The last couple of weeks I have been busy updating the university style guide — you know the readily available, easily accessible booklet that serves as a “dictionary, a spelling reference, and a guide for basic grammar and punctuation”? A handy journal that helps you understand the difference between its and it’s, use and utilize, their and there. The bible for communication professionals across campus that helps them decipher when to capitalize Professor and when not. Every university has their own style guide, most basing it on either AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style and I frequently see posts on the College and University Editors’ listserv on the use of serial commas, italics or quotations, use of hyphens, etc. It’s like being in this little world of people who are obsessed — anal — about using the English language right.
But outside of that little world is another one — the real world. Where I see instances like these:
(They really are baked “daily.” Courtesy of the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks)
Probably ignorant mistakes, but they make me cringe nevertheless.
And when I get e-mails from cousins in India stating “i rememba all da tymz” and “da best part ov all z u know wat u cant even think dat u soo popular in my family n friends,” I wonder why I, and a handful of other like me, fuss over spellings, grammar, and punctuation at all. Why do we even give a damn?
I understand that in an age of texting and 140-character limits to posting your thoughts, spelling needs to be modified … it’s the need of the medium. But in an e-mail? In a resume? In a cover letter for a job?
It’s sheer laziness.
As Deb Boyken points out in one of her blog posts:
We don’t want to make spelling too hard for everyone, so let’s just drop the standards so everyone can do it.
Or as my cousin lovingly said: “i knw dis passage contains lots ov errors…but errors don matter wen all written frm heart coz heart knows heart language..it makes all sense ov gobbledygook too!!”
I am the style guide police on this campus, but outside its confines, out in the real world, between ignorant mistakes and lazy teenagers there’s nothing I can do about written language’s sad, but sure, demise.