Grammar and effective communication

I’ve always been very particular about grammar. Sentence structure, punctuation, appropriate usage, correct spelling, rules and guidelines; these things have alway stuck out to me as supremely important. That isn’t to say that I don’t break the rules from time to time, purposefully, and even by accident occasionally, to boot.

That being said, my stomach turns when people confuse:

  • “we’re” and “were” or even “where”
  • “they’re” and “there” and “their”
  • “your” and “you’re”
  • “its” and “it’s”

I don’t mean to be an asshole, I really don’t. It’s just sad to me that our country’s education system allows people to graduate from college, let alone from high school, without mastering these very simple rules. I’m not suggesting that we should all break into Shakespearean song and dance when typing; rather, I think it is paramount to practice proper English and grammar to communicate effectively.

The adoption of more “instant” forms of communication are bastardizing the English language. And I find it increasingly more difficult to decipher the lexicon and usage of this “conversational short form”, as my friend D. DeLucca calls it. Mixin’ in an “lol” or “brb” isn’t what troubles me. It’s the fact that this new instant medium breeds chaos and disorder. While I find IM an indispensable tool for our company, having designers and developers (as well as clients) all over the world, it’s nearly a necessity. But from it also come headaches, miscommunication, and wasted time having to retype an explanation because someone forgot to put an apostrophe in “we’re”.

More than anything, I suppose what makes me acutely aware of these things is the fact that I am raising a 9 year-old. He’s in third grade and learning how to write, speak, and read correctly. He makes mistakes, but it’s hard to blame him when SpongeBob, LeBron James, and Paris Hilton have a more profound influence on the lexicon of today’s youth than do Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chinua Achebe, C.S. Lewis, or J.R.R. Tolkien (to name a few favorites from my youth).

As he turns off the TV and reads more, I can see the changes taking place in the way that he speaks in the house, and his teachers have noted a rather profound improvement in his English skills. So, perhaps it’s that simple for all of us. I read voraciously, but I definitely feel like I’m in the minority now. There have been more than a handful of occasions in the past few years that I’ve heard someone close to me say, “Yeah, I’ve never really finished a book cover-to-cover.”

My mouth doesn’t drop quite as far anymore when I hear that, because I see the way that MySpace and YouTube contain and command the attention of each and all. How can I argue with the upkeep of your online portfolio, your slew of profiles, buckets of Flickr photo sets, or anything in the online arena? It’s my job. I do the same. I just wish that more people would unplug and pick up a paper, a magazine, or even a bottle of Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soaps (that’s like a small pamphlet wrapped around your lovely soapy concoction). Read, read, read.

If you feel so inclined, here are a few links to resources:

Hopefully no one takes this as pompous or preachy. It really is not intended to be so. I just care about the preservation of language, and feel that pop-culture assaults and attempts to dismember anything that takes too much time to learn. I am standing up to fight this new super-language of crap and convenience. For those of you joining me, fight on.

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