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Monday, May 10, 2004

 
Internet Writing: The Downfall of Civilization?
I recently got into a discussion about the affect the widespread use of the internet appears to be having on writing. English teachers all over the United States have been reporting the growing use of Internet spelling and abbreviations in academic papers, (ex: c u l8er, lol, afaik.) People no longer seem to care about presenting their thoughts logically and coherently. Internet blogs, journals, and diaries allow people to post to the world whatever unformed thought manages to percolate its way to the top of their heads or the tips of their fingers, and they do so. The Internet allows anyone and everyone to publish! Whoo-hoo! Freedom! I can say whatever I want to now, and no one can judge me, because it's my opinion.

Then there are other people, like me and many others, who view writing on the Internet like any other kind of writing, who think that proofreading is not a dead art, that spelling and punctuation are not optional, and ellipses are not meant to end every sentence. I would argue that being able to put your writing in such wide public view should make a person more inclined to be sure of its clarity and form. There appears to be a deep schism between these two sides.

One person proposed that poor Internet writing irritates me so much because I am now an English teacher, and I have become overly picky because I spend so much time grading. I must counter that theory, though, with a confession: I have always been the kind of person who wanted to fix printing errors in fiction books that I was reading purely for pleasure, from as far back as I can remember. I have actually been hired before to proofread websites for people smart enough to realize that gross grammatical errors and misspellings do actually make a person/business appear stupid, and that was years before I became a teacher.

The thing that does annoy me as a teacher is the fact that poor Internet writing by native speakers of English gives my students thousands upon thousands of bad examples. Just because you see a native speaker write with dependent clauses serving as whole sentences does not mean that it is okay. While I would very much like to continue using blogs as tools to encourage my students to write, I can see that I am going to have to spend a lot more time making my students focus on what constitutes good writing, even on the Internet.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but since it expands itself into at least three different directions, I'll expound more later in the week.

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