Why can't bright young people spell, punctuate, or form grammatical sentences?

Look, I myself have instances of fumblefingers, and I make typos from time to time. I'm no stickler for Oxford English and I pepper my writing with colloquialisms. I use "ain't" and "gonna" and "hopefully" (which technically should be "one hopes"). Occasionally, I'll even say "anxious" when I should say "eager" (to be anxious is to be suffering from anxiety, not full of anticipation).

However, there seem to be two categories of people who don't know how to spell, to puncuate, or form actual sentences. 1) Hillbillies playing a banjo out on some Appalachian porch or 2) people under the age of 30.

Did the schools stop teaching English? Did it become an optional course in high school? Were the kids skipping class in favor of smoking dope? Is it too much texting? What's going on here?

By cracky (LOL), back in my day we graduated students prepared for college. Today many good institutions of higher education spend the first year bringing the students up to speed on skills they should have learned in high school.

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Working with people a decade or so younger than myself, I frequently encountered the opinion (with which I certainly do not agree) that proper spelling and grammar don't matter as long as you're understood — even if it takes a reader three or four times to comprehend it.  I personally believe in writing so that the greatest number of people can understand me; a mangled mess of misspelled words in a run-on sentence is hardly the best way to do that.

Exactly.

even if it takes a reader three or four times to comprehend it.

Read it twice and then throw it back in their faces and ask them to decode it.

As hard as it is for me to not take that a bit personally, I understand your point and couldn't agree more. I'm 20 years old, but was raised by a man who has a Master's in English and a wife who's no less of a grammar Nazi herself. Throughout my time in secondary and higher education, I ended up in conversation with so many severely uneducated people -my age and older- who could barely read, spell, or speak at a level that I had mastered by the time I was 7 years old.

It's sad that so few people care about grammar or even a general understanding of their own language. When they butcher it and someone calls them out on it, they just become defensive and that's it. They don't care to try and better themselves to avoid any such embarrassment in the future. It just doesn't matter anymore.

I'm under thirty, 27 in fact, but I don't take offence to this because you are right on so many levels. In particular I agree regarding this:

By cracky (LOL), back in my day we graduated students prepared for college. Today many good institutions of higher education spend the first year bringing the students up to speed on skills they should have learned in high school. 

Since your thread begins with 'why', I will have a stab at an answer. But first, a little background...

In 1995 I turned eleven, the internet was beginning to roll out, I started chatting to my school friends on the internet via a program called MSN Messenger. At around thirteen I had an epiphany:

"If I type all my IM chats using the Queen's English, then I'll simply get faster and faster at it ... once I'm older and have to write professionally I'll be proficient and it will just be automatic."

I think too many young people live in the now, too few young people plan ahead for their future. To them, Jersey Shore is 'better' than Wikipedia, imagine that? A show about the most superficial pretentious people they could find. Furthermore if within one's peer group the emails/messages/written material bouncing around back-and-forth is of a low standard, then why would one need to improve it? If someone tried to change into a more grammatically sensitive peer group then I'm sure they members of that peer group would call such an individual out as an idiot, to join said peer group one must raise their standards. 

Furthermore, I am unsure of the US but here in New Zealand there has definitely been a lowering of the educational standards students must attain in order to achieve their qualifications. 

I am sure that there are many factors, and of course I'm sure you recognise that there are some young people who have excellent written English. Am I one of those young people? Well if I am ... may someone else's imaginary God have mercy on us all. 

"Furthermore if within one's peer group the emails/messages/written material bouncing around back-and-forth is of a low standard, then why would one need to improve it? If someone tried to change into a more grammatically sensitive peer group then I'm sure they members of that peer group would call such an individual out as an idiot, to join said peer group one must raise their standards."


That is exactly the problem. Hardly anyone has standards for themselves anymore, within any aspect of their life, including their grammar and literary levels. I was actually made fun of by my so-called friends when I was in high school, on more than a couple of occasions, for speaking proper English instead of slang or misusing words (such as "epic" or "über").

Not only do today's kids "live in the now," many of them are addicted to technology to the point that they will be texting during class instead of participating. They experience extreme anxiety if they are temporarily separated from their cell phone. Anyone who is sending more than, say, 20 texts a day either has a serious and justifiable need for doing so, or they have a serious dependency on their phone.

I also don't get the preference for texting instead of contacting a friend by voice. Sometimes I'll get involved in texting with a younger person and after a while I realize that the whole transaction which took 15 minutes in SMS could have been handled in a two minute phone conversation.SMS is incredibly inefficient by comparison with speech.

Here's a question you need to ask yourself if you don't think you're addicted to your cell phone: Do you turn it off when you go to a movie, or do you feel you need to be so available that the best you can do is put it on vibrate? If you can't be unavailable for two hours, you need to consider whether your relationship to your phone is a healthy one.

When I go to bed at night, my phone is turned off and put on the charger. Nothing is so important I can't find out about it after a good night's sleep. So, what do you do? Do you leave it on overnight? Why?

Do you leave it on overnight? Why?

Yes, for the convenience of not needing to turn it on again in the morning. This is the same reason I turn my phone off in the cinema... it is rather old and is easier to turn off than put on silent. Maybe when I get a new phone I will put it on silent instead.

I've disabled texting completely; it's just a phone.

I turn it off in theaters, etc.

I leave it on at night, in part because I know (from having forgotten after leaving the theater) that I'd forget to turn it back on the next day.  But realistically, the main reason I don't turn it off is because it never really occurred to me to.  I don't know too many people who unplugged their wall phones at night, so using this as a barometer for mobile phone addiction, I think, is absurd.

The answer is simple and was really already given.  Language is fluid.  There really is no such thing as "proper" language, because it changes *constantly.*  The internet and other digital communications are having a massive impact on how language is evolving and it's not going to stop or even slow down.

Although I do have to admit that I want to friggin' CRINGE when I see someone mess up "your" and "you're." :)

If you attempt to land a good job with an illiterate resume or cover letter, you'll soon learn that, yes, there is proper language.

So, your point applies to casual and "street" talk, not formal situations or situations where you're trying to impress people with your intelligence.

Of course there's proper language. Language which demonstrates intelligence and mastery of language and seriousness will always get you further than one that doesn't meet such standards.

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