Email and text conquering the world

Here’s an article by Brad Crouch from the Sunday Mail.  I’ve been saving it since September 2006, because I think it just says it all…

The apostrophe is dead. Long live the apostrophe.

We appear to be entering a golden Shakespearean age of literature, where minor things such as spelling no longer matter.

As for that pain-in-the-butt apostrophe, he’s history – along with the comma, colon and his runt half-brother, the semi-colon.

Shakespeare didn’t worry too much about spelling. In his fast and loose age, it was about getting the message across – and the Bard got it across so well that his brilliant prose piercing the foibles of mundane existence remains in daily use.

But it seems his method of getting the message across, regardless of spelling, has taken a giant leap backwards as email and texting conquer the world.

U know, don’t worry 2 much abut cntent, its just wether u get wots sed.

F u u/stand, u cn gt by n an SMS wrld, ys?

Hoo neds speling gramer apostrofes comas or capital letuce – if u geddit yor OK im ok.

Yeah, right. Go down that path and we will end up like two rock apes trying to communicate with grunts and headbutts. Sure, a basic message might come across – “Me hungry” for instance.

But the nuances that make English so rich, the ability to communicate subtle feelings, to express strong points of view, complex emotions, abstract ideas, specific thoughts, will be lost in a shorthand sea of inane thumb-tapping.

I bring this up because for some weird reason I am regularly on the receiving end of emails from Year 12 students seeking help with exams based on stories I have written.

Good kids all, I am sure. Good for them for having the gumption to write. But I am increasingly disturbed by the number of students who greet me, a stranger, with an emailed “hey brad”, then proceed to describe themselves and their schools (some quite expensive) without using capital letters or my old mate the apostrophe.

Small stuff. Weeny even. But if I were hiring, rather than helping, I reckon I would want a prospective applicant to know how to put capitals in front of my company’s name. And where Mr Apostrophe lives.
Aye, there’s the rub (thanks, Shakespeare).

It is easy to dismiss concern about grammar or spelling as a throwback, a bone being gnawed by a pedant … until you apply with lousy grammar for a job and get a knockback, or key in shorthand language to a computer and find it is unable to decipher what you mean.

Who cares, you might say, whether it is whether, wether or weather (unless you are a castrated sheep)? Who cares if it is to, two or too, its or it’s, so long as the message gets across?

Frankly, I care. The risk of ambiguity or misinterpretation goes far beyond whether someone dots an i; it is about getting your precise message across in a crystal clear way so the person listening (or reading) understands perfectly what you wish to convey.

In this day and age the risk of misinterpretation can be disastrous. Just ask the Pope.

Words are weapons, and if they are used fast and loose with room for accidental or deliberate misinterpretation they can be deadly.

Certainly language evolves. And in this computer age it is expanding at a rate of knots. Fully sick now means terrific. Wicked means good.

That’s fine, but if we lose the ability to communicate what we actually mean, what we feel, what we want through the rich nuance of good language, we’re all in strife.

Smart students and smart families will always seek an edge. In this case they don’t have to be super-intelligent, rich or at expensive schools to get an edge – master the language so you are its master.

For our computer generation kids there is a plethora of websites waiting to help – for instance, just type “apostrophe” into Google and the mysteries of the little dude are revealed in seconds. Seriously, it’s simple.

And if you’re a lovestruck puppy who thinks a 10c ‘U R hot’ SMS is the height of romance, try a genuine thought from the heart, handwritten in black ink on crisp white paper – that is, if anyone still writes by hand.

Maybe I’m a dill for thinking spelling, grammar or handwriting matters. That the apostrophe has a future.

Maybe the comma is due for the last rites.

But I’ll close with a line a crusty schoolteacher hit me with as a smart-alec student which makes me think they are here for a few more years.

He did it with two quick strokes of chalk to a sentence on a blackboard.

The student said the teacher is a dill.

The student, said the teacher, is a dill.

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