Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking

Did some long-ago English teacher pound that into your head, too?

That is what I was thinking a few days ago when I had the nerve to point out a usage error posted by a SPI Forum user.

I don’t pull my former English teacher creds very often. I think it is bad form to point out mistakes in public, especially when they are trivial. And I certainly cannot hold myself up as a paragon of proper writing -- especially when I am dashing off text messages or quick emails to friends and family.

But there are certain specific situations when I think it is important to get things right, and persuasive writing is high on that list. When I am writing in a public forum, I will re-read my post many many times through before hitting the submit button -- I want to make extra double sure that my words truly reflect my thoughts. In the process, I am usually able to spot and correct (most of) the silly little typos and misplaced punctuation marks that might otherwise distract a careful reader from my message.

I think that is what bothers me most about the anonymous posters on the SPI forum: imprecise language, and a tendency to type any old thing that comes to mind without pausing to reflect, refine and rewrite.* I think that those of us who sign our names to everything we type are more invested in our words, and so we pay more attention to getting things right.

Even so, simple courtesy will usually prevent me from pointing out simple errors in things that I read. But if you just feel compelled to step right up there and try to convince me that your intelligence is far superior to my own, you‘d best take a minute or two to make sure you really do mean your instead of you’re.

*That’s what blogs are for!

4 Comments:

Blogger doglover said...

Well, former English teacher I predict in the not too distant future you won't see "your" and "you're" both having been replaced by UR.

Stephanie

10:43 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

That's funny, Stephanie!

I think part of what Feets was saying was that some people write so strangely you can't figure out what on Earth they mean, and that this type of writing reflects on the writer more than what he or she is trying to say. Yukky-pooh!

The fact is that we're dealing with some very uptight, mean people on the SPI Forum who claim they are very, very smart yet they simply can't write. That tells me that they are not nearly as smart as they claim to be, unless they are some kind of idiot savant.

Unfortunately, I have run into this affliction with doctors, lawyers, engineers, and people who claim to be truly smart. If you think the blogs are bad, try some consulting papers like the first drafts for the CPAC - I rest my case! -sammie

3:39 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I say bravo to SF for saying what I'd love to say to posters. I realize their (they're) not educated as well now as we was (were) in the 1950s, Your (you're) seeing in print how badly our educational system has become.
Bob Sanders

9:34 AM  
Blogger Joni said...

The trouble is it takes time to write well and that isn't compatible with the whole online mentality.

Furthermore,I have been surprised how much my writing skills and correct grammar usage has deteriorated since the time when I was an idealistic journalism student. Like so many other things, being a good writer takes practice.

I have noticed that on many of the blogs, even those written by professionals, punctuation is largely omitted. I am relatively new to blogging and I would like to know if there is a correct style for internet writing, and if that could explain why apostrophes, particularly, have disappeared. It does solve the problem of it's vs. its.

And, then like Stepanie points out, there is text messaging and that is like a whole new language. I still use complete sentences and spell out words, and often get my messages truncated by my phone company.

4:10 PM  

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