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Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone 838

Ant writes to tell us that Wired has an interesting look at the current standards of writing and the general decline of spelling and grammar in today's "comic book generation." The author blames many of the problems on instant or near-instant communications stating that the slang developed is essentially eroding our ability to formulate coherent thoughts in writing when called upon to do so.
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Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone

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  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by rob1980 ( 941751 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:44PM (#14755441)
    wur r they talkin abt? lol g2g cya
  • by Saven Marek ( 739395 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:47PM (#14755454)
    What they don't realise is language changes. every generation gets this and when it happens someone will come up and say literacy is going down. George orwell even did it in 1940, said there were problems, said there were people writing bad english, said they wouldn't be able to communicate soon. Well look at what we have here, a world still functioning nearly 70 years later. Also, a roman once said the same thing or a greek. That the young people of today are a generation that look down on the world and are showing no moral principels or showing problems with language and spelling and all the hoo haa he could drag up. And this was BC.

    I think these people are old thinkers stuck in a new world where communication has changed and any seventy year old would tell you they find it hard to communicate with youth but no 20 year old ever will, and it's the 20 year olds who are the future. Always.
    • by lordsid ( 629982 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:51PM (#14755484)
      You didn't really have to go and proove them right, did you?
    • by ScriptedReplay ( 908196 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:53PM (#14755496)
      Also, a roman once said the same thing or a greek. That the young people of today are a generation that look down on the world and are showing no moral principels or showing problems with language and spelling and all the hoo haa he could drag up. And this was BC.

      Yeah, and what happened after that? look up Europe's history starting about the time when the Western Roman Empire collapsed. Feel free to go all the way up to the Middle Ages if you like.

      Methinks you need to work up a better argument, sonny.
      • by Literaphile ( 927079 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:56PM (#14755893)
        Perhaps if you weren't so condescending you'd realize that your research is no better than the parent poster's. Speaking as someone who holds a PhD in classical studies, I can tell you that literacy did indeed survive, in a few good way, after the collapse of the Western Empire as you say. Where do you think most of our manuscripts for ancient texts come from? Monks, from this very time period. It's not called the "dark ages" because everyone was stupid, it's been called the "dark ages" for so long because we just haven't known a lot about the period. Beowulf, one of the great epic poems, was composing in this time period, and no doubt many other texts that we have yet to uncover (and probably will never uncover). "Dark" doesn't mean dumb, it means unknown.
        • by kamochan ( 883582 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:35PM (#14756129)
          "Dark" doesn't mean dumb, it means unknown.

          If only it were so. The period saw the rise of monotheistic cults, destruction of priceless scientific works from the antiquity, violence and bloodshed. It is true that less literary works remain of this period, because the said cults decided to burn and rape books, as well as severely censor (as in, flay, draw, quarter, burn at the stake) authors of new works.

          Calling the Dark Ages "dumb" may not be right, but neither is it "unknown" particularly descriptive. We know well enough why literacy (and some argue, civilization) crumbled during the second half of the first millennia.

        • Whose language? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by C10H14N2 ( 640033 )
          ...I mean, they didn't call it "The Vulgate" for no reason.

          I think what is at issue is that with the rise of universal education, we've demanded that everyone speak, read and write at a level of education that has not commonly existed but for the last century, really, just the last few decades. If you took random samples of 18yos in the early 19th century and today, no doubt you would be far more horrified at the former's ability to communicate than the latter.

          I remember reading an article recently which ar
        • It's not called the "dark ages" because everyone was stupid, it's been called the "dark ages" for so long because we just haven't known a lot about the period.

          Well, Petrarca called it Dark Ages in the XIV-th century and he certainly knew more about it than you seem to, as he actively tried to recover as many writings from Antiquity as he could. And the "Monks saved our culture" argument was dissected by a previous poster already. The scientific part, especially, went down the drain in Europe - the Arabs pre
      • by starX ( 306011 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:26PM (#14756076) Homepage
        Attila the Hun didn't sack Rome because of his masterful literary skills. Nor did the Visigoths, the Ostrigoths, or any of the other barbrian hordes that had a hand in Rome's destruction. Mainly they used superior weaponry and military tactics, and I think we're pretty covered there.
    • by Nichotin ( 794369 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:55PM (#14755514)
      I do not have a problem with the language undergoing natural evolution. The issue is that some ways of speaking / writing gets allowed, which makes the language less consistent and full of things that mean the same. Being Norwegian, I have seen my language getting raped by youngsters who appearantly do not care that their sloppy use of the language gives their sentence two or three different interpretations. It is the old "Hang him not, wait until I come" vs. "Hang him, not wait until I come" (Ok, this thing does not sound that good in English, as it is a common Norwegian expamle.)
      • by Lovejoy ( 200794 ) <[danlovejoy] [at] []> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:31PM (#14755747) Homepage
        Too right. One of the words that has suffered from this linquistic drift is "unique," which in English means "one of a kind." Now, we Americans, (and possibly Brits, I don't know) often use this word to mean "unusual," "cool," or "neat-o." I actually heard a commercial the other day describing something as "unique and one-of-a-kind."

        It's very frustrating.

        I don't care that language changes - I'm a descriptivist. I care that language becomes less useful and less precise. We already have lots of words to mean "unusual," but few that mean "unique." Now we have to say "one-of-a-kind," which the folks will probably start using to mean "unusual."

        Now, if someone had even a passing familarity with Latin, she would know that the prefix "uni" means "one," and that "unique" probably means, "one-of-a-kind," not "cool." That's the argument the Classicists would make, at least.
        • by archen ( 447353 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @10:06PM (#14758094)
          I think that's the nature of a language where general usage has a very limited vocabulary. My wife learned English as her second language and often relates about how difficult it is to learn because it has so many words, but admits that it's nice because you can say EXACTLY what you mean. As our education system declines, people find it harder and harder to express themselves. So they end up using words that are similar, but not necessarily the same. The result is a blurring of meanings, which directly leads to very vague ideas in the language. As people adapt this language it becomes difficult to really say what you mean, so you end up with ridiculous redundant concepts like "one-of-a-kind uniqueness", because people have lost the clarity in using the words correctly in the first place.
    • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:57PM (#14755528)
      If the language used by a culture begins to be less capable of expressing intricate thoughts and emotions, it's not a change for the better. A simple language is the mark of a simple culture, which was Orwell's point.
      • Incidentally, am I the only one who can't quite figure out if the Wired article is satire or not? Does anybody seriously use the phrase "the Kings English" anymore?

        If the language used by a culture begins to be less capable of expressing intricate thoughts and emotions, it's not a change for the better.

        Right, but is that really happening? Fact is, English has a metric ton of crap in it that just kind of accumulated over the years. Many of its spellings and rules are baroque, and as time goes by I'd exp

    • by gordo3000 ( 785698 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:05PM (#14755578)
      Just as you said, language is a form of communication. Therefore, there is a time and a place for any branch for a given language. I see the problem as having a great number of people who lack the ability to articulately communicate an idea. but I don't think that is anyway limited to this generation.

      of course, this man just seems to be complaining about the new method of communication. It used to be if you wanted to write someone a letter, it would take days or weeks to arrive and therefore, you took appropriate caution in how you presented your ideas. Those days are over.

      Email and blogs do not in anyway replace great and creative writing, but are an addition to the communication tools we have. Just because more people can now express themselves to a large audience through writing doesn't mean standards have dropped, it just means that anyone can particpate without having judgement first passed by an editor.

      Most blogs I read are filled with mindless drivel. But I do not judge them on the same scale as a book or newspaper so I have no reason to believe those blogs are a fundamental attack on good writing skills. These people never had them and their euivalents 30 years ago just went unpublished.

      Please forgive any errors in this post as I have hurt my left hand and find typing relatively difficult.
    • by schon ( 31600 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:16PM (#14755661)
      What they don't realise is language changes.

      No, they realize it just fine.

      What *you* don't realize is that they're not talking about the language changing, but that it's changing too quickly, and for the worse.
    • He realises this very well. You are basically calling the guy old and ignoring his argument, apparently not even reading the article. From the article:

      Apologists will argue that language isn't static, that it's ever-changing and evolving. That's true. Language does change. Idiomatic English is the product of centuries of social and cultural infusion, a fact that gives modern-day English much of its color and flair. But when change does violence to the accepted standards of the king's English and takes

    • by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:39PM (#14755787)
      The problem is that sms-speak and ebonics might not be acceptable for a thesis defense or a business proposal even 50 years from now. I suspect one would still need to know how to speak/write/understand English (or will it be Chinese...?) to function well.

      It is quite interesting how I did a whole lot better in the English classes at an American university than most Americans, even though English is my third language. At first I thought they were smart but they just didn't care, but it turned out that they really didn't know to write and they didn't care.

      I guess I expected everyone to do worse in science only, not in Enlish -- their own language! Oh, well, more jobs for immigrants like me, "Thanks! US primary educational system!"

    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:53PM (#14755870)
      It's not change in diction that I have a problem with, it's the poor syntax. The problem with instant communication, like chat and SMS, is that by encouraging this abbreviated slang it encourages ambiguity and incoherence as well. This isn't due to some elitist "old generation" attitude, it's simply because having the skill to use language formally and correctly goes hand-in-hand with the skill to think precisely, reason correctly and argue persuasively.

      In fact, I am one of the "young generation" -- I'm a 21 year old college student. Despite that, I can see quite clearly that the people who are sloppy with their writing are also quite often sloppy with their reasoning also. For me, seeing slang and "l337-5p34k" tends to indicate that the writer both hasn't thought through, nor cares about, what he intends to say. By choosing to use it, the writer is only lowering the reader's opinion of him, and therefore is hurting himself. Presumably, if people understood this they wouldn't do so, but since they do I can only conclude that they're weak-minded, and that whatever what they were trying to say probably wasn't worth reading in the first place.
      • The problem with instant communication, like chat and SMS, is that by encouraging this abbreviated slang it encourages ambiguity and incoherence as well.

        yes, things were so much better in the days of the telegraph, when people were charged by the letter or word and so made every effort to ABBREVIATE their message to the recipient.

        Oh, wait... the telegraph is still around! And still in wide use on the amateur radio bands! People having been using the ancestor of SMS for decades now, so how is this problem (a
    • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:14PM (#14756006) Journal
      OK, dumbass - I edited your work. Here are your own thoughts back at you in a better package.

      What they don't realise is that language changes, and every generation understands this. When language changes in a radical way, someone will whine and cry out in defence of the older understanding of what constitutes literacy and proper grammar. In 1940, George Orwell said people were writing English poorly, and soon they wouldn't be able to communicate at all. He was wrong, as we clearly have a functioning world with millions of English speakers some 70 years later. I'm not certain, but I believe the ancient Romans or Greeks also complained of the same debasement of their language. They bemoaned and bleated that the young people of their time were a generation that looked down on the world, showing no moral principles and a feeble understanding of grammar and spelling.

      I think the people who complain about the language skills of the young have old minds stuck in a new world where communication practices have changed radically and rapidly. The elderly often have difficulty communicating with youth, but the young are the future, and as long as they can communicate effectively, that is sufficient.

      Now that was just a quick edit of the stinking tourde you squeezed out for us here on Slashdot. If you are going to write about how narrow-minded prigs are holding back the Voice of Yoot', then kindly do so in a way that demonstrates a fundamental and careful grasp of the language. Otherwise, all you are doing is proving the point of the article - that young people are borderline illiterate dopes incapable of formulating complex thoughts or elucidating anything of insight or value.

      Now, kindly go back to school and learn how to write.



    • by cagle_.25 ( 715952 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @05:21PM (#14756393) Journal
      Before you get too self-righteous about those old fuddy-duddy thinkers, perhaps you ought to do the following:

      1) Try to grade a set of English papers.
      2) Read Less Than Words Can Say by Richard Mitchell.
      3) Stop and contemplate whether it is really in the best interest of the younger generation to speak and write in a way that makes them uncomprehesible to the older generation.

      Then ask yourself: is the language changing in order to become more flexible (a la Shakespeare), or is the language changing in order to accommodate more sloppy thinking? Both could be true in different cases, of course, but on average -- which is the case?

      Language is a tool, no more and no less. If you want to mod the tool, then fine. But if in the process you wreck that tool, then your mods need some more thought.

    • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @09:19PM (#14757841) Homepage Journal
      The problem is that, by not bothering to follow standardized grammatical and spelling rules, a writer offloads the work of discerning the meaning of their statement onto the reader, instead of making it (relatively) clear and unambiguous.

      It's laziness, pure and simple, on the part of the writer.

      Spelling and grammar weren't standardized just for fun, or as part of some greater conspiracy by the Man to stifle your creativity, but because it makes text a lot easier to read than if everyone makes up their own rules. A reader shouldn't have to go over your writing more than once, trying to figure out what the hell you meant, and that's often what happens when you don't bother to even sort out which word to use.

      The fact that a reader can understand you, doesn't mean that you're not being an arrogant and lazy writer, by making them work for what ought to be unambiguous and clear.
  • wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by insertwackynamehere ( 891357 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:48PM (#14755458) Journal
    there is always paranoia about "declining communication skills." At the same time there are always contradicting studies showing how language skills are actually increasing. Langauge and usage is always being analyzed way too much.. language is what it is. It is a method of communicating thoughts and ideas with others. As long as we understand each other there is nothing "wrong" and we are devolving or whatever these people seem to think. language exists because we created it for our benefit. People who can't accept that language evolves and branches off for different purposes are close-minded and ignorant to reality.
    • Re:wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Smidge204 ( 605297 )
      Can you really think of something if you don't have the words to describe it?

      And even if you could wrap your head around a concept for which there are no words to describe, how can you communicate it to others? That's the problem. Your ability to think is strongly linked to your language skills. It's not that we wouldn't be able to understand each other, just that nobody would have anything worth saying!
    • Re:wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SetupWeasel ( 54062 )
      Langauge and usage is always being analyzed way too much.. language is what it is. It is a method of communicating thoughts and ideas with others. As long as we understand each other there is nothing "wrong" and we are devolving or whatever these people seem to think.

      That is the easy way out. Sure, there are a few rules that can be safely ignored, but grammar is essentally a way to structure your thoughts in written text to be understood by others. Both parties need to know the key to unencrypt the meaning.
    • Re:wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

      by robson ( 60067 )

      there is always paranoia about "declining communication skills." At the same time there are always contradicting studies showing how language skills are actually increasing. Langauge and usage is always being analyzed way too much.. language is what it is. It is a method of communicating thoughts and ideas with others. As long as we understand each other there is nothing "wrong" and we are devolving or whatever these people seem to think. language exists because we created it for our benefit. People who ca

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  • I Blame Webster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starling ( 26204 ) <> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:49PM (#14755463)
    You know, the guy with the 'u' phobia and the 'z' fetish.

  • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:51PM (#14755483) Journal
    Indeed. But why does this not surprise me?

    Why go far, look right here on Slashdot. These are geeks, supposedly the folks who're "smarter" than the average population.

    And even here, instead of accepting grammatical and spelling mistakes, people would rather flame you for correcting them. Not to mention the piss-poor quality of writing that most Slashdotters (and the editors) have. If you can follow the rules in a programming language, why is it so hard to do so for a natural language?

    Personally, if folks do not communicate in good English, I'd simply not respond - be it IM, SMS or e-mail. And guess what? Most folks talk a lot better English when they're communicating with me, simply because they know that they'd not get a response - or that they'd get their English corrected.

    I do not care if you are using e-mail, IM or SMS, use that period and use that apostrophe. Use appropriate and proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling and grammar, else I'm simply not talking to you.

    That needs to be the general attitude, if we want to see any semblance of Good English (TM) exist in the next few generations.

    Seriously, encourage your kids to look up that dictionary. Encourage them to read good literature, aside from the pop crap that exists today. Encourage them to write, to put down their thoughts. The only way you are going to develop writing skills is by writing.
    • by gubbas ( 651881 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:09PM (#14755606)
      Not to flame you or anything like that, but you should have used a semicolon instead of a comma after the word "grammar" in the fifth paragraph. ;-)
    • Remember to differentiate between contexts that cleanly fit into the traditional writing category (email, blogs) and those that replace spoken communication (IMs, text messages). Usage of spoken english is different than written english, and we don't know what apropriate general usage for realtime textual communication looks like yet.
  • by Tet ( 2721 ) < minus poet> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:53PM (#14755493) Homepage Journal
    I couldn't agree more. However, it's not just a case of me getting frustrated at the apparent lack of schooling of the people with whom I'm interacting. Nor is it just a case of language evolving. No, it's reaching the point where I'm genuinely struggling to understand what people are saying. As an example, I see an increasing number of people writing "no" when they mean "know". Since my brain is conditioned to associate a completely different meaning to the word "no", I have to do a double take before I can work out what they meant. When combined with a total absence of punctuation, I'm left wondering how the generation of today manage to communicate with each other at all, let alone with others.
    • I've got a good parser and it can handle "OMG! ROTFLMAO!" with aplomb. That's a sentence with a clear meaning. I will, however, come to a painful crashing halt if I read something like "caused Apple to loose their lawsuit". Words have meanings. Loosing and losing are separate concepts and always will be separate concepts whatever the words are that represent them.

      If you can't say what you mean, how can you mean what you say?

      (I'm doomed now. I've complained about grammar in public. There is certain to be a h
  • 1984 (Score:5, Funny)

    by McGiraf ( 196030 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:53PM (#14755498)
    Goerge was wrong.
    So instead of double speek in 1984, we get half speek in 2006.
  • Its teh intarweb (Score:3, Insightful)

    by inverselimit ( 900794 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:53PM (#14755499)
    As more and more of the reading I do comes from blogs, comments, and other web-based, unedited communications, I find myself making more and more errors. These are spelling and grammar and sound-alike (their vs there) mistakes that I would never have made years ago, when most of my exposure to written language came from carefully vetted print. A downside of the immediacy of the Internet is that there is little time or inclination to edit and double-check. The resulting degeneration of the language is noticeable. I don't know how to reverse it, but it is pretty embarassing when I make such basic, I-should-know-better mistakes. And I cringe when I see them creeping into more formal communications (signs, etc) as well.
  • by Penguinoflight ( 517245 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:53PM (#14755501) Homepage Journal
    The generation of young people who are currently ruining spelling and grammar rules are children of the comic book generation, if not grandchildren. Slangs develop for a reason, but this reason must be with the communication of other people. A better explanation of forming slangs is the increasing disconnection between the older generation and younger generation. The disconnect stems from many things including broken families, fewer job opporutities for teenagers, and the increasing age of professionalism. Some people simply decide that the extra wait is not worthwhile, and adolecents work to communicate with their undereducated peers. You see this phenomenon in some of the most prominent hobbies, such as car repair/performance modification, and in video game console repair/modification.

    Sometimes parents need to understand that they give their children advice, AND an environment. The child may listen to advice, but will not be able to avoid paying attention to their environment. The environment in this case has nothing to do with comic books however.
  • Paragraphs (Score:3, Funny)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:55PM (#14755513) Homepage
    Of course, this very article - with hardly a coherent paragraph, shows the trend clealy.
  • good thing too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nickgrieve ( 87668 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:02PM (#14755553) Journal
    I could be said that more people are using the written word for communications now than ever before. And don't get too hung up on spelling. Before the dictionary words were a lot more fluid than they are even now. Even Shakespeare was found to spell his own name different ways... are we going to say he had trouble putting his thoughts down on paper in a coherant manner...
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:03PM (#14755558)

    i cnt c ur problem m8. :)

    But seriously, kiddie slang is one thing, but when the degradation reaches the point at which the writer is no longer understandable, that's not language evolution as part of some natural process of change, that's just illiteracy, pure and simple.

    Here's a small anecdote I sometimes relate when this subject comes up. When I'm not messing around on Slashdot, I often help out on some on-line programming forums, particularly those dedicated to helping less experienced people learn new skills. The quality of posts there vary from nicely written, polite, clear requests for help, to L337sp33k "can u do my homework 4 me kthx" drivel. Guess which posts the expert volunteers invest their time answering?

    The really saddening thing, though, is when you see a post from someone who clearly is making a genuine effort, but simply isn't making sense because their language skills are so poor. Some of us try to help those people to clarify what they're asking and to form their questions more helpfully, but at the end of the day, their lack of literacy is directly disadvantaging them. If that's what they get on a board dedicated to helping them and run by volunteers who are willing to give up a certain amount of their time for that purpose, what are they going to get in the job market, for example?

  • by Pavatius ( 955109 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:06PM (#14755581)

    Orwell wrote this same essay with more style and more grace in 1946. He also wrote it with a point in mind. It's called 'Politics and the English Language'. Google it and read it instead of this lame Wired article.

    This essay is just a rant and that the coming generation is doomed, doomed, doomed! People have been saying that about the coming generation since ancient times. Ironically for someone who criticizes the emptiness of writing in the modern age, the author also says very little. Some writing by some people sucks. There are a lot of some people. Duh.

    The author also ignores the enormous quantity of written material produced on a daily basis. Just because his friends and acquaintences are semi-literate doesn't mean the rest of us travel in the same circles of bad grammar and poor diction. It's really a sort of pompous thing to say from a position of authority that 'the world' can't write, read MY article it will tell you so. Sigh. Noob.

  • Other pressures (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:08PM (#14755596)
    I think we will start to see more of an impact on literacy from the employment market in the coming years. One of the biggest things I hear employers complain about is that young hires can barely write a coherent sentence, and consequently can't be relied upon to compose text for important presentations, reports, and so on. Assuming grammar checking software that magically turns shite into gold doesn't materialize in the very near future, we may well see an emphasis on writing skills trickle down from the knowledge-worker market to universities, colleges, and high schools. Let's hope so, anyway.
  • by Tony ( 765 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:09PM (#14755605) Journal
    I fucking hate the word "usage." Nobody uses it correctly, if there is a single correct use. Usually, the use "usage" when they mean "use."

    What total losage.

    I blame comic books. They contribute to a short attention span. Fucking comic books, with their pretty pictures and busty, half-clad superwomen. Mmmmm.... Superwoman. If Superwoman and Wonder Woman had a fight in, say, a tub of Jell-o, who do you think would lose her top first?

    More people communicate today than have ever communicated before. The poor grammar they exhibit is probably a result of these amatuers being, well, amatuers. People 100 years ago mostly didn't write; those that did were generally better-educated.

    I would say that literacy is on the rise, not the inverse.

  • by monopole ( 44023 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:09PM (#14755607)
    Um, comic book generation? Has this fellow just recieved "Seduction of the Innocent" via Pony Express? The average Generation Y kid has seldom seen a comic book, they don't show up on the news stand anymore. The average of the modern comic book reader is 34 and the level of the high end of the comic book market is considerably more literate than this fool. For example Warren Ellis'es issue of Planetary "Death Machine Telemetry" discusses the afterlife, nanotechnology, Richard Feynman, the Delphic oracle (and speculations on the biochemical nature of the fumes they inhaled) and the Kabbalah in one brilliant episode. Ellis probably used a shorter word count than this wanker used.

    Of course he might mean manga, having been confused by the mysterious ways of the distant orient. Given that a huge percentage of the population read manga over in Japan, and use e-mail and texting, this must account for their horrific litteracy rates. Horrifically high that is.
  • College Grading (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Ape With No Name ( 213531 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:14PM (#14755641) Homepage
    I start out with a statement: "Chat speak" is not permitted in any form and is defined it as using punctuation symbols or shorthand as cognates for words and concepts that are normally expressed with letters. To wit, Using "@" for "at" or "2" for "to" or "too" or "U" for "you" is not permitted and not limited to those examples. Abbreviations are permitted as long as an abbreviation appears in Webster's New World College Dictionary and conforms either to the Chicago or APA styles. Any usage of "chat speak" in any communication to me in query to this class or through the normal course of instruction, test answer for grade or essay submitted for grade will result in my ignoring the communication and automatically marking the answer as incorrect or marking the grade down on the essay.

    Stops that "Hey prof U are keepin me outta grad skool can i meet U @ yr office 2 talk? ;) thx" bullshit in its tracks.
  • by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) * <> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:14PM (#14755647)
    We all use slang, we all use abbreviations, jargon and impolite ways of speaking, especially with friends and family. The problem i run into is more and more people who cant "Turn it off" when they need to. People who use the same bad grammar when writing an office e-mail that they do when chatting with buddies online or at happy hour. Kids who cant write a coherent written sentence because they are so used to using slang. Its nothing that different from what I say when talking to friends, or get into a flamewar, but i DONT use it in the office, or when meeting someone for the first time, or when applying for a job. Thats the problem.
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:18PM (#14755668) Homepage Journal
    this thought is nothing new: morals, the language, etc.: it's all going to pot, the end of the world is nigh, etc.


    what is going on is that some people are almost autistic in their attachment to certain signifiers of what "good language" is or what "moral behavior" is

    human beings need morality, and they need to communicate. these needs are nver going away, nor are our ability to satisfy those needs ever going away

    it is just that, from one century to the next, what signifies these things changes

    but so you have some people becoming hysterical ninnies because what signifies these things to them changes, and they can't deal with it

    they're just brittle people
    • by nagora ( 177841 )
      they need to communicate. these needs are nver going away,

      A classic example of the smug "I'm on the cutting edge of language, I just look dumb" crowd that spurn clear communication as old-fashioned. Capitals, and most typographic conventions, add information to your writing for a tiny, tiny amount of extra effort. Throwing away (which is not the same as developing) a system which has been honed by centuries of trial and error is a sign of foolishness and an inability to grasp complex ideas rather than any

      • i can see i communicated an idea across to you, as you encapsulated it in your response

        of course, you won't ever admit that

        you're to busy getting off on the vile evil i've committed of not capitalizing

        whatever, yawn

        the point is to communicate

        everything else, EVERYTHING ELSE, is superfluous

        if you can understand the idea i was trying to communicate, the language did it's job

        everything else, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ELSE, is superfluous, wasteful, unnecessary semantic structure
  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:20PM (#14755682)
    Good. More jobs for me, and with a little work, my kids. (Ok, it's a lot of work, including reading to my kids 30-45 minutes a day, and the older one (6) is transitioning to reading to us. But I digress.)

    Seriously, not everyone can be a rocket scientist. Some folks have to take less mentally-strenuous jobs, and the upside to that is that it takes less education and effort to get a job that focuses on rote process or repetitive simple problem-solving. Of course, there's the whole unfairness issue relating to people who work in jobs that are physically or emotionally draining for shit pay, but that's not the issue here. It used to be that motivated people could rise to hit the maximum vocation that their formal or self education allowed. Now it seems that educated people sink to the vocational level that their self motivation and application of that education allows. Same effect, no?

    My brother, for example, is an overeducated undermotivated weenie who's dumbed himself down with IM-speak, and wonders why he's not an appealing job candidate. But that brings up an interesting issue: I don't think that the deterioration of language skills can be examined in a vacuum. What about the deterioration of social skills that seems to accompany the IM-speak txting crap? IM/TXT communciations involve effects from reduced level of effort, lack of persistence, reduced affect, and perceived levels of anonymity.

    All I have is anecdotal evidence, but the idea of sending thank-you letters, participating in professional societies, and writing articles for review by your peers seems totally alien to that crowd. And I don't mean to be stuck-up about that. An article for your peers might be a well-written blog entry or a political rant in email, not necessarily an academic paper. >>>> My point is that if you notice that people are sharing soundbites instead of whole ideas, then it makes sense to take a look at the mode of sharing, not just the sound-bite vs whole-idea issue.

  • anachrolicious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macsox ( 236590 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:27PM (#14755730) Journal
    comic book generation? was this written in 1950? what kid reads comic books today? and, incidentally, my memory is that comic books have fairly good grammar and spelling, with the exceptions of your 'pow's and 'biff's.
  • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:37PM (#14755776) Homepage
    I recently taught a course to help undergraduate students to write English properly. I made them all create blogs and told them to write a short review of a game every week. Most weeks I conducted a "critique" session on Friday, where I went through every review and gave pointers on style, grammar and punctuation (mostly the latter two). I think the most interesting thing that I learned was that most students don't think of these things as important at all. So for a long time, some of them had significant problems understanding the difference between writing properly and not writing properly. Often they would write just as they speak, and it took a while for them to understand that this looks wrong. Many of my students had an extremely hard time finding errors in their own writing, no matter how many times they re-read it. When I asked students to edit other students' work, they tended to lack the confidence in their own ability to do this. The technique that most of them found most helpful was to concentrate hard on the structure of paragraphs and to build up paragraphs sentence by sentence in a very formulaic way.

    I think that over the course of the module, most students did improve somewhat and they said that they enjoyed it. However, I have doubts about how much of what they learned will stick during the rest of their studies. I feel that it will be pretty hard for them to undo fifteen years of neglect of their English writing skills.

  • by xdroop ( 4039 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:54PM (#14755879) Homepage Journal
    I disagree -- the technology is not leading to an inability to communicate. Technology is making it possible to circulate written items far more widely and easily than before. This merely exposes a reality long hidden: the vast majority of people have never been able to communicate in the written form.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

    by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:06PM (#14755946) Homepage
    Our literacy is eroding? WTF? OMG! ROFL!
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by DeafByBeheading ( 881815 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:13PM (#14755997) Journal
    A thread where spelling and grammar nazis won't be modded off-topic! Yes!
  • by windowpain ( 211052 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:17PM (#14756027) Journal
    Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
    On their last leg. So what am we to do?
    A letter of complaint go just so far,
    Proving the only one in step are you.

    Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
    A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
    Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
    The meaning what it must of meant to had.

    The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
    But evolution do not stop for that.
    A mutant languages rise from the dead
    And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

    Too bad for we, us what has had so long
    The best seat from the only game in town.
    But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
    Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

    Clive James in The Guardian -- Saturday April 30, 2005
  • by Sw0rdfiche ( 587944 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:21PM (#14756038) Homepage Journal
    The observation that language is in a constant state of change is true. What is so interesting about the way language is changing today is the speed and the direction. Language is a direct reflection of how fast things change. Language is, in part, the way we describe that change.

    Change, as noted by "Future Shock" and several more reputable sources, has accelerated in the past fifty years at breakneck speed. Discussions of our inability as people to absorb all of this change have led to the by now familiar "Singularity" discussions. If even a fraction of this is true, it would stand to reason that language and its use would be one of the first place this all manifests.

    I am less interested in protecting the "King's English" than I am with the ability of one generation to communicate with the next in a complex and meaningful way. There is plenty of well written discourse on the Internet. I do not see that declining. The ghettoization of language as a marketing tool worries me a bit more, since it is sold as a generational identity.

    My conversations with people in their early twenties shows me they are just as bright and articulate as anyone. Their opinions on language are much different. One of my favorites is the compression of language and meaning in rap music. Rap is a great place to look at the elasticity of language. Aside from the "bitches and ho's " rhetoric, which is the low end of that artform, there is clear and skillful use of language, rhythm and tone at work.

    The other movement in language is the migration to visual rather than verbal communication. Language is no longer just about words. Image has changed the way we speak, the way we communicate, the way we articualte. The "comic-book" culture may not be a bad thing. The issue is not about comics- this is a medium that has a powerful and complex ability to communicate. The issue is that it is used mostly to communicate sex and power fantasies. However, I find it interesting that Dan Clowes now has a weekly comic that runs in the New York Times Magazine.

    There is some virtue to being a "keeper of the flame" as far a literature is concerned. But television, movies and the internet are changing the concepts of literature. In the 21st century, is a good library just books, or does it include DVDs and CDs as well?

    Part of the issue might have to do with the definition of language. If we insist on sticking to the definition where language is exclusively the written word, then language indeed might be in trouble, but not for the reasons mentioned.
  • A simple test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:24PM (#14756058) Journal
    This closely ties in with the recent article about college students being unable to decipher credit card agreements.

    Basically :
    If you cannot read an End User License Agreement and understand what it is saying, you need to improve your English skills. NOW.

    Legalese is the last bastion of specifically correct, carefully worded, properly formed English. Even words such as "shall" or "should" - the meaning of which can usually be inferred in everyday English - are often explicitly defined to avoid confusion. And you can be damned sure that Legalese is not going anywhere soon. If you can't comprehend Legalese (or any form of complex English), you're going to end up in a whole lot of trouble one day down the track. If you can comprehend it, you essentially have a grasp of the correct structure and form of Modern English.

    The leet-speak, IM'ing crowd can poo-pooh it as much as they want, but learning correct English will serve you well in the future.
  • Old fart (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. McGibby ( 41471 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @05:15PM (#14756362) Homepage Journal
    Math is a different matter. No student should be allowed to bring a calculator into a math class. Ever.

    This is when I stopped reading TFA. So, pray tell, master of what is wrong with education, when exactly should our intrepid students learn to use a calculator, one of the most useful inventions since we got rid of the slide rule?

    This a falicious argument that when taken to its logical conclusion implies that all students should understand particle physics in order to use the web. While it may be true that learning how to do long division gives a student some greater insight into how math works, that doesn't mean that it is useful to them. I know how to do long division, and I think I understand division a little better because I do, but was the three years it took to learn in elementary school worth it? I've used this "greater understanding" maybe 4 or 5 times in my life. I don't think it was worth 3 years of my young life, when I could've been learning something more relevant to modern life.

    There are lots of things that are useful to know, but we're not going to learn all of them. And teaching kids things we learned just because we had to, has more to do with bitterness about things like long division and less to do with their success in life.
  • by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @06:29PM (#14756767)
    Fine, if "u want 2 rite" like that I'm sure your friends will know what you mean. Try that when you need to apply for a job and see how far you get.

      Just because you don't care how people older than you speak doesn't mean you'll never interact with them. You don't have to have to be an English Professor but at least know how to spell!

      It's about communication not grammar.

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.