Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Me Worry? Hail to the age of the spell/grammar checker

Editor’s Note: Someone at the Times-Standard dropped the ball on New Year’s and didn’t run my column (below). Not the greatest way to start the New Year. I can only hope it’ll get better. 

                       By Dave Stancliff
Who needs to worry
about spelling and grammar any more?
In the age of Twitter and cell-phone texting neither matters. Fractured spelling is necessary to save space. Besides, who judges your grammar when using them? There’s a good chance your English teacher does the same thing.

We live in the Age of the Spell-Checker and the Grammar-Checker. They’re available to us when we use our computers and our smart, internet connected, cell phones.

When was the last time you picked up a dictionary or thesaurus? Did you know the world in which printed encyclopedias were produced and consulted has vanished? How many of these books are in your house? So why spend needless hours in school learning how to spell or to recognize a dangling modifier? 
Did you know that a dangling modifier is a phrase or clause, which says something different from what is meant because words are left out? The meaning of the sentence, therefore, is left "dangling."

If you’re a novice at translating Twitter tweets and text talk then you’re may be left dangling and wondering what has been written. Perhaps we ought to see if there’s a way to codify the fractured ramblings of millions of cyber communicators?
Upon second thought, any attempt to put structure to the tortured sentences that keep evolving among the tweeters and texters would probably be a failure. It would be rejected as quickly as our traditional methods of spelling and grammar. And why not?

Everyone is in a hurry. There’s just not enough time to learn all the rules of the English language. It’s rapidly becoming an unnecessary burden. There are new ways of thinking in the 21st Century that encourage shortcuts and speed.
Nowhere is poor spelling more evident than in protest rallies by the political Left and  Right. You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s common to see people proudly holding up misspelled signs and waving flags while trying to deliver scrambled messages of dissatisfaction.
  I seldom see news about Scripps National Spelling Bee contests anymore. Maybe I’m not paying attention. Spelling Bee competitions are reportedly making a comeback (see http://educationnext.org/competition-makes-a-comeback/). Be that as it may, I wonder how many of these phenomenal spellers bother to use their talents while texting or tweeting?

I’ve talked with students of all ages who tell me they have to bring “clickers” to class. A multiple choice exam is projected via computer and students click their answers. There’s less emphasis on written tests in all levels of education, from what I see.
  Computer technology in the class room has been hailed as a great teaching aid. Kids from kindergarten level up are comfortably pounding away at key boards and effortlessly navigating web sites. I wonder what would happen if parents sat their children down and asked them to hand write a short essay about their day? Could they write complete sentences with no spelling errors? How would their grammar level compare to yours when you where a kid? Are they able to write in legible cursive?

Should we blame all the funding cutbacks in our schools for our children’s inability to correctly use our written language? Perhaps we ought to take a look at the SAT Reasoning Test (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test)? 

 This standardized test for college admissions in the United States has a Writing section that includes multiple choice questions and a brief essay. The essay contributes about 28% towards the total writing score, while the multiple choice questions contribute 72%. You see my point. 
  Plenty of statistics show the national decline in writing and spelling skills. It’s a trend. Like all trends, it’ll play itself out one day, but the aftermath spells illiteracy for another generation.

  
 As It Stands, thnk U 4 redng this n lol!

1 comment:

Carl Hand-up said...

Thank goodness for spell check, now I just need to proof read my work.

It has been years since I picked up a dictionary or thesaurus?