Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I can haz grammar, plz

On the same day as a report comes out that educators should harness txting to teach kids to write comes this post about how awful writing is on the Internet. Admittedly, some of the text quote in that second article is pretty difficult to understand. I suspect that the most difficult one is from a non-native speaker translating txt language from his/her own tongue to English and it obviously didn't go well. For me, correct grammar and punctuation serve a few different purposes. One, they really are needed sometimes to convey meaning. As Eats, Shoots, and Leaves demonstrates, a comma in the wrong place can indeed change the meaning of a sentence. Two, they are used at different levels to present oneself in a particular way. I would hate to run this blog through a grammar checker. Although I am good at recognizing grammar problems in others, I tend to commit quite a few myself, usually when I'm writing a complex sentence like this one. Who knows if that last sentence is grammatically correct? Who cares? It makes sense, right?

And the thing is, many online communities accept poor grammar and spelling. They are often about conveying information and as long the information is conveyed relatively clearly, it's all good. I don't see people in the WoW forums yelling (most of the time) about someone's spelling or grammar. Here would be an interesting study (maybe it's already been done): let's see if those who use correct spelling and grammar get more respect in forums. I'm guessing that spelling and grammar count less than valuable information.

Sure, I cringe on occasion during chats or when reading forums, but I recognize that as my own sensibility. It may well be that language is evolving and some of the grammatical forms we see in chat and txting will become part of our language. It is, as I believe came out earlier this week, a complex grammar in and of itself. I can haz grammar, ne1?

So let's lay off the grammar police and focus on thinking and analyzing and synthesizing. It may be that people will need good grammar to really do these things well, or they may not, and we should be open to that possibility.