Thursday, February 17, 2011

i just wanna know what you think...

Ugh. Today I am frustrated with the deterioration of writing, and specifically, of grammar. What? Grammar? Yes, grammar. I correspond with teenagers for a living, and in the past two years I have noticed a marked decline in the use of proper grammar; and not just the intricacies of a semicolon. To be honest, that is the one I mess up the most frequently. I am referring to very basic things like complete sentences, end of sentence punctuation, and capitalization. Does anyone else out there wonder what is going to become a society that communicates by saying things like, "nice to c u"? Here is the thing that really gets me: this is all well and good in texting and on facebook. I am all for texting, and I am obviously all for facebook. But in emails? letters? official communique with college admissions personnel? So, let me enumerate a list of some of my grammatical pet peeves. There are many.  Because I want all of you to continue liking me after you read this post, I have decided to narrow it down to my top four.

But first, some disclaimers:
1. I fully acknowledge the hypocrisy in this post. Grammar is not my strong suit. I publish grammatical mistakes on this blog often.
2. These mistakes and errors are by no means the norm in the writing that I see. They are increasing, but they are not rampant yet.
3. I have been feeding my inner curmudgeon about this all day. As a result, there is a needlessly angry tone to the whole post.

"i" as in "i just wanna know what you think..." I don't know if people realize that this communicates not only extreme laziness, but it calls into question how the writer views herself. Do you not think of yourself as a warranting a proper noun? Do you want me to think of you as warranting a proper noun? Are you making a theological statement? Are you simply used to your word processor doing this for you? If so, is that really okay?

"..." an ellipses as in "i just wanna know what you think.." Do you? Are you sure that you want to know what I think? Is it a question? Is it a statement? The proper use of an ellipses is to note that you omitted something. For example, "For God so loved the world...have eternal life." When used at the end of a sentence it does not, in fact, communicate "melancholy." (thank you, wikipedia.. yet another reason not to use wikipedia as a formal source. But that is another rant for another entry) It communicates uncertainty and confusion and leaves your reader wondering if you meant to say what you said.

complete lack of punctuation as in "i am just wondering what you think because i am concerned you might be annoyed or think of reasons to be annoyed and i really care about you and i don't want to risk offending you i might have already done that and what do you think i really need to know what you think" I don't think that I need to say any more.

"too, not to" as in "i am going too let you know if i have plans on Friday." I don't think this mistake reflects the deterioration of writing in our society, it just plain drives me nuts. "Too" means "also" or "in excess." "To" is either a preposition or part of a verb. I am curious how people are going to react to the cynical nature of this post, maybe it will be too much for some.


  1. Well, I am a hypocrite, because I get down on people Lynne-Truss style all the time regarding uses of conventional AAE (American Academic English)--or should I say, mis-uses?

    But on the other hand, language is meant to be fluid, dynamic, reflecting the ideological changes of culture and ideas--language IS ideas. So think about this--ending with a preposition? In my book (or Winston Churchill's, for that matter), this is no big deal. To a colleague of mine at JHS, in her 50s? Huge deal. Stinkin' huge deal. As in, one grade letter deduction per prepositionally-ended sentence. (My stylistic fragments in those last few sentences would also have been stinkin' huge hairy deals to her, too).

    There's a reason we don't speak Beowulf-Old-English or Shakespearean prose or use the word "gay" to describe how happy this spring weather has made us; it is because of the forward motion of language.

    But I do have to side with you on I feel this is a clarity issue.

    And I'm seriously hoping that #3 is an actual quote from a student email.

    And in #2.....did you know you spelled "ellipsis" wrong? "Ellipsis" is the singular, "ellipses" the plural.



    I also text "i" regularly, and rarely "I."

  2. Nicole-

    I knew you would read this and have something to say. It makes me happy.

    It is hilarious that I spelled ellipsis wrong. :) That makes me happy, too. I think that I am going to leave it. I am most certainly no good at spelling.

    Texting "i" is just fine in my opinion. I think that things like texting, facebook, blogging (depending on the audience) are newer and more casual forms of communication, so that is less of a big deal for me. It just seems that there are some contexts in which you want your reader to respect you. I would argue that those are the times when it is best to stick to more traditional rules. But, for the past few days I have really been on a rampage about this and I might think differently when I cool off a bit. (also, staring with a conjunction used to be a "no,no" as well. )

  3. This post made me smirk, giggle, and plain ol' laugh out loud as I could literally hear you venting these frustrations. Probably since you vented them 5 hours earlier in our office ;)

  4. I like "I" and also correct punctuation. I can't even text without using proper English.

  5. Is "staring with a conjunction" when you have to have glasses or other corrective lenses in order for both your eyes to focus on one thing for an extended period of time?

    Ellipses can also be used to indicate pauses in quoted speech. I agree that Wikipedia is not a formal source but from an evolutionary grammatical perspective I find its assertion about ellipses communicating melancholy at the end of a sentence interesting. If Wikipedia says it is so and enough people believe Wikipedia's assertion such that they begin communicating that way does it then become so...?

  6. Ha - just noticed something. When people comment it says, "Ashley said..."
    Seemingly the ... means a pause. Interesting. and how incredibly ironic.

  7. I just read your last comment, Ashley. That is hilarious.

    Everette, I must confess that I don't understand your post and I am just now telling you out of shame.