Anyone who has had to read Shakespeare in high school knows that the English language is organic. As such, it changes over the decades and centuries. Many words fall into disuse and many new words are added. Back in the late 1980s, researchers suggested that the average adult in North America knew had a vocabulary of at least 100,000 words. Since that time, many thousands of new terms have come into popular use. But fast forward to today and it seems that grammar is rapidly changing too.
A glance at the writing of some bloggers suggests that we might have collectively regressed, or are heading that way. Grammar is rapidly changing online, and not just from bloggers but also journalists writing at the websites of print publications. It goes beyond misspellings and typos, and includes the lack of proper punctuation, resulting sentences that technically say something very different than what was intended. I see more of this in 2008 than I did in 2005, and I read/browse about the same number of articles daily.
At least, that’s my off-the-cuff impression. I’m by no means 100% accurate with my grammar and never will be. My head is filled with the grammars of far too many non-Roman lettered languages, and that perpetual mixes me up when I write in English. But I am only fluent in English, and so I read, write, think and speak mostly in English. The other languages in my head are also-rans, used only infrequently.
As part of my work as a “professional” blogger, I have to consume large quantities of content daily. The music, video, movies and images are easy to consume. But I’m finding it progressively harder to browse online text. Online typography (almost wholly in san serif fonts) is not exactly conducive to speed reading, and persistently poor grammar that makes me stop in my tracks really makes things worse. It doubles my reading time because I have a “what the f**k” reaction, attempt to re-read, then get fed up. Given that I browse/read anywhere from 100-150 blog posts each day, that’s a lot of wasted time that sometimes screws up my schedule for several days.
However, in the vein of “he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” I’ve stopped commenting on blogs that repeatedly violate the simplest of grammar rules. I’m not talking about the refusal to follow stale writing style advice, thus creating a quirky voice/writing style that defies a few rules consistently. I’m talking about commas, colons and semicolons that really, really need to be in a sentence but are not, and the repeated lack of such punctuation in the blogs of many otherwise good writers.
As noted above, I’ve stopped saying anything because I’m not 100% in my own grammar. And because most bloggers who’ve been corrected will understandly be upset, offended, or even belligerent about it. Some of them act like they have the right to not be intelligible. Okay, they do, but I also have the right to expect intelligible writing. But since I can’t waste time trying to understand what they’re saying, I’ll simply stop reading such bloggers. These social changes might mean that the English language will change rapidly and for the worse, as a generation of bloggers violate the rules of grammar but somehow manage to still understand each other. Me, I get a headache, and it slows down my necessarily voracious daily browsing.
The real problem, I’m guessing, is that as bloggers, we’re forced to work fast. There’s no time for obsessing over “silly” grammar rules. Unfortunately for me, I do obsess, having come from many years of writing for print.
What about you? How do you feel about the changing “rules” of language, catalyzed by the writing in the blogosphere?