November 29, 2006
Traditional writing losing out to Internet
Are you concerned that Internet "shorthand" is
doing harm to spelling accuracy, writing quality and the
integrity of language?
Yes. Cute abbreviations are simply that, cute. But when
a generation replaces established writing standards with
instant-massaging protocols, folks who have not studied
the new language patterns will be even more confused.
For example, a traditional business e-mail might read
like this: "You are
to be at our offices for an interview at 8:30 am. to discuss a position, salary
and start date." A more contemporary method might read like this: "U
R 2 B @ Corp. 4 8.5 AM tlk re:jb, $ and Git-Go."
There is nothing wrong with either. But only the naïve assume that all patterns
of communication are clear. Furthermore, without the rigors required for mastering
spelling and language structure, there is no baseline from which to build direction
and accountability. It would not be appropriate to take the pressure off, simply
sounding out each word using phonetics - or maybe just call them "fonetiks!"
Many years ago, the word "super" was the cliché of the day.
If someone asked you how you felt, the answer was: super. How was the movie,
your dinner, vacation, birthday present, parent-teacher conference, new home,
golf game, fishing trip and on and on? Always, SUPER! And, to add insult to the
situation, decision-makers of the National Football League, in their effort to
properly title the Professional American Football Championship, elected to call
their title game the Super Bowl.
Other terms and phrases that have been and are overused,
even abused: totally, passion, cool, the cat's pajamas
(that one shows your age), empower, really, are you
serious?, bitchin' (from the 1960s) and you can add
to the list. These "hot
and relevant" words pepper what otherwise would be intelligent conversation.
They become throwaway terms and fail to add meaning because they are used indiscriminately.
Another word is "goes" - and it has become the verb of choice for
those not listening to their speech. Instead of, "He said he was going to
be late for the meeting," the new age linguists say, "And he goes,
'I'll be late.' " "Goes" becomes the catch-all and makes the
speaker sound like a gum-chewing, airhead with no awareness that nouns and verbs
are to be taken seriously. The word "goes" is not the same as mentioning
that another person: said, suggested, challenged, confronted, encouraged, offered,
sobbed and lamented.
Precise language is more effective and needs to taught,
modeled and monitored by those guiding the next generation.
Language discipline is one window into the operational
integrity of a culture. Short-hand dialogue and clichés
are useful, but only when they do not violate the integrity
of communications, interpersonally, professionally and
on the Internet.