Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing posts for this blog this semester. This is the 14th of those posts. Maddison Wood is a junior journalism major specializing in editing and graphic design with a minor in drama. She is an assistant on the copy desk at The Daily Tar Heel, and she works in the properties department for PlayMakers Repertory Company.
I love grammar. I always have. People tend to be a little confused when I list my passions and include grammar in my top five. However, something has happened recently that has made me question everything I believe about grammar.
I became heavily involved in social media. I started to notice that almost nobody adheres to any sort of grammatical style in this setting. I even felt slightly out of place using proper capitalization, spelling and punctuation in posts on my blog. So what has happened? Where did all the “grammar Nazis” (I actually prefer the term “grammar hammer”) go? More importantly, is grammar becoming obsolete?
As for the last question: no. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but from what I have personally experienced, there are times when grammar is thrown out the window, and there are times when grammar is vital.
For instance, people who are chatting online with one another do not have time or need for grammar. You can get your point across to your friends without writing perfectly, and abbreviations make life a whole lot easier. Furthermore, character restrictions (I’m talking to you, Twitter) have forced us to invent ways to shorten our thoughts by any means necessary.
Secondly, bad grammar can be used as a sarcastic joke or as an emphasis to what you’re conveying. I find that an excellent way to show excitement is to usE A MIX Of CAPS AND lowERCAsE AND;LKJ PRETENDA LIKE YOU’RE JUAST;KL LSAMMING THE K EYBOARD A;LKFJAF. (Or maybe I just come across as insane.) These methods of typing poorly to serve a purpose catch on and become popular trends on social media sites, but it is up to the person doing the typing to determine when poor grammar is appropriate and when it isn’t. The same people who run blogs on Tumblr with seemingly no grammatical skills whatsoever also write fan fiction that is judged harshly by readers if the grammar is poor. Therefore, it seems people on social media are expected to know grammar well enough to know when to adhere to all the rules and when not to.
That being said, it is becoming a common fear that grammar is “on the verge of extinction.” Students are beginning to use lingo and slang in essays despite teachers’ pleas for proper grammar. If generations to come lose the ability to distinguish between professional writing and Internet slang, how will they ever be taken seriously as adults?
For instance, an email to a potential employer could be a make-or-break first impression that you probably want to know the difference between “your” and “you’re” for before writing. In this social media-crazed society, not only does proper grammar need to be taught at a young age, but the circumstances in which proper grammar is important need also be taught.
I’m not going to lie: I use poor grammar and abbreviations sometimes. I think grammar trends on social media reflect a subculture of a generation that is just as connected to friends who live across the world as they are to friends at school. It is a language all on its own that is meant to be understood by people who have a good enough grasp on grammar to know when and how to break the rules.
Grammar is great. You should care about grammar. But the Internet culture of purposeful slang is not the place to pick your grammar battle.