Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Plain Speaking

Two threads on the same topic in different places this morning, and it's time I waffled on about communication again.

There are at least 4 people I see regularly on Facebook, whose writing is so bad that until I got to know them, I assumed English was not their first language. It turns out that it is, and that in fact, all of them have a university education.

I discovered today that Facebook has a spellcheck. Either I didn't know this or it was so long ago I had forgotten. Perhaps a lot of other people don't know this either because I see a lot of errors on there. Or maybe what I'm seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe it would otherwise be far, far worse.

I get told I fuss too much over this, but these people are all parents, do they have no interest in literacy?

So, let's just say that Facebook entries full of errors don't matter (I don't agree, but for the sake of argument, we'll accept it). What about actual journalism? What about published books? What about business pages online?

What I'm asking is, where do we draw the line? Where can we no longer shrug it off or sneer at those who expect it to be correct and call them pedants?

Twice recently I have been in discussions online, where a response, specifically for me, was so lacking in grammatical construction and punctuation that I couldn't actually decipher it. Having been reamed out quite vociferously as an obnoxious pedant many times, one hesitates to ask for a translation, frankly. I just left the discussion instead.

But this isn't the entire problem, is it? Not only do people not write with any care, they don't read with any care either.

One of my fellow Etsy sellers voiced a common problem. Customers buying patterns thinking they are going to get the finished item instead, and getting angry when it doesn't arrive. Here's the listing:


If the words KNITTING PATTERN and a price of $3.40 with no shipping even offered, doesn't tell you not to expect a bag, you are really not paying attention.

I get a lot of questions that are answered in descriptions, because nobody reads descriptions, but this? Come on.

And at the same time, a discussion is raised about how people should proofread their listings, and we are all told not to be judgemental........

Is this part of the whole "you're all winners!" thing that some children grow up with? This isn't realistic.

If you want to write gibberish on a Facebook status, go right ahead. But if you are publishing or selling, if professionalism is expected or at least useful in a competitive situation, why would you not make the effort ro proofread, or get somebody to do it for you if you know you have a problem?

And if reading comprehension could save you a lot of disappointment, and possibly money, is it not worth taking the time?



  1. I was on another site this morning. Someone had posted that their school district sent out a survey to parents. She posted a picture of the survey, and at the top it said in large bold letters, "Help us education your children". There were many other spelling and grammatical errors on the survey. Most of the responses held that one shouldn't judge because people make mistakes. I would hold them to a higher standard because it makes the school district look bad to send out something like that. My son has to proof-read his work so why do the school administrators not have to do the same? With facebook I make mistakes and let them go because it is a casual site. In a professional setting I would not let the mistakes go because they represent me as a professional. To end this rant I am going to say that I am happy this site does not think facebook is a word, but it still makes me angry that facebook does not think dreamt is a word and apparently neither does this site.

    1. That's a perfect example Amy. Yes, there IS a higher standard.

  2. You have touched on the fact that there are at least two camps on this subject: those who feel they are being the best professional 'me' they can be, which is imperfect, and who are we to judge their mistakes; and those who are standard-bearers and lead the way and the thread of common sense when it comes to upholding the English language process.

    Might we label those from the first group as unmindful, possibly ignorant, of the way they communicate? I tend to look at those little red lines under words...technology is helpful in this regard. I will, at the very least, check those words with red under them. *raises hand in attestation* Higher degrees do not a proofreader make. They can, however, increase one's sense entitlement to making some god-awful creation and expecting the rest of us to enjoy it because they have certificates that say they are degreed. I think it is good that we question that presumption.

    I like to think that abuse stops with me...that includes abuse of language as well. ;) ~ Blessings! :)