Friday, December 21, 2007

Like, Don't Never Say That

Are You Talkin' To ME?

I just read a piece in the local newspaper that talks about an unofficial political blog that endorses one political party. It matters not which party is being endorsed, the crux of the piece is that people, mostly immigrants, are using non-standard English in the blog. It included examples of poorly and grammatically incorrect copy in the blog. The blog expresses certain American values that supposedly include proper use of the English language but is written in a fashion that is anything but.

The author of the blog claims to represent a particular constituency and feels that her writing in non-standard or "broken" English is perfectly fine among those who would read the blog. The logical extension of the blog's author is that many immigrant American citizens do not speak standard English so they should be able to read the same in a blog and anybody who disagrees must be racist.

Good argument, but totally flawed. I grew up in an area, an era, and a community in which most people of my grandparents generation spoke a culturally rich version of fractured English. Some might call it pidgin English. In effect the language spoken was a mixture of terms and expression from their native language, mixed in with terms used in the trades in which they worked, and sprinkled with survival English (if you can order food and find the rest room, you speak survival English). Many of the immigrants were illiterate or borderline literate in both their first language and in English. Others were able to read daily newspapers, and other English printed material, even textbooks, but spoke with distinct language differences.

Hence, written and spoken English can be vastly different. The way one speaks, especially if one speaks in a non-standard fashion, does not necessarily reflect the way one writes or reads. Poor written English is poor written English. That's all there is to it. Further, with the advent of computers and word processing programs, no writer has an excuse for misspellings or grammatical errors, as spelling and grammar checks are as easy as moving a mouse or clicking a button.

In sum, writing professionally or academically in non-standard English, with misspellings or grammatical errors is simply not ok. I never got into e.e. cummings material style during the avant garde 1970s. If you wish to be a writer but your grammar and spelling is suspect, use the tools literally at your fingertips. If you wish to further streamline your writing, hire an editor. But never, EVER take the position that poor writing is somehow chic or clever. Amen.

A little blogging music maestro... anything but, "I Ain't Givin Up Nuthin."

Dr. Forgot

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