Monday, March 9, 2015

Old Laments Never Die

I've heard it said, and I've even seen it written, that spelling is no longer as important as the message put forth. Using “your” and “you’re” interchangeably doesn't matter. Sprinkling “to”, “too” and “two” throughout said message with nary a care is beneath notice.”There”, “their” and “they’re” can be, and should be used as the writer sees fit, with no more thought expended in their choosing than one would use in choosing a hanky with which to blow one’s nose.

In short, those old-time, fuddy-duddy roles no longer matter.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it may seem permissible to shorten the word “you” to “u” or “are” to “r” to save space in your one hundred forty character masterpiece of allegory, the illusion of such use being “ok” is simply that: an illusion. It’s not okay, but one can’t stop progress. 

However, in graphics, missives and blocks of text shared with the rest of the populace, spelling is still important. I would venture to say more important than ever before.

When someone says that the written word is there to serve the writer’s message, it is hard to debate such a statement. But, we must deny it. Because to allow it leads to the idea that all thoughts are equally important, and none are to be dismissed. All are equal, all are valuable and all ideas deserve to be heard.

This is simply not so. Ask any middle school teacher.

I had participated in a great program where a group of adults went to a middle school to talk to the kids about engineering. I asked a group of eighth graders to raise their hands if they had a cell phone, (almost all of them did), and proceeded to tell them a quick history of the tech behind it. I explained that most of their phones had more storage capability and computing power than the rocket that took men to the moon forty-five years ago.

One kid, no doubt to impress his friends, asked, “Does that mean my phone can fly to the moon?”

Yuk, yuk. Not all ideas are worth having.  Or hearing.

Bad grammar, poor word choice, and misspellings used to serve as an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff. If something was poorly written, its message didn't get out. It wasn't the reader’s job to pull the writing apart and hunt for meaning like a pig rooting for truffles. It was the writer’s job to spell correctly, structure a sentence properly and make it easy for the reader to, well, read.

This, it would seem, is no longer the case.

It may be because the reader no longer requires that the rules be followed, as long as the message is clear. Or, it may be that today’s reader no longer wishes to spend precious energy on writer’s foibles that have little chance of improving any time soon. Or, may the gods forbid, people just don’t care about what used to be known as “good grammar and spelling” and are now referred to as the purview of the “Grammar Nazi”.

Maybe it’s not an issue of “dumbing down” so much as an issue of “You know what I mean.”
Yes, I know what you mean, but, I still notice when you use “to” and you really mean “too”. I still think that a few moments of just looking over what you've written before the rush to publish your heartfelt plea to the world would serve you well in the credibility department. I still think spelling matters.

And, don’t think the irony of you no longer caring about my message is lost on me. Because it’s not.