I am going to have a rant about one of my pet beefs: Bad writing.
I’m not talking about the odd typo – especially in the context of blogging/posting etc. God knows that I am as guilty as the next person of being less attentive to these details when communicating online. However, there are limits. I am sure I am not the only person that has started to read something (most likely on a blog) and found it to be so badly written that it just makes your eyes water.
I think that we all know the kind of thing that is being referred to; indeed, it seems to be a perennial gripe to those of us who try, to whatever extent, to craft our writing. Here, for example, is a post in a similar vein from The Longrider.
It is the writer’s responsibility to make every effort to ensure that his prose is legible and easily understood by the reader - it is not the reader’s responsibility to decipher writing that is misspelled, badly constructed and lacking in punctuation. That we frequently do is simply because poor use of English is far too prevalent for readers to become too pedantic. After all, we have a whole a generation that grew up without ever being introduced to the rules of grammar. I’d not read anything if I complained every time I came across badly written English. Having said that, if it is too bad I stop trying and subsequently ignore the poster, which is a pity as they may have something interesting to say.
Your humble Devil does not craft his posts as such; they are all first drafts, written as I think them. I will occasionally go back and remove typos and, on realising that I have used the same word more than once in close proximity, find a synonym but, generally, you are reading precisely what I am thinking (this, incidentally, is why some of my posts are so long: I construct my arguments as I write. It is also how I have time to write so much: writing as you think is very quick!).
Most of us in the political blogosphere are, I think, are aware of the impact of sloppy syntax: after all, we spend much of our time shifting through the weasel words of our politicians to find the truth, or realise what they are not saying. Many people are not so methodical, however, and this is in part due to the fact that grammar is no longer taught in schools (and has not been for some years). More importantly, it is not considered important in exams either.
I was on 18DS's Blogger TV on Monday and highlighted a post by Deogolwulf—possibly one of the very finest writers of what I call "classical English" on the web (or elsewhere)—on the purposeful desecration of our language.
There is no clearer sign of a widespread blight in culture than that language, a vital organ of intellectual and cultural life, is degraded. That it should be purposely degraded, furthermore, by those whom one might expect to be its guardians, is a sign of a yet greater disease. An illustration:English Leadership Quarterly ran an article urging teachers to encourage intentional writing errors as “the only way to end [the English language’s] oppression of linguistic minorities and learning writers.” The pro-error article, written by two professors at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, actually won an award from the quarterly, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English. So you can now win awards for telling the young to write badly.
It is too much to hope that the principal vectors of this disease (or the professors of progressive education, as they prefer to be called) are capable of shame.
This is typical of the current thinking: instead of teaching all people to write English well, we should debase and mutilate our language—end the "oppression of linguistic minorities and learning writers"—so that their pitiful excuse for writing may be accepted in the mainstream.
This is entirely wrong; whilst no language should be preserved in aspic and prevented from developing, spelling and grammar are essential to understanding and that, ultimately, is what language exists for.
For how can one communicate one's thoughts and inspire others if one cannot even convey one's basic meaning?