Mass Media and the Written Word

I don’t understand how the sheer amount of our text-based communication is constantly increasing but our ability to actually communicate through the written word is inversely decreasing. Facebook, text messages, IM, e-mail– all of these things rely almost exclusively on literacy. There are no facial expressions or body movements to infer information from. No voice inflections or tone that may be used to better understand what someone is saying. Everything requires comprehension through the written word. So… you’d think that things that assist with literary comprehension (like spelling, grammar, and sentence structure) would be MORE important now than ever, no?

But they’re not. At all. In fact, it’s considered “weird” for someone to use eloquence, bombastic vocabulary, complete phrases or even basic grammar on the internet. And the entire concept of “proper spelling” is reserved for “nerds” and old people. That’s ridiculous. Especially because I’m pretty sure that “proper spelling” is also reserved for “people of at least basic cognitive function, you uncultured swine.” At least in some circles.

I ask people about it and they just laugh and say “well it’s faster.”  Faster? Are you incapable of typing at more than 12 wpm? Because unless that’s the  case, writing out a full word is going to cost you a couple seconds at most. That’s it. A second of your life is all it costs to make yourself look somewhat intelligent. Is that really too much to pay for putting something out there that is at least comparative to the uneducated drivel of a second grader?

Also–content standards aside, no matter what you’re writing, people will be more likely to take you seriously if it’s grammatically correct. I don’t care if you’re talking about how your dog is just the most adorable thing in the world or if you’re trying to explain quantum physics– if it doesn’t look like you’re at least comparable to the writing abilities of a grade-school student, I’m not going to put any more stock into your argument than I would into theirs.

Our way of writing has been drafted and changed over the centuries in order to make it more clear and understandable for everyone involved– both the reader and the writer. In a text-based world, comprehension of the written word seems downright necessary, so you’d think that everyone would focus on their writing ability in order to be properly understood by the vast majority of people. But instead, we ignore basic spelling and grammatical guidelines that are laid out in elementary curriculum. Our vocabulary, too, is roughly the same as those who have not yet mastered the complex art of shoe-tying. In a world where the eloquence of the written word should be jumping forward, it has become stagnant, and even worse, is regressing in some areas.

I do pretty well about not correcting someone’s spelling or grammar online. It’s difficult, and a piece of my English-teaching soul dies every time a grown-ass adult is incapable of using the correct “your” in a sentence, but for the most part I just bite my tongue and file it away under “uneducated friend” and move forward. I actually mentioned that to someone not too long ago, and they were incredibly offended. How dare I judge someone on spelling or grammar when it’s just Facebook? Just because they don’t use the right homonym (note: person did not actually know the word “homonym”) doesn’t mean they’re uneducated.

Here’s the thing: Of course I’m going to judge your level of education and intelligence based on your spelling/grammar when we’re talking about the internet. I have literally nothing else to base my opinion of you on. If I don’t see you face-to-face, but I follow your blog or am friends with you on Facebook, everything I know about you is found in your posts. Everything I can infer about you is because of your ability to write. Your level of intelligence included. If you actually do know the different between “there” and “their” but you’re actively using the incorrect word, then there is no other judgment I can make about you other than “well, they’re kind of dumb.” If you truly don’t know the difference between the words, then you’re uneducated. The thing is, on Facebook, I have no way of telling which type of person you are, I only know that you’re making 4th grade mistakes and I will judge you as such.

We live in a text-based world. Your writing ability speaks more highly of you now than your speaking ability or even your face-to-face demeanor. So, yes, maybe you saved .3 seconds by typing “u” rather than “you.” But those .3 seconds just lost you 9 years of education as far as I’m concerned. Was it worth it?

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2 thoughts on “Mass Media and the Written Word

  1. That was beautiful! I love it! I really do love this post, although I would like to add how disappointing it is when a person behaves as though someone is uneducated because they don’t know what BFF means! I did not know and I didn’t need to know.
    I am not an English teacher and wouldn’t say I am educated in writing, but a wise man once told me “Ignorance can be taught, stupid can not.”

    Liked by 1 person

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