Why we are so critical of people who can't spell and punctuate

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Fraggle Rocker, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    A member asked, in another subforum, why so many of the responses to his posts focused on his spelling errors rather than his questions.

    I think it's because educated people regard writing as almost sacred. Written language was one of the key technologies that is responsible for the advance of civilization. Oral communication has a limited bandwidth and no persistence. What we say can only be heard by a small number of people, and once it's said they have to rely on their memories to retrieve it. They repeat it to others with errors and editorial changes, and by the time a few generations have passed the original knowledge may be lost.

    The ephemerality of our speech even makes it difficult for us to think in high levels of complexity. How perfectly can any of us recall the brilliant idea we had yesterday but didn't write down? Writing allowed people like Plato and Euclid to develop entire systems of learning, and it allows us to read their own words.

    While older key technologies like agriculture, stonemasonry and perhaps bronze were developed without writing, most of what we take for granted today like electronics could not have been. Astronomy is a bona fide science that predates not only writing but perhaps civilization itself, but physics and chemistry could never have been developed by scientists communicating orally.

    So then what must we think of a person who hasn't learned to spell or punctuate correctly--who hasn't mastered written language, a technology that holds the key to all the trappings of modern civilization? Sure, a few people have disorders like dyslexia. But even blind people can write correctly. Even George Bush has never been criticized for his spelling.

    This is a forum for scientists and people who are interested in science. Writing was the key to all of modern science. People who haven't mastered the basics of writing are regarded with suspicion. Why haven't they done absolutely whatever it takes to achieve the universal standard minimal level of skill in this most important of technologies?
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  3. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member


    ??? Isn't that arrogant? Can't uneducated people be interested in science? It's hurtful to have your stupidity pointed out when you are trying to learn.

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    What if you are from another country trying to grasp English? What if you have a physical disability and typing takes forever?
    And I don't know how to make my spell-checker work!!! :bawl:
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  5. mikenostic Stop pretending you're smart! Registered Senior Member

    'cause when peeps use txt slang 2 get there point across and mispel all kindz of stuff, 2 things come 2 mind:

    1. They're too lazy to take the time to spell something or properly structure their sentences/grammar

    2. Sometimes people look at that and don't know what the hell they're trying to say.

    I would almost directly compare it to asking the question; why show up for a job interview in some nice business attire or a suit, when you could just show up in a t-shirt and jeans?
    Why do office/corporate environments have a dress code of business casual and not jeans and a t-shirt?
    Why would you show up for a date wearing grungy clothes when you should be dressed nice?

    Same principle.
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  7. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    If people can't be bothered to express their ideas clearly then how clear are those ideas?
    Why should we even try to understand an idea that the author does not care enough about to put across in a comprehensible fashion?
    (Thinking specifically of the Pseudoscience subforum here and the general "literacy" of some of the woowoos).
  8. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    No, it's not arrogant. And we (most of us, anyway) readily make exceptions for people who's first language isn't English.

    Everything Fraggle said was correct. Unless people can communicate clearly, the results will be confusion and misunderstandings. I've seen many, many VERY poorly written posts (by English speaking people) and never responded because they were so muddled that I could NOT be sure what they were even talking about. And I've even asked for clarification of some of them and STILL received garbage in response!

    Writing is just like anything else - if it's worth doing, it's worth making an effort to do it right. Far too many get on here and just babble and it's a complete waste of time do even try to deal with some of them.

    As a side note, have you made much of an effort to get your spell checker to work - or bothered to ask for help? Several people here would be glad to lend a hand.
  9. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    I'm trying and trying. And I think I already look stupid enough here (as I have been told over and over) without asking for spell-checker help.
    But there it is, so I might as well ask huh.
  10. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Becasue they is dum.
  11. mikenostic Stop pretending you're smart! Registered Senior Member

    What are you talking about? Look at the sentences/paragraphs of the two posts you made in this thread. Aside from beginning the sentence above with an 'and', your grammar is fine. Besides, a misspelled word every now and then isn't bad; even I'm guilty of it here and there.
  12. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I certainly don't think you are dumb; maybe the ones who told you so are dumb.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yes of course they can. But my hypothesis--which is only that and you're all welcome to disprove it in the true spirit of science--is that literacy has become the primary indicator of education. After all, it is the first thing we all learn in school because without it we can't read our school books. If you haven't learned to write then you have avoided learning to use what is arguably the most important tool we've got. This is doubly important for the people of a scientific inclination who inhabit SciForums because writing is the key to virtually all science; without it we wouldn't be here.

    This has a strong parallel with spoken language. I think most people unconsciously consider that the primary indicator of sheer intelligence. If you can't talk you can't communicate and that singles you out as dysfunctional as a member of a highly social species.
    Most of us are perfectly happy to make allowances for people who appear to be trying. But some of them are not.
    That's invariably obvious. They don't make the same kind of mistakes. Besides, a linguist can not only spot a foreigner by his mistakes but even guess his native language.

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    Again, you simply won't make the same kinds of errors. They'll tend to be random typos rather than consistent misspellings and mispunctuations.
    I have no great regard for spell checkers.


    I have a spelling checquer.
    It came with my pea sea.
    It plane lee marks four my revue
    Miss steaks aye can nazi.

    Eye ran this poem threw it,
    Yule bee reel glad two no.
    It's vary polished inn it's weigh:
    My checquer tolled me sew.
    My favorite quote from the short-lived TV show "The Boondocks:
    No one has called you stupid on any of the boards I hang out on. You don't come across as stupid at all, and you can be reassured that there a couple of members whom we keep around just as reference standards for that. You write intelligently and as a professional editor I don't notice a high error rate in your writing.

    However I do notice a tendency for self-effacing.

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  14. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    and I have no idea what that means...so I went and looked it up. Yep, seems to fit.

    Oh, and the person (you know who you are) that said I was stupid...several times...bite me! :frust: Yeah, I said it, I went there.
  15. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    What I find peculiar about written and spoken language is it can be grammatically incorrect but still understandable and I'm not talking about slang which is another genre altogether or stupid cryptic use of letters or numbers. If it is understandable then why would it matter if the point is communication? What I find ridiculous is many times when reading, its literally mentally filtering out unnecessary prepositions and fluff words to decipher the real meaning and separating the wheat from the chaff. Somewhere along the line, you just know there was some egotistic and shallow idiot who had nothing real to say so added all these irrevelant formalities which don't even have anything to do with enhancing communication but obfuscation, waste of time, and pedantry. Let me make clear I'm not talking about vocabulary because it's necessary to express the subtleties but unnecessary grammatical rules. I think language should go through evolution and change because it's not perfect.

    If you pay attention to how honest children utilize language, they don't use bullshit fillers. If someone said "I go eat" verus "I am going to eat", I see no real difference in meaning and it's understood. The latter actually leans to inaccurate communication because it's emphasizing themself (who gives a shit!) verus the fact they are going to eat. Go eat already then! "I" is already understood and "am" is unnecessary as well. I don't give a flying peanut that by gosh, You, You, You, emphasized is going to eat, already got that. If someone said "I going to eat" verus "I am going to eat", the meaning would not change a beat with me. Ridiculous fluff.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2007
  16. sandy Banned Banned

    I was just thinking about this yesterday and almost said something. It is so hard to read the posts of some people that I just quit trying. After trying three times, I gave up.

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    Running sentences and paragraphs together is the most annoying to me. That and people who take three paragraphs to explain what I could say in two sentences.

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    I was thinking to myself "these are supposed to be really intelligent people and they can't spell or punctuate?"

    I didn't say anything because I make mistakes too and I didn't want to get flamed.

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  17. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    Being able to spell or punctuate isn't a complete indication of intelligence. Just because you can express a thought perfectly doesn't mean squat if that thought was stupid in the first place. People do it all the time and they are very good at driving home the point either verbally, in combination with body language or otherwise. I know people who have trouble communicating but they are very intelligent or even have trouble communicating what they know perfectly and can't convey it well. Language is also partly an ability not mere cognitive intelligence. Though usually it goes hand in hand but not always.
  18. EmptyForceOfChi Banned Banned

    im sorry but i am guilty of being lazy, i do not use correct punctuation, "grammer" or capitalization on sciforums. its not down to lack of understanding or knowledge, its becuase its faster. outside of the internet forum domain i gladly use the english language correctly, and in formal terms.

    i feel no need to exert myself fully here, im sure people do not have a hard time understanding my posts.

    it is also a good way of showing that everything i post is original content, and not just a copy n paste from a google search.

  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Your stuff isn't so bad and it's obviously the result of speed rather than lack of education. Still I beg you to consider making friends with the SHIFT key. It is very confusing to read something without capitals and it slows the reader down. That's how we parse sentences; the capital stands out much more than the period. And words like "I" just don't make visual sense in lower case. Since typing a capital merely uses both hands at the same time, it doesn't slow down the writer at all. It's a nice courtesy that costs you nothing. Our time is valuable too.
  20. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

    It may well be faster for you. It is not faster for those trying to read your posts. Your lazy behaviour is thus:
    a) self destructive - people will be disinclined to read what you have written.
    b) inflammatory - if they do read it, then your slovenly approach will annoy.
    c) downright rude.

    So, can you tell me why I should have any regard for, or interest in, an inflammatory, self destructive, uncouth poster?
  21. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    I must chime in as a member of the neo-sloppy writers.
    There is no universal minimal standard (which was asserted in the OP).
    Confused thinking is much more irritating than the occasional spelling error.
    We are not writing papers. This is a much more expressive, impermanent communication form, somewhere between the old, hard-copy written text and speech. I cannot see the problem with sentence fragments, abbreviations without periods and other short cuts.
    It seems like a number of people have asserted that they won't bother to read posts that are under whatever their minimal criteria are. Fine, who can complain about that. Perhaps, the sloppy posters will learn from that, perhaps not.
    Not so much on this forum but on other forums, I have noticed the correcting of errors as a kind of attack without substance. Your point must be wrong because you mispelled ______________ is either stated directly or indirectly. The sloppy post (or post with one error) was completely clear, but this error is used as an out for the attacker, not unlike mocking someone with a lisp.

    I think it's because educated people regard writing as almost sacred Fraggle Rocker said in the OP.

    I am sure that sometimes this is the motive, perhaps most of the time. But it is often a way of getting off a shot, getting some aggression out, shaming someone for no real reason...at least some of the time. I am a little wary of accepting 'holy' motivations for all responses of this kind. Mixed motivations are also possible. That's the best: get off a real good shot but have high motivations and only focus consciously on the latter.

    Are there posts so poorly written that I just skip them? Sure.
    Have some of my posts suffered this? Probably.
    I think the moral high ground taken by the fussy could be replaced by the simple avoidance technique mentioned by a couple of people.

    God, it seems just too personal a reaction. Yours above to EFOC. I mean just ignore him. I could see if he stopped you on the street and had bad breath and kept catching up to you and spouting poorly worded theories, but here. Did you really find the form (not the content) of his posts so offputting?

    (I confess that I tried a little harder to cut down on errors here. God, how are my actions speaking? I went back and put in a couple of errors intentionally, just in case I got lucky)
  22. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    1) This statement could be used by the sloppy to show just how insignificant the issue is.

    2) I doubt we see much that he has written. I guess one could argue that he agrees to take credit for text that is error-free. I promise, if elected, to also have people produce primarily error-free texts. Until then however....
  23. sandy Banned Banned

    Grammar is spelled g-r-a-m-m-a-r.

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