In the week that the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee took place in the USA, it seems faintly ironic that I’m posting on the decline in spelling and grammar.
I regularly spot awful typos and grammatical howlers in both online and offline media and enjoy posting them on Twitter or Facebook, but there’s always a part of me that does so with a heavy heart.
Yes, know I may sound a bit like an old fart, but I’m not quite that rigid that I’m bemoaning the demise of the Queen’s English Society that officially admitted defeat earlier this month.You see, we all make mistakes and things slip through the net occasionally, especially when publishing at speed online, but there’s no excuse for some things.
As I hope you can see from the terrible Facebook ad on the right, it’s clear that things are going awry when a brand such as Superdrug will let something pass without anyone spotting it.
What’s going wrong?
What’s sad is that this has only happened in the last few years and, as I see it, there are a few key reasons why.
1) Cost cutting: in order to maximise profit, successive CEOs have justified slashing staff costs and, in the print industry especially, this has led to outsourcing of key services, such as subbing, or ditching them altogether.
2) Print first, change later: the web is partly to blame – it’s so easy to go and update something after publication in seconds. This means that many people don’t consider it important to read through copy or look closely at a page before hitting the ‘Publish’ button any more.
3) Spellcheck: within the last month, new research has shown that many people don’t even use spellcheck and those that do now find themselves unable to spell everyday (note: correct usage) words, such as ‘definitely’, ‘separate’ or ‘necessary’.
4) Txtspk: This is a bit of an old chestnut and I accept that language needs to evolve, otherwise we’d all still be reading books written in the style of Chaucer. However, it has now reached a point at which textspeak has become the norm in everyday written communication.
While major linguistic change often comes from the ground up, that’s not a reason for it to accelerate because major companies can’t be bothered.
Spelling and grammar may not matter as much in the modern world as they used to, but, for me, it’s all about comprehension.
Sure, people change the way they write and speak, but that doesn’t mean everyone should completely ignore rules. In my humble opinion (IMHO) brands who produce mass-market communication are those who ought to, at least, promote some semblance of correctness.
Doubtless in 10 years time, this sort of argument may seem quaint and charmingly outdated, but it’s important that some of us try to stick up for some sort of consistency. Otherwise, all we’ll be left with is what I like to term ‘Grammanarchy’.
Remember, you read it here first.