Friday, May 20, 2011


I am becoming increasingly fed up with people who have little to no command of basic spelling or grammar.

If you graduated from high school, you should, at minimum, not be capitalizing random words in the middle of sentences.  German capitalizes all nouns.  English does not.  If you graduated from college, you should be able to spell almost every word you need to write.  That little red line in Microsoft Word means you should check the spelling.  If you're unsure, or an actual, physical dictionary will help you here.  If you have a graduate degree, you should be able to - and desire to - properly use commas and semicolons to avoid run-on sentences and aid clarity. 

Some people attribute poor spelling, grammar, and writing in general to the rise of texting and instant messaging.  Senders don't have time, or find it too difficult; recipients can "mentally fill in" missing apostrophes, commas, and capital letters.  I think there's some merit to this argument, but I propose that the greater cause is the decline of reading. 

Perhaps others had different experiences, but when I began to learn "conventions of grammar" in school, I actively memorized very little.  I was able to navigate lessons, assignments, and exams quite well simply by determining "what looks right."  I knew how words were spelled not because I studied hard for spelling tests, but because I had read them - in edited publications - so much that I had unconsciously absorbed the information.  When my third-grade teacher told me that we couldn't begin sentences with the word "because," I knew she was lying.  I didn't know what a dependent or independent clause was, but I knew that "Because it was such a beautiful day, many children were at the playground," was a perfectly acceptable sentence.  I knew this because I was a voracious reader and I had encountered this sentence structure on many occasions. 

I contend that many thoughtful and sincere individuals misspell or mis-punctuate many a word or phrase simply because they have never seen it in print, in a well-edited publication.  English is a language - especially when spoken quickly or sloppily, as Americans are wont to do - in which mishearing can lead to terrific misspelling and misuse.  How many times, for example, have you read a blog comment or Facebook post about something that is "for all intensive purposes"?  This is a misrendering of "for all intents and purposes", caused, no doubt, by having heard the expression without ever having seen it. 

I'm not perfect, and someone will probably come along and point out four or five mistakes I've made in this post alone.  I readily admit that I have a tendency to overuse commas and parenthetical expressions, an issue I have to edit heavily for with everything I write.  But it is my personal belief that excellent command of spelling and grammar will get one farther in life than nearly any other practical skill.  A person can say virtually anything, no matter how ridiculous, if it is spelled and punctuated properly.  The inverse is also true.  No matter how great one's ideas are, poor spelling and conventions will serve as a distraction that prevents readers from discerning and following the content. 

So, get to reading, people!  Expand your vocabulary, learn grammar and spelling and idiomatic expressions!  Learn to write and speak; let not this vulgar generation eradicate all beauty!

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My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23