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Does Grammar Matter Anymore? 878

Posted by samzenpus
from the pretty-talk dept.
theodp writes "A lighthearted 4th of July post pointing out how Microsoft Word could help Google CEO Larry Page catch typos in his Google+ posts turned out to be fighting words for GeekWire readers. "Grammar is an important indicator of the quality of one's message," insisted one commenter. "You shouldn't have disgraced yourself by stooping to trolling your readers with an article about what essentially amounts to using a full blown word processor for a tweet. Albeit an rather long example of one," countered another. A few weeks earlier, the WSJ sparked a debate with its report that grammar gaffes have invaded the office in an age of informal e-mail, texting and Twitter. So, does grammar matter anymore?"
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Does Grammar Matter Anymore?

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  • It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:50AM (#40590253)

    Whether grammar matters or not depends on the recipient of the message, not the originator. As anyone who has designed a compiler will tell you, it's an error-prone PITA to have to pre-process input before it is in a useable form. If the recipient can do this, no harm is done, except that the recipient is aware that the sender gave him more work to do than was necessary -- something usually not considered a compliment.

    • Re:It's like this. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WhiteHover (2679613) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:56AM (#40590319)
      You're completely missing the point. We should be talking about the quality of Google's tools here. If Microsoft's Word can help Google's CEO with grammar, then why the hell Google's tools cannot. It just means that Google (and cloud) is lacking behind and desktop apps still rule.
      • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Informative)

        by dtmos (447842) * on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:05AM (#40590417)

        You're completely missing the point. We should be talking about the quality of Google's tools here.

        If I'm missing the point, why does the submission end with the question, "So, does grammar matter anymore?"

        I would say that was the point.

        • by sycodon (149926) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:22AM (#40590621)

          "Don't grammar matter no more"

          Fixed.

          • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:46AM (#40590941) Homepage Journal

            "Don't grammar matter no more"

            Fixed.

            Knock that off, or I'll stab you with an exclamation point!

        • Re:It's like this. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jimicus (737525) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:27AM (#40590673)

          If I'm missing the point, why does the submission end with the question, "So, does grammar matter anymore?"

          I would say that was the point.

          I don't think you're missing the point, but I do think WhiteHover makes a valid point.

          If you're asserting "yes, grammar does matter" - then yes, you've answered the original question. But I would venture to suggest that if the answer is "yes", then the very next question has to be "Okay, given that grammar is important - and given that Microsoft have had desktop applications with built-in grammar check since around 1997 - how come Google don't?"

          • Re:It's like this. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by aslagle (441969) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:48AM (#40590947)
            Well, if grammar matters, then I'd say the question is more properly, "Given that Microsoft has had desktop applications with built-in grammar check since around 1997, why doesn't Google have one?"
            • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Legume (257598) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:02AM (#40591171)

              It's grammar that matters, not tools that pick up a handful of borderline grammar issues and false positives over and over again, while missing many more important problems. I'm pretty good at spelling, but spell checkers still catch me out several times a day. I'm only okay at grammar, but I can't remember a single instance where Microsoft's tool has been helpful.

      • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:31AM (#40590733)

        You're completely missing the point. We should be talking about the quality of Google's tools here. If Microsoft's Word can help Google's CEO with grammar, then why the hell Google's tools cannot. It just means that Google (and cloud) is lacking behind and desktop apps still rule.

        Actually, it doesn't mean that at all. The fact that some posts could be improved by Microsoft's tools doesn't mean those tools would be a net gain. In each new version of Word, I generally spend a little while trying out the grammar check function -- and it does occasionally catch grammatical errors. But, when used by someone who knows what they are doing, it more often misflags correct grammar, and it tends to be a net productivity drag, which is why after a short try-out period, it ends up getting turned off.

        If something is important enough to have someone proofread, you should do that. If it isn't—and you have any grammar skills of your own to start with—you're probably wasting your time using an automated grammar checker.

        • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Martin Blank (154261) on Monday July 09, 2012 @11:07AM (#40591965) Journal

          You may be one of the rare few that can truly tax Word's grammar checker but the overwhelming majority of people who believe that it's useless are flat wrong. I see this at work basically every day. I work with people who have degrees and should be able to write fairly well (at least well enough to not lose a grade on grammar) but neither properly capitalize nor know the common homonyms. There is also the unnecessary capitalization of words because people think they're acronyms: I see "WEB" and "FOB" (access tokens) all the time. That the lose/loose problem is spilling into the workplace is an even bigger sign of the problem. I'd love to be able to blame it on the new Internet generation, but as I see it among older professionals who don't really spend much time online, I suspect it's just something working its way through the culture.

          I don't flag it for people because it starts arguments more often than not. That doesn't stop me from cringing when I read e-mail from people who should know better, especially when they're sending out formal notices that really should go through grammar checks before being sent.

          • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by thomst (1640045) on Monday July 09, 2012 @01:00PM (#40593461) Homepage

            Martin Blank opined:

            You may be one of the rare few that can truly tax Word's grammar checker but the overwhelming majority of people who believe that it's useless are flat wrong. I see this at work basically every day. I work with people who have degrees and should be able to write fairly well (at least well enough to not lose a grade on grammar) but neither properly capitalize nor know the common homonyms. There is also the unnecessary capitalization of words because people think they're acronyms: I see "WEB" and "FOB" (access tokens) all the time. That the lose/loose problem is spilling into the workplace is an even bigger sign of the problem. I'd love to be able to blame it on the new Internet generation, but as I see it among older professionals who don't really spend much time online, I suspect it's just something working its way through the culture.

            The thing is, none of the errors you list are mistakes of GRAMMAR. Instead, each of them is a USAGE error, as distinct from a grammatical one.

            Grammar, per se, is structural in nature: basically, it's the rules of sentence construction. In common usage, grammar is often conflated with such topics as spelling, usage, capitalization, and punctuation, but they are, in fact separate issues. Tthe fact that you, yourself, conflate them is an indication of the size of the gap between what "everybody knows" about language, and what the technical terms they bandy about actually mean.

            Those of us who care about such distinctions are vastly outnumbered by those who don't - and the disparity in numbers is growing. Texting is a contributor to the problem, as is the dismal state of public "education" in the U.S. So is the perceived casual nature of email and blog commenting, where errors of grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation and capitalization are so commonplace that they have become the new norm - and fuddy-duddies like me, who insist on employing grammatically-correct, properly-spelled-and-punctuated Engilsh, paying careful attention to usage, are looked at as dinosaurs, at best, or, less charitably, as elitist snobs.

            Welcome to Idiocracy.

      • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bedonnant (958404) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:37AM (#40590805)
        Grammar used to be something that you learned in school. Using correct grammar means that you can express your thoughts clearly, which means that you can think clearly. You can use tools to catch typing mistakes, but if you need them to correct grammar, the problem lies with you.
    • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tsa (15680) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:03AM (#40590391) Homepage

      I think you're spot on. If someone writes and uses bad grammar (and spelling) it takes time to translate the message to normal [insert language here]. Not using correct spelling and grammar shows disdain for the receiver, wether intentional or not.

      • by alanthenerd (639252) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:27AM (#40590671)

        ...disdain for the receiver, wether intentional or not.

        Whether. Or was that intentional?

      • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:48AM (#40590957)
        I think the disdain is subjective. Grammar matters to the point that one person can communicate an idea; what matters most to is the content of a message, not the syntax and format. I speak with many people who are mentally challenged, maybe they don't always use proper grammar, but they don't mean to offend their audience.

        When reading content on the net I try to assume the author isn't a mad skillz 733t grammar professor and that possibly people make mistakes, It shouldn't detract from the message. I'm also not the greatest speller in the world, so I appreciate it when people over look my minor typos.

        I think the real issue is when people aren't willing to over look a typo or a missing comma and instead of focusing on the content of a message they focus on the formatting. Often I've seen someone post a comment where they're entirely correct, but get torn down because they used "their" instead of "they're" or "loose" instead of "lose" in a context were the intended meaning was evident. You'll see plenty of "let's eat Grandma!" and "I helped uncle jack off his horse" examples below demonstrating the importance of grammar, but most of the time, if people relax their anus' a little, it's easy enough to tell from the context of the situation what the author's intended meaning is.

        It's important to communicate ideas and, to me at least, the people who spend more time degrading others for the misuse of a rule are the stupid ones because they lack of ability to process and interpret content. We don't consider computers to be very smart, their tools that require very specific input. Think about what it would be like if the response to every other word you said or wrote was "segmentation fault". We as humans have the capability to derive meaning and understand abstract ideas, if a person is going to focus on syntax and formatting and ignore the message they're no smarter than a machine.
    • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bedonnant (958404) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:07AM (#40590443)
      You're forgetting the part where using improper grammar makes you look like an idiot.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gmuslera (3436)
        still depends on the recipient. If he doesn't care or don't know the proper grammar, won't matter a lot. In fact, "wrong" grammar could be a part of a subculture where the proper one is bad. And is not just for english, i'm very aware about how this is going for spanish, and probably other languages suffer the same problem too.
        • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Informative)

          by bedonnant (958404) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:31AM (#40590715)
          For private conversations, maybe. At work, though, bad grammar always makes you look like an idiot. How would you like to hire someone who can't even spell correctly on their resume?
        • still depends on the recipient. If he doesn't care or don't know the proper grammar, won't matter a lot. In fact, "wrong" grammar could be a part of a subculture where the proper one is bad. And is not just for english, i'm very aware about how this is going for spanish, and probably other languages suffer the same problem too.

          Proper grammar is definitely contextual. When speaking to your peers, grammar may vary based on what is acceptable among them - so that one doesn't "stand out" or come across as trying to be "above" them. It's ridiculous that this is necessary - that speaking intelligently among any group can get you singled out as not belonging - but it's hardly new.

          During my couple years as a landscaper after high school, I quickly learned that speaking proper English ain't no way to earn the respect of coworkers. (And - trust me on this - correcting them was *definitely* not the answer.)

        • Re:It's like this. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hackula (2596247) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:07AM (#40591261)
          Very true. Being in the south, you see that sales people seem to have their own dialect. They intentionally sprinkle in slang and "Good Ole Boy"-isms all the time. Every business interaction is an act of some kind. When sales people talk like that to the engineers, of course they sound like morons, but to a client, it is conversational and disarming. Look at presidential campaigns. Whenever Hilary Clinton walked into an AME church, she started throwing out "ain't"s and "yall"s like candy. To be an effective communicator, you have to understand the context and audience more than anything. Of course, if you are incapable of using grammar correctly when it is required, you are going to be fairly limited.
      • Re:It's like this. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:27AM (#40590665) Homepage Journal

        Not necessarily an idiot, but ignorantly uneducated and aliterate. Ignorance != stupidity.

        No, "aliterate" wasn't a misspelling or typo.

      • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:27AM (#40590675)

        You're forgetting the part where using improper grammar makes you look like an idiot.

        I was wondering when you grammar nazis would get around to sending a regiment our way but I see you felt alarmed enough by that headline to scramble an entire panzer corps.

    • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by udoschuermann (158146) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:12AM (#40590501) Homepage

      Use of proper grammar is an indicator that the originator of the message cared about the message, and would rather have the message be heard loud and clear, than allow presentation to distract from its poignancy.

      Whenever I read things like "id like to by a new car," I cringe inside, imagine some grunting ape who happened across a keyboard, and move on without thinking about the attempted message. If that was the intended effect, then "buy all means," have at it, folks!

      • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RJFerret (1279530) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:15AM (#40591361) Homepage

        Not only an indicator they cared about the message, but that they care about how they present themselves.

        Does grooming matter? Does proper attire matter? Does body scent matter? Does posture matter? Does makeup matter?

        In a world where more communication is text based rather than face-to-face, I'd suggest grammar matters even more.

        (But please don't encourage those who don't value themselves to deceive.)

        PS: Even in an MMO grammar and spelling matter, those who can't communicate effectively don't get invited for runs, don't interact as much with others, and don't make the same progress, as those who do, regardless of skill level, ability, and other attributes.

    • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:13AM (#40590517)

      Who are you communicating with? I toss resumes with grammar mistakes. Yup, I'm an asshole. However, I've got plenty of resumes, and I want programmers who can communicate clearly. Similarly, I make an effort to write clearly and use decent grammer. Perfection isn't the point; clarity of communications and the perception of competency, are.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:22AM (#40590609) Homepage Journal

        Similarly, I make an effort to write clearly and use decent grammer.

        Oh, the irony...

         

        • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by necro81 (917438) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:31AM (#40590721) Journal

          Similarly, I make an effort to write clearly and use decent grammer.

          Oh, the irony...

          No, making a spelling error while professing to use decent grammar is not an example of irony.

          • Re:It's like this. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by rockout (1039072) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:16AM (#40591367)
            You could argue it is, due to the close relationship between grammar and spelling in the current context. For example, he'd likely toss a resume with grammar OR spelling mistakes in it; although he didn't explicitly mention spelling errors, that part can be reasonably inferred.
        • by RaceProUK (1137575) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:31AM (#40590737)

          Similarly, I make an effort to write clearly and use decent grammer.

          Oh, the irony...

          You must go to the Alanis Morrisette School of Irony.

    • Re:It's like this. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:15AM (#40590547) Homepage Journal

      Don't forget the problems of misinterpretation and ambiguity.
      Not understanding the message is one thing, but understanding it as something that wasn't intended is worse. And when correctly parsing the message and the result is completely different from what the author intended, it's worst of all.

      Not only do people use reduced vocabularies and lackluster grammar, but they use words and phrases wrong, so unless the recipient also does it wrong, the same way, misunderstandings are very likely.

      In short, I think it boils down to people not caring much anymore. There's no pride in anything one does. The "whatever" generation is taking over.

    • by ElmoGonzo (627753)
      I agree. Grammar is a bit like neckties insofar as it is possible to function without one but when you wish to gain admission into establishments where they are required, neckties become indispensable. There are places where precise grammar is needed to reduce ambiguity and establish clear meaning but the primary function of grammar is to establish linguistic register. http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/registerterm.htm [about.com]
    • by ameen.ross (2498000) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:27AM (#40590669)

      Maybe we should start making scary sounds when someone uses poor grammer in a conversation, just like compiler warnings.

  • "You shouldn't have disgraced yourself by stooping to trolling your readers with an article about what essentially amounts to using a full blown word processor for a tweet. Albeit an rather long example of one," countered another.

    Yeah he is being right about criticizing the example being an too long one. Why Jack Kerouac's On-the-Road is stream of conscious flowing but my posts, the ones that have the similar validity of writing or of grammar, are the same quality for some reason make you mad while his wins awards? Society has the double standards if we're going to talk about any of.

    • by therealkevinkretz (1585825) * on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:04AM (#40590407)

      You're confusing subjective preferences for style with objective rules for grammar.

      Poor grammar and spelling certainly detract from a a poorly-communicated opinion. Are some people using technology to 'fix' what would otherwise be evidence for educational or literacy shortcomings? Sure. That doesn't make those who aren't using them any more educated or literate.

      I think that people with a poor grasp of grammar and language rules don't recognize or assign as much weight to their absence. Including, judging from your words, you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jsmyth (517568)
        I think that people with a poor grasp of grammar and language rules don't recognize or assign as much weight to their absence.

        This.

        An otherwise competent writer may still not know when to use "which" vs. "that", why not to use a comma splice, or when precisely to use "whomever", and as a result may not see the value in following those grammatical rules. Someone who knows when to use an apostrophe, when to use "they're", "their" and "there", and when to use "John and me" correctly might consider themselves

    • Proper Spelling and Grammar does have its place. Usually when communicating with a larger group of people, who use proper Spelling and Grammar as a common ground for understanding.

      However I usually get quite annoyed at people who think that Spelling and Grammar effect the quality or correctness of your message.

      But Grammar isn't perfect as well, and it needs to be broken, sometimes. I remember a Hell class with a teacher who was a Grammar Nazi, She had one sentence for a question for a 10 page paper. I re

      • However I usually get quite annoyed at people who think that Spelling and Grammar effect the quality or correctness of your message.

        Unsurprising, given the quality of your efforts:

        I read that question over and over for 20 minutes trying to comprehend it, it was grammatically correct, however it was vague, if the teacher was willing to break grammar for that one sentence, the question would be completely clear.

        Because the question was based on the my views on the characters views, which were.

        Break grammar by

      • I'm sorry! (Score:4, Insightful)

        Can't... help... myself...

        ..and Grammar affect the quality...

        There. FTFY.

        Ahhh. Better now.

  • Grammar, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benito27uk (646600) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:53AM (#40590291)
    The difference between knowing your shit, and knowing you're shit.
  • by El Fantasmo (1057616) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:53AM (#40590293)

    Let's eat Grandma!

    or

    Let's eat, Grandma!

    Yes, grammar is still very important.

  • by ae1294 (1547521) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:55AM (#40590313) Journal

    Grammer is meaning less. All your bases are belonging to US now...

  • by LordKaT (619540) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:57AM (#40590323) Homepage Journal

    Yes it don't matter to anyone not looking to never make any conversation.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:58AM (#40590331)
    Muphry's Law [wikipedia.org]

    Personally I believe proper grammar to be very important, as it's the only way to be absolutely clear as to what the original person intended to say. For instance, this humorous example of why capitalisation is important:

    I went to the family farm, and while there helped my uncle Jack off a horse.

    Now drop the capital "J".

  • Yes, it does matter. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:03AM (#40590375)
    Just like size matters, it depends on the context.
    Some good examples:
    "Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."
    "My interests include: cooking dogs, reading, poetry, fishing and music."
    "Goats cheese salad ingredients: lettuce, tomato, goats, cheese"
    "Butcher's sign: Try our sausages. None like them."
    Of course there is always engrish [slashdot.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:07AM (#40590439)

    Not flying happy grammar discuss message deliver clear structure understand.

    (NOte: this is not off topic. It's an example of terribly bad grammar. Does it not matter?)

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:08AM (#40590471) Journal

    If you believe that it's ok to use tweetspeak and such in emails and electronic communication for business, etc. - then please, be my guest.

    I sincerely doubt that any amount of persuasion from me is going to convince the people who already do this to change their habits. On the contrary, I invite people to use WHATEVER language they feel is appropriate in their communications with management, coworkers, and customers.

    When I get your email, I'll treat you with the respect and professionalism it appears to deserve, and I look forward to watching your progress in the workplace/marketplace.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:11AM (#40590497)

    Grammar may not be all that important in informal communication, so long as one's message can be understood. There is an accounting manager where I work who has terrible grammar. He also sprinkles his emails with business buzzwords. Consequently, I can never make heads or tails out of what he is trying to convey in his emails, and always have to schedule a face-to-face meeting with him to figure it out.

    On the other hand, there are some people I work with who, though they have poor grammar, are still able to make their needs clear. Their grammar gaffes are forgivable because they can still make themselves understood.

     

  • by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:28AM (#40590677)

    Grammar checkers can die a miserable death.

    I turned off MS Word's after too many false positives such as eliminating the passive voice - I don't need some bullshit rule telling me my thoughts are invalid.

  • by Norwell Bob (982405) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:29AM (#40590695)
    As of late I've been noticing and commenting to friends about a growing disregard for spelling, grammar, and proper English as a whole. In school I was taught to never use contractions when writing a "professional" piece; I see that constantly now. I was also taught to avoid "familiar" language and colloquialisms, to spell out any number ten or lower, and things like this. It seems to me that "Tweetspeak" and shorthand common to texting and Facebook messaging are now considered acceptable to journalism editors, particularly online.

    Has this caught anybody else's attention?
  • Brain bandwidth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:31AM (#40590731)

    Bear with me if this seems offtopic at first: Reading and writing are powerful not just because they store things permanently, but because they amplify the speed of communication. I can read five times faster than I can listen to someone talk. (This is one reason why video blogs, Youtube howtos, and other videos which are nothing but people talking are so annoying: it's frustrating to wait for someone to flap their mouthparts to make ideas come out, when I could get those same ideas much faster if they'd written them down.)

    So reading is like a high-speed downlink to the brain. BUT, it only works if the author has taken the time to spell and use grammar properly. I can still read badly-written text, but puzzling it out slows me down, to the speed someone can talk, or worse. There's a tradeoff here: it takes a little more time for someone to write something down, and write it properly. But that pays dividends each time someone reads it, and with the exception of PhD theses, anything worth reading is read by multiple people. So if you make a video message instead of writing, or you don't take the time to write properly, what you're telling me is that your time is more valuable than mine. So don't be surprised if I'm insulted at your arrogance.

    We seem to be heading toward a postliterate society. I have no problem with losing the art of writing per se: the problem is that by losing *reading*, we lose the single biggest accelerator of human thought ever invented. You've heard of the "last mile" problem: this is the "last two feet" problem. In a world where data flows through wires faster and faster, the last hop from screen to brain is getting slower and slower as we lose the art of writing well.

    Now, all of this is only true if everyone reads faster than they can listen to someone talk. Sadly, that's not the case. The problems of a postliterate society are invisible to people who aren't all that literate to begin with.

  • Grammar only matters to a point because English grammar is an antiquated inconsistent mess of silliness whose chief purpose is keeping English teachers employed. Many great minds over the past few centuries have argued that grammar does not matter. Seymour Papert cites studies showing that children who are good at math can be turned off to English [mxplx.com] because its rules are illogical and inconsistent. Isaac Asimov blamed our inconsistent grammar and spelling system [mxplx.com] for illiteracy in America. Richard Feynman argued that if kids are having problems with grammar and spelling then there are problems with your grammar and spelling standards [wordpress.com]. Benjamin Franklin proposed a phonetic spelling system [mxplx.com] arguing that our current alphabetic spelling system would become like Chinese characters, devoid of an phonetic meaning if we did not implement reform. China implemented spelling reform to simplify its characters in order to improve literacy [wikipedia.org] with quantifiable results.

    I'm approaching this as someone who majored in English in college before going into programming. I couldn't get a job working for a newspaper because the editors would take one look at my BA and say, "Sorry. You know how to write." It took me years to understand what they were talking about. Grammar is important to the point of being able to properly communicate ideas, but that's all. Grammar-nazism is all about job security for elitist journalists and English teachers at the expense of increasing literacy in America. It's like the imperial/metric debate or qwerty/dvorak keyboards, just another out-of-date standard that could be fixed in one generation if that generation could get over the fact that "through," "coo," "do," "true," "knew," and "queue" all rhyme nonsensically but spelling them "throo," "koo," "doo," "troo," "nyoo," and "kyoo" simply looks silly despite being logical.

  • by Stolpskott (2422670) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:38AM (#40590825)

    Several psychological studies (the earliest and most quoted I am aware of, being by Albert Mehrabian) list the actual words and grammar used in a message as carrying about 7% of the meaning the message recipient picks up in verbal face-to-face conversation. The rest is about 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language.
    Written communication, stripped of the tone of voice and body language, means the recipient is relying on only 7% of the normally available information to determine the content and meaning of the message, giving 93% guesswork.
    If the message sender includes poor grammar then that 93% guesswork will be compounded by the tendency of the message recipient to make assumptions about the intended message and the relative inability of the recipient to get immediate feedback about the meaning of a specific sentence.

    "I don't want nothing from you", and "I don't want anything from you" have grammatically opposite meanings, but in verbal communication are usually taken to mean the same thing, especially with the recipient's ability to query the message and interpret the message sender's tone of voice and body language.
    It is easier for a person with bad grammar skills to correctly understand a message from a person with good grammar skills, than for a person with good grammar skills to understand a person with bad grammar skills, but the possibility for misunderstanding is there in both cases.

    As for the price of poor grammar, In October 2006, a contract dispute between Canadian cable company Rogers Communications and telephone company Bell Aliant revealed that a misplaced comma can be worth $2 million.

    The contract said:

    "This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."
    Rogers Communications believed the placement of the second comma stated the contract was good for at least five years, while Bell Aliant said the comma indicated the deal could be terminated before if one year's notice was given.

    In the end, Canada's telecommunications commission sided with Bell Aliant. They stated the comma should have been omitted if the contract was intended to last five years in its shortest possible term. As a result, Bell Alliant was able to save over $2 million by ending the deal early.

  • The thesis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:52AM (#40591021)

    So the thesis for the "no" side is that grammar matters less now that writing has become a much more important day-to-day communication medium.

    That makes perfect sense.

  • by nerdyalien (1182659) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:03AM (#40591201)

    I am residing in South-East Asia for the last decade or so. You must come here (even for a short holiday) to witness yourself how little natives over here care about English grammar and/or sentence structures. Apparently, there are local dialects such as Singlish (Singaporean English) and Manglish (Malaysian English). Give or take, both dialects are quite similar; and as far as the origins goes, it is direct word-to-word translation of Chinese phrases into English; though they have evolved over time with many more borrowed words and expressions.

    Some interesting examples being:

    English: "Would you like to join us for lunch now?"
    Singlish/Manglish: "You wanna go lunch or not?"

    [in a situation you disagree/reject something]
    (E): "I do not agree with your suggestion"
    (S/M): "Cannot one!"

    [giving a lift to your friend]
    (E): "I will come and pick you at the library, and drop you at the railway station"
    (M): "I fetch you from library, then fetch you back to the station"

    Search youtube.. there are plenty of Singlish videos.

    Though I find these dialects are an energy efficient way of speaking English, and somewhat amusing to listen; I must confess that I find them nothing more than a nuisance, especially in a professional working environment. I often have communication issues with colleagues who are proficient in these dialects. Most of the time, they do not understand what I am talking about, and gives me strange looks. Then, I happen to run into the problem of misunderstanding instructions from my bosses, now that was pretty bad and costly.

    I am finding it difficult to tell natives "Your English sucks!" to their face. Partly because it is rude and such remarks could go down quite horribly. On the other end, they them selves have this high esteem that they speak proper English, since most of them spoken or studied in English medium since a very young age.

    Though I admit I am not perfect (after all, English is still my second tongue), I always thrive to write grammatically correct English, even when I am sending a text message. All in all, getting the right message delivered is much important than anything else in any form of communication. It puzzles me why internet age kids do not pay much attention, nor put effort in proper communication skills these days.

  • Reading the first 100 comments on this post, I don't think a single person actually clicked-through to see the actual story and Google+ post being referenced.

    The mistake is not a case of "bad grammar" *AT ALL*. It is a simple typo and is totally obvious to anyone reading it. I make typos in tweets and posts all the time - sometimes the spell-check catches them, sometimes it does not. A typo is not "bad grammar", it is a simple mistake.

    It isn't the end of the universe because it's not a professional document.

COBOL is for morons. -- E.W. Dijkstra

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