who needs grammar?

Okay, I (unintentionally) started this conversation, and now that I did, I might as well finish it.

I didn’t have time for a longer Christmas-related post on Friday (I’ve been negligent, I admit), so I posted my “friday funny” instead. It was a silly image, perhaps — with the CIA stepping in to correct a person’s grammar — but there is a larger conversation here that’s been bothering me for some time.

Since moving to Knoxville I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for furniture on online yard sales through facebook. The online yard sales are a sort-of new and improved version of Craigslist and make it easier than ever to communicate with buyers and sellers. That said, they’re also a place where people frequently “show their true colors,” so to speak, and I’m never quite sure what to expect.




In addition to online sales, there are also online “watches.” The below examples come from a stolen bike watch in the Bay Area.




Say, whaaa?? Some of the above are simple spelling mistakes — perhaps the person was rushing, no biggie — but in others the grammar is so bad I have no idea what the person is saying. In these cases, I can’t help but wonder, “Do they know how confusing this is?”

Now, of course no one is turning these ads into their English teacher — I get that. What concerns me, though, is the connection I see between these and a larger societal trend that attempts to devalue and even make fun of correct grammar. I myself feel self-conscious when posting on facebook because I like to write full sentences and use punctuation. This is not the norm in online communities where short-handing and emoticons reign. After all, who needs “you” when you’ve got “u,” or “Way to go!” when you’ve got “👍“? (And, for the record, I see people of all ages writing in short-hand like this. It’s not just a millennial thing.)

But really, it’s no big deal, right? As long as you get your point across, who cares?

You’re right. It doesn’t matter — until college graduates don’t know how to put together a resume or write a cover letter, or until the lack of an oxford comma costs a company millions.


(For the full article, click here.)

The societal trend towards — I’m not even sure what to call it: illiteracy? ignorance? obtuseness? — is complicated and points to a number of factors, no doubt. Certainly our highly flawed education system and lack of government funding play a role, but I believe it’s more personal than that. I think it’s a trend we all choose to recognize and participate in or reject on a daily basis, and that it’s consequences are far more reaching than we realize.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just a girl perusing online yard sales.

11 thoughts

  1. I text in complete sentences. I have always texted in complete sentences. I have been teased for the length of my texts. Guess what?!? I am going to continue to text in complete sentences. Every once in a while I might add an emoticon for emphasis but it always follows a complete sentence. That is all.

  2. I not only use full sentences, I also know how and when to use a semi-colon. “Ten items or less” (almost every supermarket). Amount versus number. “Snuck” for god’s sake. ARGH! It’s horrifying. I know I’m not supposed to judge people on such things, but truthfully I can’t help it.

  3. I wonder how much is laziness and how much is lack of education or knowledge. Our 6 year old grandson explained verbs, nouns,adjectives and suffixes to us yesterday, and I thought, what a wonderful teacher he must have.

    • It’s a good question, Fraggle. I feel in many cases spelling errors or poor grammar could certainly point to a lack of education. That said, even social media tools often have spell check, and the majority of adults in the States have at least a high school education these days. It’s possible that I tried to connect two unrelated things in this post, but… I’m certain that laziness and a perception of what’s “cool” play at least a part in the conversation.

  4. Sounds like this was either someone who never attended school or was from a different country. Either way unintelligible. As usual love your writing Jessica. It’s obvious someone taught you well along the way.

  5. Reading your Facebook captions, I could barely understand what was being said. Had to read very slowly in order to get what was being said. Perhaps the person behind the bicycle posts were non-native English speakers or were from a different socio-economic class, and have a different degree of understanding the English language compared to others to speak it fluently. Like you, I like typing out my sentences on social media in proper sentences and syntax conventions, with proper punctuation. Not a huge fan of abbreviated words and it may not necessarily be a millennial thing…personally I’d rather spell out a word in full so everyone gets what it means. I do like to include emojis in my writing at times, though, especially in the context of chatting over social media – putting more emphatic emotion behind my words :)

  6. I work in an office where the executive leadership changes every four or eight years due to elections. In 2006, a new group came in and a few weeks into their administration I was commenting to one of the new executives how frustrated I was with the typos in somebody’s email. The woman, who was around 50 at the time, said it didn’t matter. People, including her, make mistakes all the time. So, yes, it’s not just millenials. I can’t read the local newspaper without finding typos in almost every story every single day. It’s disheartening to those of …. oh crap, I went way behind 140 characters. Gotta figure out how to edit this down to fit what is currently considered a complete thought.

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