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

    Each moderator has some leeway on how he moderates his own subforum. My personal idiosyncrasy here is that since this subforum is about language and communication, our own language and communication will be held to a higher standard than in some of the other subforums. I have stated one of my reasons for this: SciForums is jam packed with people who have an excellent command of English but are not from anglophone countries. Their customs are different, they don't know all of our idioms, they've never seen CNN or "South Park," they can be offended or simply confused far more easily than us thick-skinned, plain-speaking, over-opinionated Americans.

    I routinely edit out profanity when it's directed at another poster rather than an etymological discussion of the words themselves. I am draconian about the website's rule against personal attacks and have already deleted one post of that nature that even I found entertaining. And I insist that we respect the scientific method: linguistics is categorized as a science and no woo-woo theories that flout or reject science will clutter up this space unless the theories themselves are being discussed by ladies and gentlemen.
    I believe that most educated people--especially the scientists, future scientists and science groupies that SciForums is making a new effort to attract--unconsciously filter incoming communication that way and unconsciously form opinions of both the speaker/writer and the speech/writing on this basis. However I apologize if I made it sound like an official, conscious "minimum standard." If I find a post so irresistably interesting that I want to make sure everyone who comes here reads it, yet so full of errors that it's hard to read, I'll simply fix it. There's no standard here for quality of writing.
    Yes of course, and I'm sorry if I implied that this is not true. However, as I stated, I think a congenial compromise would be at least for everyone to take a moment to examine their keyboard and notice that there is a SHIFT key. It is a well-established internet tradition that WE DON'T TYPE IN ALL UPPER CASE. There is just as good a reason to not start sentences and proper nouns in lower case. Capital letters are important cues and leaving them out wastes more of each reader's time than it saves for the typist. There is such a thing as "netiquette."
    These people are unconsciously illustrating my hypothesis: Written language is a fundamental technology upon which all of civilization is based. People who haven't mastered it are assumed not to be well educated, and people who deliberately use it poorly are saying they have no respect for civilization. This is only a hypothesis so yes I know I may be wrong.
    I don't take kindly to personal attacks of any nature and will moderate them. Nonetheless, since they are consistent with my hypothesis I fully understand them.
    Jon Stewart had one of his ex-speech writers on one night. Jon never overlooks an opportunity to criticize Bush and the writer was in no mood to be especially kind to him. If he were a bad speller it would have come out. Speech writers don't write everything from scratch.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2007
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  3. sandy Banned Banned

    I think this was a great topic for discussion. I like, respect, and agree with everything you just said even though I think you have given me infractions for unintentionally wrong stuff.

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  5. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    If you feel you have something important enough to say, why not put forth the tiny bit of effort (like using the shift key) to make what you're saying clearer?

    To me, a great deal of this whole topic comes down to common courtesy for the people who will try to read someone's post. If the typing is sloppy (misuse of capital letters, poor punctuation, etc.) it indicates (in my opinion) that the writer cares little about the difficulty it presents to those who DO try to read it.

    Therefore, it follows that if the writer has little, if any, respect for the readers, why should we have any respect for the writer?
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  7. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

  8. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    As an American who has had a lot of contact with member of another English speaking nation, I have found similar ideas about speech. They see Americans as sloppy and in a regressive stage of (or having a regressive attitude towards) civilization. I think the control they exert and expect others to exert over language is an indication of their cultural baggage. They are overvaluing rules and assuming that language is a container for information only. The expressive functions of language are downplayed or sublimated into wit. All fine and dandy in its context and fine for them. But the presumption that all speakers must follow these procedures and restrictions is, well, in line with some of the thinking that led to imperialism.
    (this really applies primarily to certain classes in the unmentioned nation).

    I still can't see why people can't simply not read certain people and certain posts. And what are seen as 'repeat offenders', more use of the ignore functions.

    I see different people with different ideas about how to communicate. This is a practical problem and there are technological solutions.

    What is the attachment to making this a moral issue? or to suggesting that, really, they hate civilization or disrespect me or themselves or have some other sinister or radical agenda?

    I think some people see the internet and communication here in a different way then some of the people up in arms here. I think age rather than education plays the strongest role here, but also the cultural expectations of different people in relation to this medium. Academics or those with that kind of background used to thinking of texts as thesis or paper-like are upset. People raised on email, chat sites and SMS probably actually do make efforts to write more clearly than in those formats but still focus on being spontaneous, quick and expressive.

    Can't this be like any community? You hang out with those you jive with? (Even if this jiving is often with people whose content you dislike but whose form you do. See, it sounds like we are teenage boys thinking about girls.)

    I had no idea the moderators went to the trouble of correcting and improving posts. My heart goes out to you.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That's my point. It's the same way I feel about posting URLs. Didn't everybody take 4th-grade English and learn how to present a report on something they read? If you're expecting ten people to be interested in what you've posted, then you're expecting ten people to follow your URL and read the whole bloody thing. That could be an hour and a half of their total time which they won't have to read someone else's interesting posts, in return for saving ten or fifteen minutes of your own time to write an abstract, which incidentally would be read by far more members.
    I don't like to put it so morally because I don't think most people have given it that much thought. They might not be aware of how much it slows down a reader to parse sentences by a counterintuitive inspection process instead of the lexicographical cues we learned when we were six. I'd rather educate people than berate them, and it generally elicits a much more positive reaction.
    Many people do. But many editors insist on it, particularly in government, where a good portion of America's writing is done. Part of the collectivist mind set: No one "does" anything, everything "is done."
    I've used the word "unconscious" several times. I doubt that anyone stops and says, "Geeze, this guy is sure dissing me by writing like that." I don't think very many people even do the arithmetic that we've done and say, "Geeze, if he'd spent a total of five seconds pressing the Shift key a few times, it would save the forum members in aggregate sixty seconds of reading time. All of these guys put together have wasted three hours of their fellow members time so far this year." I think people feel themselves being slowed down, especially in an era of fast food and speed dating, and even though they don't remark on the individual instances it is not something they appreciate.
    In this case I think I'll start my practice of the scientific method with the peer review, since it's already begun.

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    I didn't link it to intelligence. I linked it to education and respect for the reader. Like many scholars I'm sure that Bush's college diploma, like his candidacies, was made possible by his powerful friends and family, but I have no trouble believing that he passed the first few grades when they taught him spelling and punctuation. And I'm positive he wants to make a good impression on people and win their respect, even if his target group doesn't happen to include me.
    There's nothing wrong with a sentence fragment if you're not writing for publication or academic review. It's a powerful literary device that helps make up for the bandwidth we lose in non-oral language.
    That's a cheap shot, I spoke of them specifically early on. In America we're even rather easygoing with the writing of foreigners, an attitude that is not reciprocated in all of their countries.
    Your point has merit.
    And I suppose I know which nation you're referring to, but there are quite a few others where that attitude prevails and English is not the language they all speak.
    You can do that. But I'm a moderator and it's my mission to facilitate the flow of ideas. I believe that if I can get everyone to at least make friends with their Shift key, more ideas will flow between more people.
    I'm just pontificating as I am wont to do. But obviously I'm not the only person who thinks this way consciously because others have agreed with me. And Pareto's Law says there are four times as many people who feel the same way but don't realize it, not to mention all the SciForums members who never set foot in the Hall of Linguistics.
    From your perspective, of course. But I've been inducted into the Circle of Elders of this community. Civilization spreads when people increase the radius of their Jive Circle.

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    I have no idea how many other moderators do this, if any. There's not much action on this subforum compared to almost all of the others. I find all of the threads interesting so I read them, something no one could do in Free Thoughts or World Events. That--and the fact that I worked my way through college as a typist plus the fact that lately I've been working as an editor--gives me the opportunity to be more hands-on, or perhaps some would call it despotic.

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  10. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member


    Go, Fraggle!
  11. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

    There is unlikely to be a next time. This is such a bizarre application of rules I shall simply ignore any thread you appear in.
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I have apologized privately to Ophi for my bizarre application of the rules and I now repeat the apology in public. I grossly misunderstood Ophi's post and simply saw something that wasn't there--and even then I overreacted to it.

    I hope Ophi--one of our most thoughtful and articulate members whose posts invariably add substance to the discussion--gives me another chance and doesn't really ignore any discussion in which I participate. On one of my more meddlesome days that would amount to a boycott of this entire subforum, and I would end up having deprived the other members of access to a lot of good ideas.
  13. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    [referring to dyslexics.]
    I did not mean that you, personally, believed dyslexics were like this. But I feel the door is open given your sense of the intentions of sloppy writers. Dyslexia could be seen as a propensity towards one kind of barbaric behavior. My shot is much more aimed at the genetic determinist models out there and musing on how they might mix with your ideas about the meaning of sloppy writing. It was an afterthought. Not well integrated in the post. My apologies. I did remember your mentioning dyslexics not qualifying in the offender group.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No, it's still my turn to apologize. Apparently I was having a bad day yesterday with my brain stuck in second gear. Obviously I misunderstood your post as I misunderstood Ophi's.

    When the subject comes up I always wonder whether dyslexics can spell better using a keyboard, since the visual cortex doesn't get involved until the operation is over. I wonder whether dyslexia is either a special case or an extreme case of a phenomenon we've covered on SciForums a few times: If you smarblce the lterets whiitn eervy wrod in a stenncee, tehn so lnog as all the rhgit oens are trehe wtih no eraxts, and jsut the frsit and lsat are in the rgiht pclae, eyrobedvy can raed it at asolmt nmaorl seped.

    If any of you for whom English is a second language are reading this, or attempting to, I'd be curious to know whether it was as easy for you to read that scrambled sentence. I am positive I don't read Spanish the same way I read English, so I don't think I would be able to read even a simple sentence like that in Spanish very fast, if at all.
  15. temur man of no words Registered Senior Member

    It was considerably slower than reading a (almost) correctly spelled sentence. I just woke up from sleep but I spent several seconds to figure out what "eraxts" is.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Thinking back on it, all of the examples I've seen had probably been carefully crafted to make sure all the words would be recognizable. Rather than tracking one of them down, I just took a sentence in my text and scrambled it myself. I didn't stop to think that "extras" is probably not a familiar word in most people's vocabulary. I lived in Hollywood for ten years, even had a friend who ran a business that provided extras for film shoots.
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Some investigation has convinced me that that is an artifact of the inadequate scrambling of "randomization" so constrained.

    Smoe ignsttvaeiion has ccnnveiod me that that is an acfrtait of the idnqtaaeue sbclmnraig of "rdmntzaaiioon" so cnnrstaeiod.

    My own tendency is to overlook spelling, unless deliberately obnoxious, and count serious punctuation errors more heavily against the writer. They obstruct comprehension. That ought to be anticipated.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2007
  18. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    And I now have misunderstood your latest. I understand, I think, everything you said, but I can't see how it justifies apologizing to me. You'll have to connect the dots for me, such is the slowness of my mind. Or perhaps it was ironic - I tested this and I didn't 'get it' - but that, as implied above, does not contitute proof irony was not there.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Never turn down an apology even if it seems spurious. Save it for the next time you wish you'd got one.

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  20. s0meguy Worship me or suffer eternally Valued Senior Member

    No, spelling errors shouldn't really matter as long as people can understand eachother. It's probably feelings of superiority combined with a bad mood which results in the desire to bitch at people, and this is a nice opportunity.
  21. Fugu-dono Scholar Of Shen Zhou Registered Senior Member

    Typos are usually obvious and I don't care for. It's when people spell incorrectly or completely destroy grammar intentionally every bloody time they post that's annoying. Other than that I don't really care. People can abuse their '?' and '!' and '...' as much as they want frankly. It's find it normal that some people are more eccentric than others in the way they communicate and find ways to dituinguish themselves from others when they type. I just don't want to be reading post that tries to type out Snoop Doggy Dogg's lyric. I would just likely completely ignore those type of post.
  22. cato less hate, more science Registered Senior Member

    well rocker, if you try to spell AND punctuate a word, it would be very difficult for people to understand what you are saying! =]

  23. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    In humble ignorance I accept your apology and hope in the future you will not repeat whatever it was.

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