Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

Summary: Technology is constantly blamed as the cause for grammar skill issues in younger generations. Is this actually the case?

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Mobile phone use and the popularity of social networks are often blamed for students who don't possess a good understanding of grammar. However, can we truly blame technology for poor writing skills, or are there other dominant factors?

How many things are wrong with the sentence below?

"I can'r stand people that dont know the difference between your and you're. There so stupid."

My Facebook feed is a continual stream of grammar train wrecks. This is simply one example of what many Internet users view with occasional cringing or a perhaps a pregnant pause to decipher a particularly perplexing status update.

There are a number of campaigns against bad grammar online. Dedicated in seriousness or as simple parodies, the complaint against poor grammar and spelling is a persistent one.

(Source : ZDNet)

Academics are among those who complain about the low level of basic grammar knowledge in entry-level students.

Paul Budra, an English professor at Simon Fraser University, said: "Punctuation errors are huge, and apostrophe errors. Students seem to have absolutely no idea what an apostrophe is for. None."

Professors find emoticons, butchered words and poor grammar knowledge in coursework and exam papers. Employers find spelling mistakes in resumes, and perhaps if they're particularly unlucky, the occasional smiley-face.

But can we blame technology for this? Facebook and Twitter, naturally it's your fault.

It's a stretch to sensationalise and blame illiteracy on mobile devices or online networks. As I recall, my first encounter with a 'smiley' was in primary school, used as a replacement for 'well done' -- and not through a Twitter feed.

The use of imagery as word replacement and shorthand is ingrained in the way we are taught in school. Smiley faces are used in primary, acronyms like 'RW' for 'reword', and 'imp' for 'important' litter marked essays in high school.

Extensive peer grading is used to save time, and although this has benefits, it is unlikely grammar mistakes and other classmates will pick up spelling consistently.

For my English A-level exams, I scored 95--100 percent across the board. However, I spelled 'February' wrong until I was in my twenties. This wasn't picked up in the ten years or so at school I had to write the full date in the right-hand corner of my workbook.

In the same way that you learn a second language, peer correction is a necessary component in improving grammar skills. (I still have nightmares over some incredibly cringe-worthy mistakes I made whilst learning Spanish). But this method is generally used in schools for marking answers to questions, and not to check writing quality in itself.

If social media platforms are now used as a main method of communication among younger generations, can it also be an unconscious way of enforcing poor grammar skills? I am yet to see anyone correcting grammar across Facebook -- unless it's imbued with sarcasm.

It is becoming a normal mode of behaviour online and through mobile devices to ignore punctuation, capitalization and grammar rules. This may be simply  because it's possible to use 'lazy English' without censure, or when texting it saves space and money. Or, pure laziness in itself.

I use text speak. I branch out with the odd 'LOL' or 'OMG' -- and yet I am still able to string together a sentence, and keep my resume free of spelling mistakes.

Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at the University of Oxford, believes that social networks promote 'infantalising' young users' communication skills.

The professor's case suggested that 'less sophisticated' children find it hard to separate communication online and in real-life situations, and that teachers complain of social networking influencing schoolwork.

Perhaps it does to an extent. But in a school system where dictation is rare and time is spent spoon-feeding concentrated doses of 'how to pass an exam' instead of basic skills, what can you expect?

In the UK, it is only from next summer that students will be penalized for sloppy grammar in English literature GCSE exams -- and even then, only up to 12 percent of their final mark. If we're taught proper spelling and punctuation isn't that important, how can we rage when students use it poorly online?

Grammar isn't given a high priority in Western school curriculums. It wasn't until I trained as a teacher that I was given any basic training in grammar, or had even heard of a preposition. Latin classes no longer existed in public school. When I began, I had no idea what the tenses 'present perfect' or 'past simple' were, let alone an understanding of irregular verbs beyond what I knew due to being a native speaker.

I wasn't the only one. Everyone in the course met up to complete our language assignment -- struggling through grammar explanations that we were then expected to teach the next day.

When I asked my tutor why grammar wasn't extensively taught in British schools, he replied: "You know how to walk, don't you? Why would I bother teaching you how it is you walk when we have exams coming up?"

If younger generations aren't taught basic grammar skills in schools, then we cannot expect standards to improve.

For future job prospects, this kind of attitude can have serious detrimental consequences.

Don't get me wrong. As a teacher, nothing annoyed me more than poor spelling and grammar. But I didn't point the finger at Twitter or Facebook. Nor did I point it at my colleagues. I pointed it at school systems that don't incorporate enough grammar, and a saturated exam syllabus that allows little time for teachers to actually teach basic skills.

If continual links are going to be placed between social networking and grammar standards, perhaps sound empirical research should be performed on what is actually a complex issue -- rather than taking the easy approach and blaming technology that happens to be popular with young generations.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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32 comments
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  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    You should have [er, should of] had "you're" in the headline just for grins.
    PB_z
  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    dis is sooo true! ppl cant freakin spell anymore! it drives me sooooo insane! :) :) :)

    On a more serious note, I agree that Facebook, Twitter, and mobile messaging has a lot to do with this. Especially, back in the day when SMS first appeared and people only had the numeric keypad to type.
    But now there is no excuse. I can send how many messages a day and post how many updates, and still be able to use proper grammar.

    What drives me up the wall is that I see older people - in their 30's and 40's starting to succumb to this nonsense. And I have no quarrels about correcting them either.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

      @Cylon Centurion

      I correct my 13 year old niece all the time. My Sister says I am too harsh and I should let the kids live in their current generation to which I reply then we will have a generation of morons.
      bobiroc
      • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

        @bobiroc

        I don't believe you're being too harsh, after all, when these people go for college, jobs, etc, they'll be out of luck. Like the article said these kids are adding emoticons to term papers and resumes. I can understand a misspelling here and there, but to type 'leik ur in elementary skool' is not going to work out. Letting them continue to do that is going to put them at a disadvantage compared with the kids that can type, and can spell.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

        @bobiroc The morons are already at the door. Now even middle age and older people SMS nonsense that takes time to decipher. Perhaps English language is undergoing significant and rapid change because of technology. I suspect that at some point in time poor english will become proper english...
        Bradish@...
    • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

      @Cylon Centurion Generally, even with an iPad, what comes out of my virtual keyboard is incomprehensible drivel. However, with a nice, tactile-feedback physical keyboard, my drivel is actually comprehensible. Well, at least to rhesus monkeys, it is.
      thetwonkey
  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    English is not my native language. Was I wrong that Internet is supposed to enable people in all country and different cultures to communicate?

    Should I expected the author of this blog to speak perfect Cantonese (which apparently very hard for non-native speakers) or she wouldn't be allowed to travel to my country?
    Samic
    • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

      @Samic Your argument might have a point if the people she was referring to weren't those raised in western school systems. Nobody expects foreigners to have perfect grammar skills.
      Aerowind
      • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

        @Aerowind

        What I find distressing, is that here in the States, most foreigners use better English grammar than most Americans do!

        I blame the public education system. Instead of teaching the basics, the system has gotten to entrenched in being so politically correct, that what is being taught is no longer factual, but revisionist.

        Going back to the three R's...Reading, Writing and 'Rithmatic, would go a long ways in improving the education in this country. And it needs to happen now. Otherwise, this country will be run by the uneducated.
        linux for me
  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    [i]I am yet to see anyone correcting grammar across Facebook ??? unless it???s imbued with sarcasm.[/i]

    I don't think you've been on the internet long enough. Unfortunately, in places like Facebook, people that do this more or less get branded as a "Grammar Nazi"...not to mention the people correcting often time correct mistakes with more mistakes, or even trying to "correct" mistakes that don't exist.

    Honestly, I believe that spell/grammar checking is more responsible for atrocious affronts to the English language than anything else. If it doesn't have a red or green squiggle underneath it, then it's obviously good.

    On another note, I actually had a really good grammar teacher in high school. I finally got fed up with Honors English having nothing to do with English and more to do with literature, symbolism, and all that jazz, so I dropped it for senior year for the regular English course. I learned more about English there than I ever did in any of those "advanced" courses.
    Aerowind
  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    This all got started with Text Messaging and somehow it was labeled as cool to type that way. It is not cool and makes the person look like an ignorant moron. Now with todays phones with full keyboards, predictive text and autocorrect (even though it sometimes does not work perfectly) there is no excuse for it.
    bobiroc
  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    This all got started with Text Messaging and somehow it was labeled as cool to type that way. It is not cool and makes the person look like an ignorant moron. Now with todays phones with full keyboards, predictive text and autocorrect (even though it sometimes does not work perfectly) there is no excuse for it.
    bobiroc
    • grammar, spelling and tech

      Are you kidding me? I have more inadvertent typos and unwanted or weird word choices than ever thanks to the tech. Especially from my so-called smartphone. I had to edit this short message more than I ever had to before my technology started "helping" me. Some keyboards today are so small or touchy it is too easy to hit the wrong key. The spell checker misses more than it corrects, and the autocomplete puts in the oddest word choices, and half the time I can't even see what I'm typing. It is tiring to use these keyboards and constantly scrutinize one's posts. No wonder people abbreviate, make up their own "language", and ignore errors. That said, you would be expected to show more care with official documents and papers, and likely aren't doing it on your phone.
      Linda Page
  • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

    If you've been in the Internet as early as 1997, you will see this happen all the time in the Internet. And yes, text messaging is all the rage during the times of year 2000 or so.
    Grayson Peddie
  • This is too good to pass up.

    A blog about grammar on ZDNet. How ironic.

    "sensationalise," "whilst," "behaviour."

    Hey ZDNet, what does your stylebook say about these? What's a stylebook? That explains a lot.

    Author: Add lazy publishers to the list. A strong editor would have done wonders for this cringe-worthy blog about cringe-worthiness.





    :)
    none none
    • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

      @none none
      It's British spelling.
      cosbornezdnet
      • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

        @canadatechie <br><br> It's British spelling. <br><br>Really? I had no idea!<br><br>Seriously, I guess you guys don't know what a stylebook is. And, Zak, you're a journalist, right? What's your excuse?<br><br>My criticism was directed at this publication. Brits write for American publications all the time, but the American editors enforce their style on all writers.<br><br><br>[EDIT] <br>I don't have a problem with British spellings per se, and I would expect to see them if I was reading the news at zdnet.co.uk, a British publication with a British editorial staff located in Britian!<br><br>What's offensive is that zdnet USA doesn't respect its readers enough to care about style. Style (and copy editing - also absent) only exists out of consideration for the readers. But draw your own conclusions.<br><br>However, I stand by my cringe-worthy comment:<br><br><i>"This is simply one example of what many Internet users view with occasional cringing or a perhaps a pregnant pause to decipher a particularly perplexing status update."</i><br><br>A pause perhaps but surely not a pregnant pause. Look it up.<br><br><i>"I am yet to see anyone correcting grammar across Facebook unless its imbued with sarcasm."</i><br><br>You might find someone at Oxford who will agree "I am yet ..." is grammatically correct sometimes. But it's cringe-worthy, nevertheless. <br><br>And BTW RW and IMP aren't acronyms.<br><br>If I'm not mistaken this author was a college student just a year ago or not much longer. I don't intend to be mean when I say an inexperienced writer one year out of school has much to learn about the craft, and a good editor is part of the learning process.

        I wish her luck.





        :)
        none none
    • RE: Your grammar is terrible. Get off Facebook

      @none none She's British.
      zwhittaker
  • Standard English Learners

    I loved this article, though I was surprised to read about British students facing the same grammatical challenges as children in North America.

    I think many of us would disagree with the remarks made by your former tutor about have grammatical awareness is as innate to children as walking, but just to put some muscle behind our argument, I would suggest that the tutor and anyone else who's interested, check out the work of Norma LeMoine on what she calls Standard English Learners. She essentially says that while we assume that all "native speaker" students understand and speak academic English when they come to school, we overlook the fact that students from many English speaking backgrounds come to school with grammatical and vocabulary knowledge that is heavily influenced by the dialects of English used in their communities (think of African American English, Native American English, and increasingly Spanglish in the U.S. context). She argues that instead of just correcting and criticizing "mistakes", we should explicitly teach the academic English structures that we want the kids to learn and then link those structures back to the structures learned at home and in the community... Here is a bit more about Dr. LeMoine for those who are interested: http://www.cultureandlanguage.org/scholars_a.html
    mgarretson
  • For some of us it is a struggle

    In early high school my reading comprehension was graduate college level. My spelling and written grammar was 4-5th grade level. I have to work very hard to over come my spelling mistakes.<br><br> "Good Spellers, Please Give Us Struggling Spellers a Break<br><br>Good spellers, please give us struggling spellers a break. Just becasue we cant spell doesnt mean we dont have something meaningful to say. Bear with an occasional creative spelled word. It isnt becasue we are too lazy or undisciplined to take the time to learn to spell well or to look it up. Some of us are just brain damaged. <br><br>Twenty percent of the population has trouble accessing the spelling part of the brain." <br><br> <a href="http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/poor-spelling-maybe-a-brain-problem/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/poor-spelling-maybe-a-brain-problem/</a>

    Edit: and
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11731-tricky-spelling-drains-the-brain.html
    dragosani