yo d00dz! hav u seen tihs?
March 22, 2001 8:00 AM   Subscribe

yo d00dz! hav u seen tihs? "Two-thirds of the 18-24 year olds questioned do not worry about punctuation, grammar or style when writing messages. About 16% sign every e-mail with love and kisses, even when addressing their boss."
l8s, love wrighty XX
posted by gi_wrighty (30 comments total)
I work tech support in an technology company. Part of my job is answering customer email requests for support. I would say that over 70% of the messages I answer suffer from horrid grammar in some form or another.

This isn't basic PC support but server support. These are supposed to be educated system admins and the like. Don't even get me started on the people who still WRITE IN ALL CAPS.
posted by borgle at 8:59 AM on March 22, 2001

the best part is the illustration/caption for the story...
posted by judith at 9:15 AM on March 22, 2001

A survey carried out for MSN has found some shocking lapses of etiquette in the messages passed around by people under 25.

Ah, yes, tsk tsk, you little shits. Puh-leeze; I know a whole lot of people whose emails could be mistaken for e e cummings poems and who are well above 30 years old. I expect ridiculously awful writing from kids--sorry, "young adults"-- who are barely grown out of writing high-school mash notes. It's the adults that I worry more about.
posted by Skot at 9:26 AM on March 22, 2001

The problem being that you really shouldn't expect "ridiculously awful writing" from those either who're still in high-school or have just graduated. I'm sorry, but at that age one's perfectly competent enough to write correctly. There's little difference between an 18 year-old fresh out of high-school writing horribly and a 35 year-old working in an office writing horribly. They both know better.
posted by truex at 9:55 AM on March 22, 2001

I run a site about the Klondike Gold Rush - it's listed on many .edu reading lists, so I get a lot of email from kids. I have to agree, the writing is just horrendous. Misspellings, no punctuation, no capitalization, etc. My wife and I always get a laugh out of it at least. I'm not nitpicking either, sometimes it's hard to even figure out what they're asking for. (Usually they're asking me to do work for them, rather than reading the site & doing other research). Some of the emails are rude and abrupt, others scattered and hard to digest. Most are pretty straightforward, but use such clipped shorthand that the feel is too informal - as if I were their best bud on IRC or something.
posted by kokogiak at 10:11 AM on March 22, 2001

They don't though, that's the problem. It's not that they "don't worry about" punctuation, grammar, etc., but likely that the majority of that 2/3 have no clue about proper grammar or punctuation, let alone any inkling of style beyond which designer's name displayed prominently on one's clothes does best to get one laid. Go teach a university class, you'll find this out...
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 10:12 AM on March 22, 2001

When I write an email, I always try to use correct spelling and grammar. But I understand, I think, why some people don't. I don't think the email has replaced the letter so much as it's replaced the phone call.

I still have much of the correspondence I received in my college days (before email), and I might have gotten one or two letters a week. People didn't write frequently because it required a lot of effort. They didn't write every time they found an interesting link or wanted to pass on a dumb joke.

These days, I frequently arrange social engagements via email because it's easy to do so. I think when people are typing an email, they're still thinking as they do when they speak. This mindset would explain why I see so many errors of the "your" vs. "you're" or "their" vs. "there" variety. Email responses are largely dumped rather than composed.

I think the same phenomenon occurs, in large part, on MetaFilter. That's why I see so many homophones here. I do the same thing myself. When I first wrote this message, I had "right" where I wanted to say "write." But that's why we have preview.

None of this excuses you philistines who don't use "its" and "it's" properly. Hey, we all have our hot buttons.
posted by anapestic at 10:17 AM on March 22, 2001

so "young people" have bad grammar---what the hell is this? "The medium is the message, just because e-mail is quick do not lose the personal touch"
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:47 AM on March 22, 2001

Can I share this? A friend from grade school dutifully passes on every forward she gets. She and I don't talk on the phone or socialize anymore so when her grandmother died, I sent a short personal note to say sorry, been thinking about you, etc. The forwards stopped for about three weeks and then started again but she didn't acknowledge the personal note I sent.

Was it wrong to email instead of going to hallmark? Should I have called when we never call? I don't know, I thought it was weird is all. It's like a personal note freaks people out sometimes. Is there some rule that email must only be a "fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd: it won't hurt to try"?
posted by auntbunny at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2001

It's foolish to presume that only the current batch of Gen-X'ers utilize poor grammar and can't spell. There's a long history of that in this country. I see the truth in old letters written by grandparents and great grandparents. On the whole kids today probably actually use better spelling and grammar since they're forced to use the written word more iften--in e-mail.
posted by DeBug at 10:49 AM on March 22, 2001

Things sure are going to hell in a wheelbarrow (barrel?barral) ever since I graduated from school. Till then, all was ok.
posted by Postroad at 11:48 AM on March 22, 2001

All of the bugaboos that anapestic mentions are up there for me, as well. I am a total stickler when it comes to grammar on the net; after all, if I can't bang out a simple sentence, are you to take me seriously?

I wouldn't say that this is largely a problem with the kids, but I would say that it isn't stopping with them. As a side effect of this, take note of the deterioration of language in various mediums... not to be a poopyhead, but think about President Bush. His speech skills are awful, and he's the leader of the nation!

My favorite mistakes include "loose" for "lose", and "offical" for "official". For fun, here's a Google on offical.
posted by hijinx at 11:59 AM on March 22, 2001

I usually don’t worry about puncuation, capitalization, etc., in IMs or short e-mails to friends. If I make what’s obviously a typo, I try not to correct it.
posted by gleemax at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2001

"Loose" and "lose": don't get me started. Please. Too late. I strive diligently to keep my literature major past in check, but sometimes I let my sangfroid slip and become much more upset than I have any right to be. I remember one time I was in a chat room with a guy who said in his profile that he was looking for someone "discrete," so I made a quip about how none of us was continuous, and when he didn't get it, I told him to check dictionary.com. He went there and since "discrete" did in fact have an entry, he presumed that he was using it correctly and told me I was wrong. And then things got ugly.

(Warning: I get snarky.) By the way, hijinx, I've always thought that"mediums" referred to multiple incarnations of Madame Cleo or to pairs of pants that are too small for me. But I'm willing to call it a grey area as long as you promise to use the terms "poopyhead" and "President Bush" in the same sentence at least three times a day.

Seriously, though, I think the way we feel about language has a lot to do with the way we think. I think almost exclusively in words, phrases, and music. Almost never in pictures. So to me, correct usage is analogous to correct logic. Still, I try not to correct anyone else, unless I think that person will appreciate my input.
posted by anapestic at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2001

You are right, young people today do not have any manners, especially when they are writing e-mail.

The best part about that article was the first paragraph; wouldn't either a colon or a semicolon be the correct way to set off "You are right"? And again, later in the article: The medium is the message, just because e-mail is quick do not lose the personal touch. That certainly calls for a semicolon.

Shockingly, I've actually been paid to proofread (a job for which I'm not really qualified), but just because I'm capable of recognizing grammatical errors (or puzzling them out with the aid of a copy of Strunk and White) doesn't mean I give every piece of email I sent the same attention. (I'm a chronic abuser of the passive voice to boot!)
posted by snarkout at 1:07 PM on March 22, 2001

If so many people weren't so stupid we wouldn't have these problems.
posted by norm at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2001

auntbunny, it depends a whole lot on your relationship. There are many people with whom I communicate almost solely via e-mail. Getting a note from them to express sympathy would be just as valid to me as a card or phone call.

In fact, I'd prefer an e-mail, because then I could talk to them about how I feel in context and right then when I'm feeling those, rather then shelving it for a later response.

It also highly depends on who you're talking to. I'm a lot different then the vast majority of people to whom e-mail is a means of getting a receiving jokes or business memoes, e-mail's quite probably my primary form of communication with most of the people who are special in my life and don't live with me.

I can't stand it when people are overly casual with e-mail. It happens to me rarely, since I'm an especially casual person, but when I get a friendly e-mail out of the blue from someone I've never talked with before in any medium, it's just weird and creepy.

Actually, around the time my friends from high school started getting e-mail accounts in college or university, I very quickly learned that there were things I took for granted in e-mail conversations that they didn't get. By the third or fourth person, I'd developed a reasonably decent boilerplate "Okay, here's some of the weird stuff I do in e-mails, and what they mean..."

Trying to explain emoticons in 1995 or 1996 was a little embarrasing.
posted by cCranium at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2001

Auntbunny: I've had that happen when it had nothing to do with an emotional event. I loathe forwards--if you want to talk to me, talk to me. I've had friends that would send tons of forwards, and when I sent them an actual email, they would go silent for a while. It's like it gums up the works. I find it baffling, though I'm tempted to attribute the whole thing to an inability to express emotion.

But then, I'm sure I'm over-analyzing.

What was the thread about again?
posted by frykitty at 1:55 PM on March 22, 2001

This thread is about the degeneration of written communication in our society, for which I blame Chik-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme.
posted by jennyb at 2:05 PM on March 22, 2001

And 93% of statistics are made up on the spot.

(The survey was done for MSN, so I doubt that Vint Cerf was among those interviewed.)
posted by holgate at 2:10 PM on March 22, 2001

Sum peeple jest kant spel. I have a college friend, a literature major like myself, who's never been able to spell without assistance. (I used to spell-check his papers.) He doesn't have dyslexia, but perhaps a learning disorder in the verbal area. He has an excuse -- most people just didn't pay attention in school, I guess.

Now, some people blame this on the whole-language movement. I'm not so sure; I support the general idea (that you should encourage kids to read up to and beyond their reading level, understanding words by context) because it's the way I learned (reading 12th grade level in 4th grade does that to you). But there's probably something to be said for the phonics and drill approaches.

Still, I'm an iconoclast: English is too complicated. It's great that we retain certain types of spellings to indicate word roots, especially from Latin and Greek, but a lot of the variant spellings held over from Middle English are unhelpful, e.g. "ough" (rough/though/through/bough/lough/etc.). The Chicago Tribune used to encourage simplified spellings like "tho" right up until the mid-70s; in the end the greatest lasting impact they had was the acceptance of the spelling "catalog". There was a recent study that showed that English had more different types of spelling per sound than any other major lanugage -- and I can easily believe it. On the one hand this indicates the richness of English in its borrowings from other tongues, but it's also meant that there are a lot of things out there that break the rules of the language. (Don't even get me started on rules that don't even come from our language, like not splitting infinitives!)

So I'd like to see a simplified English. But Germany's trying this with their language and not doing so well.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 PM on March 22, 2001

Sure, e-mail's done a disservice to punctuation and spelling and grammar, but 'taint nothing compared to what instant messaging programs have wrought. There seems to be a striking stylistic difference between those who were originally introduced to e-communication via email and those who have been on AIM from day one, with many members of the latter camp forming terse, all-substance/no-form style messages. "ur 2 bizi 2 tipe al teh ltrs rite", after all.

Not that I'm suggesting that this is universal - there are eloquent-as-all-hell teenagers out there and thirtysomethings who can't punctuate to save their lives, of course. But there's definitely some sort of "right way to craft messages" hijinks afoot.
posted by youhas at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2001

I admit I get quite a few awkwardly-worded, somewhat terse emails. Because they're from countries where English is not the first language. My point: I don't really care if grammar has suffered a bit. The worlds opened by email more than make up for it. Also, with more casual wording it's easier to tell what a person is like. It's much harder to see through formally-composed prose.

What I'd like to see is how these kids write in a formal setting. More practice at self expression = better self expression.

So rite on doodz.
posted by frykitty at 4:06 PM on March 22, 2001

frykitty said:
I don't really care if grammar has suffered a bit. The worlds opened by email more than make up for it.

I care. A well-worded sentence is an aesthetic treat. Proper spelling and punctuation enable quick reading; one can spend more time thinking about what the words say and less figuring out which words the author meant to use. You can perhaps save a few seconds by throwing away the rules when writing, but you promptly oblige the reader to spend the extra seconds when reading. Bad writing is, in my book, either ignorant or inconsiderate.

I've never used any of the instant messenger things, but from what I gather they're just like IRC. The writing there can be so malformed that it actually becomes painful to read. I don't think I could maintain a conversation with someone who wrote email in that style.

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:53 PM on March 22, 2001

I think English spelling and grammar are particularly complicated. I speak French and Mandarin Chinese as second languages. The grammar in both these languages is much simpler than English . French spelling is much more phonetic than English (Chinese, of course, is another matter). The point is that we should cut people who speak English as a second language some slack. Native English speaking adults who can't tell "their" from "there" from "they're" should be mocked.

Now, I'd better click the Spell Checker before I post...
posted by Loudmax at 6:27 PM on March 22, 2001

I'm on a lot of mailing lists frequented mostly by teenagers, and I'd have to say that 2/3 is just about right. On the other hand, those who can't at least make themselves understood tend to be ignored by the rest, so I hope they'll catch on eventually.
posted by Jeanne at 7:37 PM on March 22, 2001

English's richness, complexity, irrationality and success are not unrelated.

David Crystal was on the radio this week, and said that he was more interested in the way that online communication transforms speech and action into text: writing made into a Shandyesque conversation. Things like the ability to dissect and reiterate the text of an email (or posting) as a set of springboards for reply; threading; coinages; all these things will have a far greater impact on the volcanic flow of the language in decades to come than teenagers tapping out SMS-speak in chatrooms.
posted by holgate at 8:22 PM on March 22, 2001

So I'd like to see a simplified English.

double-plus ungood!
posted by pikachulolita at 11:41 PM on March 22, 2001

Sad to say, one of the things that makes cultures strong is the ability to define "us" (insiders to the culture) and "them" (outsiders). Often this is done linguistically, hence both English's difficulty and success. It has been the language of not one but two "superpowers," and it shows.
posted by kindall at 12:08 AM on March 23, 2001

Just to follow this up, found this web page about "Netglish". Hmm.

posted by gi_wrighty at 9:04 AM on March 23, 2001

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