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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Comment Type #8

GRAMMAR POLICE

A Grammar Police post is one that ignores the points someone makes and focuses on their spelling, punctuation, or grammar. The purpose of the post is to correct or demean rather than respond or contribute, and typically is insulting in the place of response.

Even the most skilled, careful speller and linguist in the world will make mistakes, mis-type, and put words in the wrong sequence. Few people have a flawless grasp of their language and will make grammatical errors that can make a sentence less easy to understand and read. In some cases, someone is in such a hurry they don't look carefully and respond to get it out there as fast as possible in passion or a desire to be the first to say something. All of these are reasons that a post might be misspelled or have terrible grammar.

As far as possible, we all ought to have better spelling and grammar, especially someone like me who writes for a living and has been speaking English for over 40 years. At the same time, we all make mistakes and are all flawed, fallible human beings. In addition, some people who read and post on comment and message boards are not English-speaking people (or native to the language in question) and do not know enough of the language to spell or form sentences properly. In this case, I consider them brave to attempt the post and more learned than I, because I'd be hard pressed to even form a unique sentence in the language I studied most in school after all these years.

Attacking someone for their poor spelling is a form of Ad Hominem fallacy, in which you ignore the argument (or point) being made and focus on something irrelevant to the discussion. If someone spells a word wrong or gets a date mixed up (such as 1798 instead of 1978), or dangles a participle, it may be awkward to read, but it does not cause you physical harm. In almost every case it is best to let it go. There are some grammatical or spelling errors that cause people grief, however. For example, I consistently misspelled the word desperate on a blog comment section until finally a school teacher there could take it no longer and corrected me. That's fine, in my case I'd much rather know, and she otherwise agreed with what I had to say.

There is an exception to this general rule, however. Some people deliberately spell words differently as part of a sad effort to be k3wl or fit into a clique of their age group. See how that word was spelled? That's a derivation of the word "cool" which in it's self is slang. Younger people, especially using cell phone text messaging and chatting online have come up with a whole jargon of words. Instead of being alternate uses of words that become slang, these are alternate spellings of words already in use. Sometimes numbers are used for letters - in this case "3" is used in place of "e" and the entire word "cool" is spelled as if pronounced by a valley girl "kewl." "Pwn" is used in place of "own" - to dominate, humiliate, or embarrass. For a time, putting -z0r on the end of words was popular, an obscure computer programming reference.

This kind of jargon not only is difficult to even read if you're not familiar with it, and indicates a greater allegiance to trend and peer pressure than in communicating your point and making it lucid. Further, such spelling is pointless in that it often is at least as difficult to type or even longer than the original word. The excuse "its faster to type 'AEAP' than 'as early as possible" or 'CMIIW' than 'correct me if I'm wrong'" is valid on a microscopic keypad used on cell phones, but on a computer it is simple sloth. By the time you're done explaining what the acronym means, you've typed longer than if you had simply used the normal phrase.

For more on this kind of abbreviation used for text messaging, Webopedia has a list of some currently in use. The urban dictionary has an extensive list of alternate spellings and more recent slang (which, as has always been the case is constantly in flux).

We always ought to spell as carefully as possible - many blogs even have a spell checker as part of the comment section, and it is simple enough to take advantage of one if you are on a computer (and obviously you are to post comments on a blog). I use one regularly to check these blog entries, hoping to cut down on spelling errors. By using the best grammar you can and proper spelling, people will tend to take your point more seriously - fair or not - and your ideas will carry more merit and respectability.

If someone misspells, give them the benefit of the doubt, unless it is truly egregious and they ought to know better - such as a person posing as a college professor of English Literature who cannot spell or use proper grammar. As far as you know, the person who can't seem to string a sentence together well is 6 years old or from Indonesia and speaks more languages than you own books.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mannning said...

Pounding one into the page for grammar, spelling, or obvious typos is a typical retort by those who disagree with you, but do not have a coherent answer in their heads at the moment.

While it is laudable to use the best English possible, and to be an excellent proofreader, unfortunately, it just seldom comes out that way in real time.
Thus, a bit of forgiveness for misteaks is called fore.

2:48 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Muslihoon said...

Plus, when someone's churning out so many words per day, they should be given more room.

Besides, mistakes can be quite amusing.

8:49 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger The Blue Square said...

That's "which in itself," not "which in it's self." Ha! I so pwned you!

;)

Cool blog. Interesting idea; I especially like the Wikipedia-like entries on different types of comments.

6:30 PM, June 09, 2006  

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