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Communicating Poorly With Approval

“My opposition to interviews lies in the fact that offhand answers have little value or grace of expression, and that such oral give and take helps to perpetuate the decline of the English language.” James Thurber

Arguing for substance and style in English, Thurber advocates consideration over less pondered thoughts. Reflection, that careful turning over of ideas before committing them to speech or writing, is what marks our march toward effective communication. Unfortunately, some are now out of step with that march, and their cavalier prancing is being endorsed by people who should know better.

“[M]illennials have created a new rulebook for a variant of written English unique to social media. A rulebook which states that deliberately misspelled words and misused grammar can convey tone, nuance, humour, and even annoyance.” Rachel Thompson

Writing in a Mashable article (external link) entitled “Millennials have created a form of written English that’s as expressive as spoken English, ” Thompson goes on to quote a University of Manchester Linguistics lecturer as saying that “something exciting” is happening with the way that millennials are writing and that in “breaking the constraints” of written English they can be as expressive as you can be in spoken language.”

Millennials are not solely to blame. Such messaging started with the tiny and often crippled keypads of mobile devices; shortcuts had to be found. Punching out the word “cant” is easier when no apostrophe symbol is at hand, or it has to be accessed with additional keystrokes. That a broken way of communicating evolved is no surprise. But it should not be considered as an equivalent or improved way of expression.

Mobile communications may be thought of as a pidgin language, something co-existing with proper English as a necessity of our modern age. Let no one believe, however, that its offhand delivery or graceless style in any way benefits the language at large. This isn’t an argument against spontaneity, it has a vital place in out lives. But spontaneous electronic hash is no substitute for considered English and should not be thought of as such. Time for certain writers and English authorities to get back in step.

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