When did people forget how to spell? Or complete sentences? Or form thoughts?

I just bought an electric guitar, ostensibly for my 5-year old, who requested one for his birthday, but really as an early graduation and Father's Day gift for myself. I didn't spend much; I found a good deal on an Epiphone "starter pack" and had myself an amp and a decent guitar for well south of $300.

I just bought an electric guitar, ostensibly for my 5-year old, who requested one for his birthday, but really as an early graduation and Father's Day gift for myself. I didn't spend much; I found a good deal on an Epiphone "starter pack" and had myself an amp and a decent guitar for well south of $300. I knew these sorts of packs existed and figured that they'd fill the bill (I wasn't about to spend much on something for which I may have remarkably little talent or for the kids, 5-year old included, who want to learn something cooler than piano). I'll buy myself something really impressive when I sell my first million albums; don't worry, I'll still blog on tour.

What I wasn't sure of was how good a $268 guitar and amp could be, so I did a bit of research, read user comments, and looked over a few reviews. The general consensus was that, although you get what you pay for, this was a remarkably good starter guitar. Why am I telling you all this? Because the user comments posted everywhere from Musician's Friend to Guitar Center really irritated me.

There were a few well-written and thoughtful remarks that helped my decision; largely they were written by folks like me who needed a better way to spend their mid-life crisis than with a redhead and/or a Corvette. Others were by semi-professional musicians who needed something cheap for practice, wanted to learn a new instrument, or wanted their own kids to learn as well. The vast majority, however, were written by adolescents just starting to learn guitar. Apparently these kids were too busy banging their heads to pay attention in English class. This is not a new complaint, but reading the comments was a painful reminder of how little attention too many kids actually pay to the way they present themselves. Firefox has a spell-checker, for Pete's sake! Here's one of the comments:

got this guitar a month or so ago. its my first electric and i really like it. it seems to be pretty good quality, except one of the knobs fell off the guitar. this is definetly the way to go for a beginer. it sounds really good for what you pay. the 15 watt amp package is also the way to go, its worth it for the extra 50 bucks you pay compared to the 10 watt amp packages. i have been playing some les paul standards at a music shop, and i would say you can tell a difference, so if you do have the extra money i would go with that out of the most of the epiphone models.

At least my run-ons have proper punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. Here's another:

this guitar sounds like crap it is very overated

I have to disagree, by the way. It's no Paul Reed Smith, but it certainly gets the job done. Here's my favorite:

i have a les paul and it sounded nothing like it it sucks. and one other thing i bout it. and played live and people claped. people went you to me and said i like your guitar sounds nice. you see what i mean. no jest kiding it i have a gibson les paul and this guitar and the sound is graet, and the amp for the size has a graet screem

What does that even mean? Of course, a better question is, what is the solution? I'm tempted to suggest that we simply have kids write more, especially in an online forum. While it's easy to say that people write very informally online, as we have seen, this sort of poor writing translates, even accidentally, into their writing for school and business. If we have our students generate well-written content online that their peers can review and critique, perhaps they will begin to associate online writing with some sort of acceptable standards; ideally, these standards would carry over into their business and academic writing, rather than having informal language, emoticons, and leet carry over. What do you think?