Use of Language

I really value the reading that I do online.  It takes me places and makes me wonder like nothing else.  I can remember when research meant solely heading to the library and hunting down that one book that would put me over the top with the research that I needed.  We were all taught the research skills and were expected to exhibit those regularly.

Certainly things have changed.

Now, being connected results in so many options available to you.  From commercial products that require paid access for research and stories from folks who post and report their thoughts/research for free, we have so many options.

By blogging and sharing, I like to think that we amplify and personalize the reading and learning that we do.

We’ve always known this but there is something quite magical that happens in terms of learning when you’re forced to organize and share your thoughts.  (please note my use of “you’re” and “your”!)

Recently, though, I reflected that all of this reading is affecting my own writing skills.  Generally, the commercial services that I have access to are no problem.  They have all kinds of editors and proofreaders doing their thing.  If only I could rely on that everywhere!  The problem though, is that often there’s a time lag for those articles.  They may be “old news” by the time they get through their own vetting process.

The blog and online electronic sources are more nimble and react within minutes on a particular topic.  As a reader and learner, I really appreciate that.  It’s nice to be able to talk intelligently about the latest when you’re with a group of peers.  I think there’s a price to be paid for this luxury though.  The English language takes a beating!

This morning, I read the article “9 Most Annoying Grammar Mistakes that College Students Make“.  Of course, you could make the argument that any of those could be replaced by other mistakes but that’s OK.  What concerns me is that, with all the reading that I do, am I affected by these or others?

Recently, I was writing and while things just normally roll off the finger tips, I had written “your” when it really should have been “you’re”.  I absolutely stopped and had to think it through (my lips probably moved) before choosing the proper work and moving on.

This shouldn’t be happening.  I turned to my writing mentor…

She was kind enough to assure me this was a good thing…

…and then the conversation went downhill to talk about my sanity and the need for a writing support group.

But for someone who has gone through a school system, this shouldn’t require pausing and thinking.

Is our language at risk just because we’re using so much of it and in so many different ways?

I know that people consider language a living, breathing, evolving entity.  After all, “selfie” is the word of the year.

What’s next?  Will there come a time when we accept those 9 grammar mistakes as just part of the use of English?


2 thoughts on “Use of Language

  1. Hey Doug,

    I’ve been interested in how blogging is affecting language as well. I recently have read a few posts (from others, not you!) which weren’t polished; the grammar issues really bothered me as a reader. When I read fiction, grammar/spelling/punctuation problems *really* irritate me. In both cases, they distract from the reading.

    You said, “But for someone who has gone through a school system, this shouldn’t require pausing and thinking.”

    I disagree. Our language has evolved some nasty conventions which often give skilled writers pause. Sometimes I catch myself having unconsciously made a mistake (like the there/their error) – not because I don’t know the difference, but because I’m focused on the concepts. When I re-read my post (which I should do more often before publishing, I know) those errors leap out at me (and berate me a little) before I backspace them into submission.

    I think it’s worth knowing the language well enough that you can fix those issues with confidence if you notice them and that you make those errors infrequently. People should read the article you link to and make sure they’re clear on that stuff.

    Let’s re-read before posting, and forgive the small errors that all humans make when writing. I don’t have an editor. If you notice an error, please let me know (these words are out there forever, after all), but don’t be too surprised by it. And if someone’s really, *really* unsure about their writing, they should have someone look it over before it’s send out on the interwebs.


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