Garmmur Nazis Can Jump off A Clift

-By Warner Todd Huston

The Internet suffers from both extreme ends of the same problem: grammar. Specifically, bad grammar. At the top I will absolutely admit that I am no king of grammar, no Grammy winning grammarian, so sometimes I misspell a word, or misplace a comma. Consequently, I am not coming to this argument as a grammar Nazi. On the other hand, I am not arguing the case of laze faire writing, either. I firmly believe that grammar is very important and every writer should strive to observe those rules and that those who lack adherence to them harm their credibility.

The web and electronic communications — such as email and texting — has had a baleful influence on grammar. Specifically, this annoying cell phone texting business, for instance, is a travesty for the English language. Far from being the next evolution, it is a monumental step backwards. Purposeful misspelling, awful shorthand, and a penchant for completely dispensing with punctuation characterizes this bastardization of the language. This sort of pigeon English finds its way onto the web in a myriad of ways. From blog postings and comments sections to the MySpace and FaceBook pages, the mangled idioms abound. Add the fact that our schools are universally failing to teach students how to write clearly and we get a veritable doomsday for the written language.

Coming upon a webpage with multiple misspellings, incorrect usage, nonexistent punctuation, and other grammatical errors makes one imagine right off the top that the person responsible for the webpage is a complete moron. And, if they aren’t, it sure makes dismissing what they are trying to communicate awfully easy to do.

But, as in all things, some people take things too far. Recently I wrote a piece where I admittedly (in hindsight) misspelled a word within a somewhat common, though by no means ubiquitous, colloquial phrase. What that phrase was isn’t germane to the issue I am raising here, but it was quite a simple mistake. It was also one I’ve made, and corrected, before, but this time it slipped past me. Additionally, there wasn’t a single other grammatical error of consequence in the piece, at least none I could see.

After I posted the piece, this is one of the replies I received:

If Mr. Huston is going to publish his work, he needs to proofread it.

Nothing destroys confidence in a published writing faster than grammar, spelling, and usage errors.

Remember we have one misspelling, not a series of them. We have one incorrect word, not several, and not one piled on top of multiple “grammar, spelling and usage errors.”

This reply was the result of a small-minded reader. Technically, it is fine to note a spelling error, but to make it the only subject of the reply was simply foolish. To ignore the entire content of the piece and to narrow down the focus to one word is an absurdity as well as intellectually lazy. This same commenter went on in another niggling post to say that this one misspelling made her wonder, “What else has this guy done wrong?” The poster had nothing to say about the actual issue in the piece and the conversation was useless after her minutia-focused comment.

This is a perfect example of allowing the hobgoblin of little minds to destroy critical thinking because, in truth, practically every book, magazine, and newspaper ever printed contains misspellings or grammatical errors. If applied universally this sort of foolishness would make everything ever written “done wrong.” It would make the large bulk of the world’s best thinkers easily dismissed and it would eliminate the capability to believe the veracity of anything in print.

The proper response to a word misspelled to to weigh it against the entirety of the piece. Does the author credibly relay his point despite a single misspelling or grammatical error? If so, then a reader should ignore the misspelling as meaningless. On the other hand, if the piece is rife with such troubles, then one could logically deduce that the writer has a serious lack of education and then, rightfully, one might begin to wonder about the veracity of what is being presented.

The French mathematician/philosopher Jules Henri Poincaré once wrote that “to doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.” This is the principle at work here. If you discount an entire work because of a single misspelling or error in grammar you are acting foolishly. To “doubt everything” in the piece because of a single misspelled word is just not very smart.

And here is where we are on the web. On one hand we see the doubters discounting everything presented without reflecting upon the message because of a misspelling or error in grammar. And on the other hand we have those dispensing entirely with all the rules of grammar altogether. Ultimately, neither side is communicating in any meaningful way and both often making the web a hellhole for the written language.

So, you grammur Nazis can jump off a clift. And the rest of you should buy an AP Style Book and learn a little bit about your native language before you force your ill-conceived web postings on us gain.

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Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as newsbusters.org, townhall.com, New Media Journal, Men’s News Daily and the New Media Alliance among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of publiusforum.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston


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