The Information Age of Bad Writing


PunctuationBefore I embark on this tirade against most people who use the internet, I feel I must preface it with an acknowledgement that I am not perfect and I know that I make mistakes too. However, that is not going to stop me ranting about the shockingly poor level of literacy we seem to have in the western world today which seems to stem not from poverty but from laziness.

To my mind, the internet is a good thing and the very fact that I am writing this shows that I am a keen user; I use most of the standard social networking sites, I shop online, I blog, I bank and I generally spend a good deal of time “browsing”. The problem I have is that the internet is possibly the most un-edited method of communication we have ever had. Not only do we have trolls shouting out abuse that they’d be far too scared to actually say to anybody’s face but we have the literal problem of a lack of editing. How many reviews have you read which are written in text speak? How many times have you seen the word “definitely” spelled as “defiantly” or “definatly”? This is just the tip of the iceberg…

When I was a school girl, my world was much smaller than it would be if I were at school today. Encarta was the goddess of computers and homework research, she knew something about everything. I mean an encyclopaedia in a computer, who’d have thought that was possible!?! The thing about it though was that it was edited, it was largely fact rather than opinion and the English in it made sense – words were even spelled correctly! These days kids grow up with literally no idea how to write; for every Dickens novel read by a child, they probably read 100 incorrectly spelled and punctuated comments on the internet. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they had parents whipping them into shape but we now face an era where stupid literally breeds stupid. If there is no role model for the child, they are unlikely to learn the correct techniques from external influences because there is simply so much rubbish out there.

We have spell checkers and a wealth of tools at our fingertips allowing us to write something that vaguely resembles the language it is supposed to be yet still people get it so very wrong. What’s worse is that it seems to be okay to do this. Even people who I know are teachers write appallingly badly and they’re not writing in text speak, they genuinely do not know how to use apostrophes or what a semicolon is. If they don’t know that, however will we end this continual cycle of error-ridden writing? As somebody who loves to read and write, this concerns me. It concerns me on other levels too because this is a symptom of a much wider epidemic of laziness and this laziness seems to be getting worse rather than better. I don’t want to live in a world where it’s acceptable to have low standards, I want to live in a society that is proud and hard-working but it seems to be drip, dripping down the drain and unfortunately one of the things I love most seems to be escalating the issue. Sorry internet, I do love you but you seem to be allowing the lazy people to thrive and I’m not sure I’m keen on that.

I don’t know what I can do about this and the fact is it’s probably little more than writing this post and giving people I know friendly nudges that they might want to check their work but I had to say it. It was one of those things I needed to get off my chest and some encouraging words from a couple of my theatre friends gave me the final push I needed to publish this. I’d like to say I’m sorry if I’ve offended you but really, you’ve probably already offended me with your terrible writing so now you can consider us even. As for the rest of you, have yourselves a super day and I’ll be back soon with something more upbeat! x

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