Tuesday, July 15, 2008

ive Got a Bone 2 Pick With U

Today's rant - people who don't even make an attempt at spelling.

As a preface - this is not meant to be directed at the dyslexic: they have a problem that is no fault of their own, and should not be blamed for it. Neither should it be directed at those who truly try their hardest, but still come up short - they will improve with time, and their problem is either age or an educational system that failed them.

No, the people at whom this particular diatribe is aimed are those who can't bring themselves to make the effort to learn to use the English language correctly - or, worse still, those who know how to use it correctly, but are too lazy to do so.

Now, formal language isn't required for all writing. In fact, I have a loose hierarchy of written communication, from informal, to formal:
  • Text messages
  • Instant messages
  • Short e-mail
  • Forum posts
  • E-mail
  • Personal letter
  • Creative writing
  • Formal letter
  • Essay
By the time you've passed the second rung, there should be no misspellings.

By the fourth, grammar and punctuation should always be correct.

Everything from then on in is tone and word choice. (eg. Repetition should only be for effect by rung, and so forth.)

What brought this on was my role as a moderator of a certain online forum wherein participants submit stories for approval by myself or others on the team. If these were, for example, handwritten with pencil and paper, the occasional spelling mistake would be tolerable. Were they typed out on a manual typewriter, a lack of formatting or major grammatical errors could be overlooked.

But this is the internet, and you're working on a computer.

All the major web browsers have inline spellchecking these days. Not only that, but several (Firefox among them) will even give suggestions as to what the right word might be. This won't, of course, catch homonyms, but even having all the words spelled correctly would be step up from some of the dreck that seems, increasingly, to be littering the web and forums everywhere. If, for some reason, the browser you're working with doesn't have a spellchecker built-in, it is the work of a moment to copy your post to a word processor (MS Word, OpenOffice, TextEdit) and check it there. If you have no control over the programs on a computer (if you're using, for example, a public computer), that's still no excuse: there are still sites like Spellcheck.net which will correct your assault on the English language.

More stunning still is the ability of posters to misspell words taken directly from the previous poster, or the original article. Transpositions of letters, phonetic replacements - all of which should be, flatly, impossible. The word is right there. How in the name of any god who cares to take proper writing into their fold can you possibly get it wrong?

A few particular pet peeves:
  • I moderate on a fantasy gaming site. People persistently misspell "rogue", as "rouge". The one is a sneakthief. The other is a powder applied to the face. It's really not that hard.
  • Abuse of apostrophes. Girl's is not more than one girl. It's is a contracted form of "it is", not a possessive pronoun. And if you're describing something belonging to a collection of objects, there's only one "s". (eg. "The racers' cars flashed by, engines racing.")
  • Random capitalization. Unless it's a proper noun, capital letters ought not to preface it.
  • Generally, people who say "people understand me, so it doesn't matter how I write!" (See concluding statement.)
In conclusion, I'll offer up a plea to the internet at large, and the writing-challenged in particular. Get a spellchecker for every communication program you have. Pay attention to its little red lines, and take its advice. Take a moment to read something over before you hit "post" or "send". And, for the gods' sake, read! Read everything you can get your hands on. Read every day. There is no better way to improve your writing skills than to have a large base upon which to draw.

Written language, in this day and age in particular, is the greatest communication tool the human race has ever conceived. Abusing its rules, ignoring its strictures, and raping its meaning for the sake of expediency or laziness is unworthy of it, and should (and often does) lower your worth in the eyes of others. If you wish to be heard, understood, and taken seriously, learn to use the language. Otherwise, stay off the 'Net. It was built on language, and if you're going to languish in the gutters of linguistic abuse, you're just a waste of bandwidth - no better than white noise.

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