’s like it never happened. Even if the original mistake isn’t changed, or lives on in someone’s inbox, it might go unnoticed because we are all so used to scanning while reading and digesting information quickly. I suppose you could argue that there is a certain charm and authenticity to writing that isn’t so scrutinized and fussed over, maybe an intimacy that’s often missed in digital correspondence? Personally, I hope the art of a well-written letter, sent electronically or otherwise, isn’t dead. What do you think, is good grammar still important online or should we all embrace this modern shorthand as the normal evolution of our language? (Note: I fully realize that by writing this I have opened myself up to having each sentence of this post and all my future correspondence picked apart by grammar enthusiasts. That’s only fair.) image 1: apartment 34 via matchbook magazine; image 2: source

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Is good grammar still important online?

22 Comments
  1. Katie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with keeping the art of a well written letter alive! Snail mail is used for too frequently these days! I also agree that grammar is still very important. It’s a sign of professionalism and it also shows that the writer took his time and the article/comment/etc. is well thought out. Of course, I still think we are all entitled to the occasional spelling or grammar mistake because, really, it happens to the best of us.

  2. Bridget says:

    This is also one of my pet peeves! Though I think of my close associates, I’m the only one who really cares. Whenever I bring it up with others I get the feeling it’s the equivalent of screaming at kids to get off my lawn …

    • Kelly Colchin says:

      I totally relate to the “screaming at kids to get off your lawn” analogy. Even while I was writing this I was thinking… “does this make me sound like I’m 100 years old???”

      • Hilary says:

        No, I think it keeps things classy! Good grammar, to me, is like other “formalities” that are actually about other people. Being punctual, looking people in the eye, dressing well, and spelling well.

        Call me an old-fashioned millennial, but to me, good manners are always in style 🙂

  3. Love this post…and topic! I think it’s easier to just pretend that good grammar has gone the way of the dinosaurs, but the reality is that it is crucial to have well-written (and with any luck, error-free!) prose. There is nothing worse than reading the news online or your favorite blog, only to find it littered with simple grammatical errors.

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

  4. Whitney says:

    I think there’s a line between making the occasional grammar mistake and just not caring at all. I am a copywriter so grammar errors are a big no-no in my book, but that doesn’t mean I never make a mistake. I think the redeeming factor is when we actually care about how our writing sounds. Even if someone doesn’t know the correct way to structure a sentence with proper subject/verb agreement, it means something that they would pause for a minute and think about it. If all else fails, do a simple Google search! My pet peeve is when people just don’t care at all. It’s an insult to their intelligence and never looks good.

  5. Roseanna says:

    I completely agree with you. I am an English major, so it does drive me crazy when I receive an email or text with bad grammar and misspellings. It is true that social media has made proper communication less formal, filled with acronyms and shortcut spellings. However, I believe the real culprit is a lack of reading in our culture. The more books you read the better your writing becomes, never seen it to fail. The rhythm of sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary are vastly improved as they are absorbed…just saying, people need to read more books!

  6. eva says:

    I have come to accept that grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. is one of those things that some people have and some don’t. Personally, I love to see proper spelling and grammar. There is one thing that I will mention. People should definitely learn to spell the work ‘definitely’; it is not ‘defiantly’ or ‘definately’!!

  7. Betsy says:

    I AM an English teacher and I DO diagram sentences for fun! Diagramming is like an adult coloring book for me.

    This is a topic near-and-dear to my heart, but I fear that the precision of our language is slipping away. Sadly, history bears out that this is how language develops and changes…but I don’t like it! I remind myself that I am relieved not to be reading and writing in the Old English of Beowulf, and I make my peace. When discouraged, I disappear into the pages of a beloved book upon which I can depend for grammar and style. I recommend A MOVEABLE FEAST; it cures all my ills.

  8. Libbynan says:

    Okay, today is my sixty-eighth birthday so I obviously AM a dinosaur. Having said that, I really don’t mind grammar or spelling mistakes in texts or e-mails, but in a public forum ( magazine, newspaper, blog, etc. ) it drives me nuts. If you are putting it out there ( not their or they’re ) and expecting me to seriously consider what you are saying on your site ( not sight or cite ) then you owe it to me to say it correctly. I still haven’t recovered from a book published several years ago where ” gentile ” was used when context made it clear that ” genteel ” was intended. I will say that I mostly blame our educational system and a lot of parents for the state of grammar usage today, but people have got to start using a dictionary instead of just assuming they know it all.

  9. I agree! I understand the occasional spelling mistake in a text message or informal e-mail, sure. I do get annoyed when people whose job it is to write make silly grammatical errors or frequent spelling mistakes. I think that proper grammar is a sign of professionalism and good manners, but I usually only notice when the same person makes several spelling or grammar mistakes in their content. That’s when it starts to look like they don’t proofread their texts, and to me, that’s a sign of not caring.

  10. I love the point made by Roseanna — I’ve always been a great speller, and I give 100% credit to the fact that I was a voracious reader growing up. The more we read quality writing, the more our brains thinks in proper grammar and sentence structure, and using it in our own writing becomes more effortless. While I love blogs and all the short-form communications of the digital age, it’s important to balance it out with reading that’s a little more thoughtful, where the writer has spent time pouring over the sentences and finding just the right word to get their point across.

  11. Charlotte says:

    oops, Camille, it’s ‘poring’, not ‘pouring’. Aside from that, I couldn’t agree with you more!

  12. Jennifer Rose Smith says:

    I was raised in an atmosphere of very poor grammar in East Texas, and I often second-guess myself in both speaking and writing. I’ve always admired those who know the rules of the English language and speak with confidence. I’m still working on improving my writing and speaking skills as an adult. People draw quick conclusions about your intelligence, education and background based on the way you speak and compose emails. But when it comes to correcting others, I believe in being gracious enough to resist the urge. I like Betsy’s suggestion of seeking solace in a good book.

    • Libbynan says:

      I too agree with the idea of seeking solace in a good book. Unfortunately, the book I bought the same day I posted my response above was far from soothing. At least a half dozen times “you’re” was used when “your” was meant. So somewhere a college graduate is being paid a salary as an editor and someone else is being paid as a proofreader and neither is earning their keep. As the reader, not to mention purchaser, I am owed better.

  13. Marlis says:

    When I went to work at my present place of employment, I was immediately told that ending sentences in prepositions, and other bad grammar-isms are what is being taught at the university level and is therefore acceptable. And this came from the boss!! I skulked to the nearest cube and pouted. Horrified that the beautiful nuances and rhythms of the English language were coming to an end. Even writing this embarrasses me because I was neither an English major, nor do I write anything of any important these days. English is my third language and one, I might say, I worked very hard to master. I shudder when some of the younger generation speak and I, like you shake my head at the written word that is more often than not, written incorrectly!

  14. N E Jackson says:

    Hello. I wanted to weigh in and assure you all that you’re not dinosaurs! I’m not even twenty years old, and the state of grammar/spelling online causes me pain. I couldn’t agree more with the fact that having good grammar is respectful of others. And it’s so much easier to read! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reread something three or four times to understand it. I’m willing to do that for emails from important people, but I’m definitely not going to do that for a blog or news article!

  15. Saria says:

    I cannot agree more! I cringe every time I see people eating their letters and forgetting whatever they learned at school. I mean, does it take that much type writing “you” instead of “u”?
    Thank you for this post. I was seriously starting to get worried whether or not I was the only one out there that actually cared about this issue!

    SJay // The Chronic Dreamer | A Lifestyle Blog

  16. Ann says:

    Writing is *such* an important skill in my book and I’d hate to see good writing manners become obsolete. When I’m writing a quickie to a friend, I may take some liberties and use some modern shorthand – ie lol or whatnot. But otherwise, I’m always very, very careful to write maturely and properly….that is if I’m able to turn down my rebellious immaturity for a hot second. 🙂

  17. Cathy M. says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Poor spelling and grammar sticks out like a sore thumb to me most frequently when I’m reading a blog post. (They don’t seem as pervasive in news articles.) I’ve come to accept it in most cases because I try to recognize that the writer has not gone into blogging with a background in literature or the like; the written word is secondary to the content.

    More often then not, my pet peeves are more etymologically based (because my grammar is not the best, obviously). For instance: when someone says they ‘wet’ their appetite instead of ‘whet.’ There is a historical meaning as to why we write certain words and what it is they convey to the reader. The meaning can be lost when the writer fails to know the difference between words. Not everyone considers to themselves why we say certain words and phrases; I’m sure it’s a bit like literary navel-gazing to those who are not interested in that sort of thing, so that’s why I try not to get too hung up on those types of mistakes.

    There have been several instances when I’ve wondered why some of the more popular blogs don’t have someone on staff who can be trusted to proofread and make edits before a post goes live.

    Maybe these sorts of concerns are going the way of cursive handwriting…

  18. akioneam says:

    I agree and often want to comment below articles with grammatical errors, not to put someone down though.

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