Monday, 9 May 2011

U is Not a Word!

I was looking at a Facebook update on the weekend, and for such a short message it had a large number of errors. The kind of errors I would hope most people can see immediately, if they have a decent grasp of the English language. I pointed it out to my husband, who was about as put off by it as I was. It was meant to convey a message about what the individual was doing at that moment in time, but it also told a story about what the person hadn't been doing the past few years. And probably, about what that young person's teachers had been neglecting too.

I know I'm not the only one who appreciates a well crafted turn of phrase. There are still literate people out there who enjoy reading a colourful description. There are still lots of curmudgeons who complain about the mistaken substitution of certain homophones in writing, and who are concerned with how common netspeak has become.

No, "U" is not a word! It's one thing when you are paying for a newspaper ad by the letter, or when you are limited to 140 characters per Tweet. But what about when the abbreviations creep into your other writing? What about when netspeak creeps into your verbal self-expression? Have you ever caught yourself saying "LOL" or "OMG" out loud?

I learned to use abbreviations and self-styled shorthand in high school to take notes. These are useful things, as are the abbreviations that allow people to convey meaning concisely using a Tweet or a text message. I'm not a fan of certain abbreviations, but there are lots that I will use. And hey, I'll gladly add an emoticon where it fits too.

But I am concerned. In this world of electronic everything, autocomplete functions, and fill-in-the-blanks worksheets, are we getting enough practice actually writing out full words and sentences? Do our kids ever do boardwork at school? Do they really learn to write compositions and essays, or are they being taught essentially to cut and paste? Will they remember how to write something out longhand when it matters?

College professors complain that we have an entire generation of high school graduates who can't do simple arithmetic without a calculator. how many of these same young people similarly can't construct a sentence or a paragraph, don't know how to write a business letter, and think that "U" is a word?

My daughter was saying the other day that she doubts a certain public figure would respond if she wrote to him, so I told her to send him a letter and see what happens. Her response was, "I don't know how to write a letter."

Time to get out the writing pad! If I'm going to complain about it, I'd best be doing something to fix the problem too. It's time to review letter writing skills with my girls...

I'm blogging my way from Z to A in May!
You can find my "V" post at The Special Needs Family.

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