Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grammar for Victorian Goths and Everyone Else

I know this seems a rather old fashioned and preachy subject, and I suppose it is. So
then why write about it? We live in an age of instant and impersonal communication,
without a lot of real connection. We are able to text message, instant message, voice
message, leave blog comments and "like" on sites like Facebook to signal our
agreement with a statement, a video, a quote or any limited entry shared by another
individual. Our language has turned to one of hip slang and abbreviations to match
our insanely fast-paced world and even faster-paced lives. The irony, even those
without fast-paced lives, speak, type and act as if they do through abbreviated notes
and responses. We find our ability to reach out, share information and emote now
limited to characters rather than words, with the king of hit-and-run one-way
communication being Twitter.

Don't get me wrong. These sites and the countless others out there serve a strong
purpose, allowing each of us the opportunity to get in contact with others of like
mind or interests around the world, giving us an emotional feed 24 hours a day, 7
days a week.
That said, I will step down off my soap box and explain the reason for all that build
up. With our 140 character or less, shout-to-the-crowd methods of communication being the norm, we (figurative "we") have forgotten the simplest rules of grammar.
Surprisingly, grammar is STILL important in today's world. Hopefully, it always will
be. While bosses no longer have secretaries come in and take down letters in
shorthand as they're verbally dictated by pacing superiors, it is even more necessary to know how to form a basic sentence as you will be writing your own letters and business emails.
This age of instant information has also created instant authors through self-publishing, blogging and a number of other means. I have lost count of the number of individuals with differing degrees of promise, who have sent me samples of their work, and I have to send them back requesting two things: punctuation and an explanation. The reason for these is, as many of you may have noticed, a lot of people seem to be under the impression that the internet forbids the use of punctuation. Sentences do not require periods, question marks or commas and capitalizing the first word of a sentence is too time consuming to be of any concern. Now exclamation points? Those are popular. And capitalization is only valid if the entire statement uses it.
Grammar, while an old fashioned notion, is pivotal to being taken seriously when one
"speaks" in any written form. Grammar is also important in spoken form. Surprise,
surprise. Ever talk with someone whose favourite word is "like" ? "So, like, me and
my friend went to this show, and like all these guys were staring at us. You know?"
First off, No, I do not know, because I really have no bloody clue what I am supposed
to "know" as I have only just heard the story. (Yes, this is a real statement tossed
at me recently.) Secondly, what are we a)comparing it to be like, b) supposed to be
fond of enough to say we like it, or c) is the speaker just that unsure of the story
that they won't commit to a full on statement as fact?
Granted, this is one of probably countless examples, and in many cases I may be just
preaching to the choir, but for those who are members of the Victorian Gothic
community, there is a certain point of pride in the ability to form a cohesive,
somewhat lilting and poetic statement and share it with grace, dignity and a degree
of mesmerising decorum. Please do not mistake this for the often very common practice
of using every ten dollar word one finds in a dictionary or thesaurus. All that
indicates is that the individual owns a dictionary and/or thesaurus.
Speak plainly. Do not feel the need to replace every word with colloquialisms and
quantum jargon, and know the audience. Be natural in your speech and you will be at
ease. Just as importantly, you will put others at ease and make yourself more
approachable, enjoyable and likely to sustain a real conversation.

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