How Important Are Grammar And Spelling Online?
One might think that the world wide web, which is still predominantly text-based, would be the spearhead in the rise to new heights of literary articulation. Unfortunately, if you were the one who was thinking that, you were sadly misinformed. In actuality the ability or willingness to write with proper grammar and spelling has been replaced by a general acceptance of a lower standard. The acceptance appears general, that is. Where do you stand on the subject?
Image by JD Hancock
I confess that poor spelling and grammar is a pet peeve of mine. When I am reading something that runs rampant with glaring errors, I find it difficult, irritating, and that the work loses credibility in my eyes. There are levels, however. While misspellings like “definately” and “loose” (for lose) always make me cringe a bit, I make allowances for posts and comments that have mistakes in them. I recognize that, while English is the most prominent language on the web (at least in my own experience), many of the active participants of the social and interactive super-real-time web are not native speakers (or writers). If I were to have to communicate in other languages, I have no doubt that my writings could easily be the stuff laughing stocks are made of.
Where I draw the line, however, is with “texting” or “IM” style writing. Some of that has its place, too — or had, before the mass adoption of full hardware and software keyboards — but forgive me if I think that there is never a good excuse to write “wat” in place of “what.” That’s almost enough to get me to stop reading altogether. I also can’t stand l33t. Practically unheard of for a tech-geek, I know, but the secret code of elite nerds always struck me as a really annoying oxymoron.
Now before those that are inclined start tearing apart some of the grammatical inconsistencies of this post, I should mention that I am ok with conversational writing. That is to say that I don’t mind some liberties being taken to convey tone and flow that, on some level, emulates how two friends or acquaintances would talk with one another. In fact, I think that sort of writing is essential on the web. It is part of what makes a blog post resonant, and helps the reader and writer to identify with one another. How far I’m willing to accept this style of writing is dependent on the subject matter, the points I made above, and quite likely, my age/maturity level while reading. And I’m fully aware and accepting of the fact that my maturity level can fluctuate… :P
Is my acceptance of even a limited degradation of writing on the web part of the overall problem? Probably. Is it one of the factors that leads to established journalists getting lazy (and sometimes disappointing) with their writing? Again, probably. It’s all tied in with other factors like language barriers and the attention deficit fostering speed of the online world. Is there a line that should be drawn in the sand somewhere, though? Should people be publicly flogged for ignoring the oh-so-convenient spell-check integrations out there? Personally, I think that spell-check, auto-correct, and especially auto-complete are actually part of the problem. Since I started using the iPhone and iPad, for example, I have noticed a marked increase in mistakes while typing on a full keyboard — especially with contractions.
What about you? Where do you draw the line — or do you care at all? Why?