Monday, May 23, 2011

the death of a language

Sometimes I wonder if the English language isn't dying a slow, agonizing death.

Every day, I see the language mangled and abused in a variety of ways and by a variety of people. Sometimes, it's merely functional--for example, using abbreviations in a tweet because of the length limitations. Sometimes, though, it's out of either laziness or ignorance. This is what I can't abide. In today's information- and technology-filled world, there is really no excuse for an ignorance of the basic rules of spelling and grammar.

So it's down to laziness.

Maybe it's my background. I am an English teacher, after all. But even among English teachers, I seem to be a bit more of a grammar-nazi. Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm just too stuck on the rules. Rules are made to be broken, are they not?

Short answer: No, they're not.

Grammar and spelling rules exist to help make writing clear, to help make the meaning of the written word unambiguous. Unfortunately, many people don't seem to understand the simple fact that you can't assume your reader knows what you mean--especially when you're not writing in a coherent fashion.

This is perhaps especially important in the world of self-publishing. I recently purchased a self-pubbed book for 99 cents. After reading the synopsis, I was very excited to read the book. However, it didn't take long to realize that this author might not be quite the grammar maven I am; however, if you're going to publish something and charge people to read it (even only 99 cents), you should, at the very least, make sure all your grammar, word choice, and spelling errors are corrected! I find myself cringing on nearly every page.

And here's the really disturbing thing: Amazon is full of five-star reviews for this book. Only three (or so) mention the atrocious grammar. The other reviewers seem unaffected.

Is this because the other reviewers are just more able to deal with the incredible lapses in grammar than others? Or do they honestly just not notice?

And if the latter is the case, what does that say about the state of the written language?

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