Disappointment with the grammar and spelling of some TA users

I've noticed that many of the forum discussions that TA has tweeted lately have contained glaring grammatical and spelling errors.  I find this disappointing and even personally embarrassing as it inevitably reflects not only on the original poster but on the forum as a whole and, by extension, the larger atheist community.  I know written communication isn't everything, and it certainly isn't a high priority among the public generally, but we should try to meet a higher standard.  Given the unlikelihood that individual posters will suddenly take more care when writing, I think the operators of the site's Twitter feed should consider not tweeting discussion titles with serious errors.

That's one poster's opinion, for whatever it's worth.

Tags: grammar, spelling

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The difference is sloppiness due to the immediate circumstances of the poster (including being at work, dyslexia, English not being one's primary language, etc.) and simple disregard of the forms. While I will readily agree that the message content is more important than the outward form, it's an unfortunate truism that that form is part of that content, if only a minor one. Careless disregard of that issue detracts from the substance of any conversation.

For my own website, Obfuskation, I've been known to go back into a page, just to add a single comma, because I personally feel that perfection in writing is required, to be believed, and if I'm going to set myself up as some kind of authority on my subject, it's important to me, that I be credible. That said, I don't criticize the writing skills of others (except for Unseen), just because I happened to have been fortunate enough to have relatively good ones of my own. There are a lot of people out there, who can do a GREAT number of things better than I, and I freely acknowledge that. If I can understand what someone means, that's good enough for me.

I recall quoting this anonymous poem before, and it may well have been early on, in this seemingly never-ending thread, this 25-page (so far) much a-do about nothing, but it may be worth quoting again:

There once was a man,
With a tongue of wood,
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth, it was lamentable;
But there was one who understood,
What the man wished to sing,
And with that, the singer was content.

I applaud your dedication to quality.  As I stated before, I tend to be a bit picky about my contributions as well.  My perspective on this issue comes from several people that I’ve known most of my life.  They are intelligent, insightful people who just happen to have rather undeveloped writing skills.  I look at discounting the content of a written argument due to spelling or grammar to be akin to discounting the content of a spoken argument due to a stutter or lisp.

I will discount an argument if it is articulated poorly enough. 'Poorly enough' is obviously subjective, but my threshold is probably a bit more finicky than the average person's.

The crux of the matter for me is this:

I can imagine a great number of scenarios in which a person made it through life with poor grammar or writing skills. That's all good and fine. In this day and age, however, where access to information is so easy, what is stopping people from improving their skills now? 

Sure, there are still going to be exceptions, but for the most part the question stands: why are people so adamant about not improving?

Can grammar Nazis be assholes? Sure, but that still doesn't explain why people fight so hard to defend complacency. 

Sure, there are still going to be exceptions, but for the most part the question stands: why are people so adamant about not improving?

Some people choose other priorities in life; others don't have so much of a choice.  I prefer not to speculate in that area, much less make value judgements based on those assumptions.

I simply focus on content over form in discussion, while you put more emphasis on form.  I see value in both approaches -- To each their own.

That doesn't answer the question.

Also, I don't place more emphasis on form over content; the form is part of the content. I am not a psychic. I can guess what others mean and am often quite accurate, but the more I have to guess due to the inadequacies of their writing (or possibly my reading comprehension), the higher the margin of error.

Imagine the following text exchange between a friend and I:

  • me: If you don't give me that five bucks you owe me, I might have to take drastic measures (if you know what I mean).
  • friend: Fair enough. I'd rather give you the five bucks then get kicked in the nuts.

In that scenario, I can safely assume my friend meant 'than', but you know what would be better than having to assume? Having it typed correctly from the outset. No risk of a ruptured scrotum there.

That particular scenario isn't a big deal, but it does demonstrate the value of clarity. That said, what if my friend is a masochist of the highest order and truly does want to get squared? By making an assumption, I've robbed him of the ability to express what he wanted to express. I can ask for clarification when in doubt, but if errors are so persistent that I am constantly asking, I am now compensating for someone who doesn't place priority on clarity of their own expression.

why are people so adamant about not improving?

Some people choose other priorities

That doesn’t answer the question.

Actually it does.  The reasons for those choices vary between people, and I’m not going to make qualitative assessments for reason/choice combinations where I am ignorant of the specifics, and that are none of my business.

the form is part of the content

I’m in partial agreement in that the form (spoken, verbal etc.), and the quality of the form, has an effect on the content, much in the way that a weak radio signal can cause static on the receiving end.  However, the content is simply the information being conveyed.  Weakness in form decreases efficiency of communicating the content, while high quality in form increases the efficiency and requires less clarification.

One of the reasons why my top preference is to communicate in person is that I consider engaging with the other person to be as important as the content of the discussion.  If someone’s communications skills are weak, then there are more instances for clarification, and those instances can be very rewarding in unexpected ways.  I used to work with a person who stuttered when he became nervous or passionate about something.  A little patience and understanding paid off, because he was extremely intelligent and insightful, and he became a good friend.

I also understand that the only actions that I can control are my own, so that is where I focus.  I don’t see where trying to make others conform to my standards (in whatever area) would be a fruitful use of my time and energy.  I also don’t see where I could claim that authority.

Sorry this is so long; it's late, I've got the flu, and I'm a little high on Nyquil.

Some years ago, within this century - I traded Futures (Commodities, for those who don't know the difference), and on the Raging Bull website, on which I posted, under the name, p_g_gargleblaster, Raging Bull had an "Ignore" button, that allowed members to ignore those whom they chose not to follow. This site doesn't have that feature, but if it did, there are at least two, upon whom I would use it, one of whom, would appear to be your adversary.

I'm not high on Nyquil, but it's Friday night, and if you'll excuse me, there's a lot of drunk I need to get --

It doesn't answer the question and I can explain why. The question can be distilled to the following at its foundation: Why are people so adamant about not achieving something readily achievable?

i) It is implicit in the premis and the question that it is not a priority. If it was a priority, it would either be achieved (or else the individual would represent an exception to the 'readily achievable' class).
ii) The question is about adamancy more than it is about actions.

Admittedly, however, my post was poorly written, so I apologize for my lack of clarity.

My issue is not with individuals, but rather with a general trend of cultural acceptance for poor communication skills. From facebook to professional media outlets, an eighth grade command of English seems to be high to average standard at best. 

I do not advocate condemning or disparaging individuals for poor grammar or writing, but neither do I make excuses for it. From my perspective that would feel patronizing and condescending. It's like saying that my expectations of people are so low that even the standards set for thirteen-year-olds need not apply.

I do not sit around grinding my teeth that 'good' is now an adverb and I have no intentions of starting a grammar crusade, but all the same, I don't get the complacency I see. When I see friends of mine struggle with English, I offer to help them out instead of just nodding my head trying to guess at their broken English as if it was a non-issue. It is, objectively, an issue (albeit a minor one).

Poor language skills are not really akin to a stutter (outside of, perhaps, certain learning disabilities). A stutter is a speech impediment which may or may not be manageable, but is not curable (as far as I know). Poor language skills are readily fixable.

I know that a few years ago, in the education system here, when a child wrote a story, spelling and grammar were not picked up, so as not to 'disturb' what the child was trying to say in their story - big mistake, I think.

And about stuttering, and speech impediments, they can be controlled with Elocution training from speech therapists. This sort of re-education has come a long way in the last thirty years. That is what the movie 'The Kings' Speech' was all about.

That's a strange school policy. I could see if they were teaching them to write in drafts and then revise, but even creativity has to be tempered with discipline.

I wasn't entirely sure on the subject matter of stuttering. I'm glad to hear that therapies have been improving over the years. I've only known one adult who had a stuttering issue. They had gone through therapy, and you wouldn't normally ever hear the stutter, but it would still resurface a bit under stress or fatigue. It's often the same with accents.

RE: "Why  are people so adamant about not achieving something so readily achievable?"

For any to answer that question, would be to imply that they can account for the reasoning of everyone so inclined, which of course, is preposterous.

I can, however, speculate, and one possible reason could well be that they don't much care what others think, as might well be inferred by the fact that they, in this case at least, are already committing two societal faux pas, being atheists in the first place, and secondly, posting on an atheist website. If they're understood by the one with whom they're communicating, that, to them, is sufficient; if not, they realize they can always clarify, when called upon to do so - something on the order of, "Admittedly, however, my post was poorly written, so I apologize for my lack of clarity."

A second reason may well be that they don't like being told what to do by a person who may be sufficiently fortunate as to have been taught in their formative years, how to string a line of words together in such a way as to violate no arbitrary rules, by some authority figure who asserted there was only one correct way to express oneself in a fluid, ever-evolving language.

If poor language skills are readily fixable, then I can only hope that the trait of being overly concerned about poor language skills, may be as well.


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