I spell things wrong on the Internet. Deal with it

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I have a confession to make. I have a first class degree in English literature, I have a qualification to teach English as a foreign language certified by the University of Cambridge and I’ve worked for two of the biggest literacy/book promotion charities in the country and sometime I get your and you’re mixed up when I’m typing on facebook. And do you know what? I don’t fucking care!

 Life is far too short for grammar and spelling pedantry on the internet. Want to show you’re a good candidate for a job or that your business doesn’t cut corners then yes, make sure your spelling is up to scratch. But if I’m typing to a friend on facebook and I make a mistake then really, what does it matter? In real life conversation, like most people, my grammar is more flexible. I’ll start a sentence, get on to a train of thought and end with my verb agreement all over the place. But the important thing is I’m communicating. And that’s what language is all about. If I’m chatting on a forum or replying to a message I care more about being involved in the conversation that reading my words back and making sure my phone has used the right its/it’s. Because honestly, life is too short, especially online.

 Of course there is a lot of judgement around this. I’ve seen numerous debates break down online when one person smugly dismisses another’s argument based purely on the basis that they “can’t even spell properly”. Really? Your opponent’s ability to correctly use an arbitrary system only formalised in the last few hundred years in the heat of an argument is the most important aspect of this debate and therefore your point is the superior one? And if they are dyslexic or English is a second language or maybe just didn’t have the same opportunities of schooling that you did then they can be dismissed because only people who can spell perfectly are worthy of engaging with? Maybe it’s just me, but I think if your argument is so flimsy that you have to seize on your opponent’s typographical errors to win then maybe they aren’t the stupid one…

 Language is a beautiful and constantly evolving thing. As more and more of our communication takes place online it’s important that everyone feels able to be involved. I think supporting everyone to understand the English language as it is now is important and English spelling and grammar is a good way to create a standardised language that everyone can have access to. But if people don’t follow the rules all the time, especially online, is it really the worst thing in the world? If Shakespeare could spell his own name five different ways and still write some of the greatest and most enduring plays in the English language I’m sure you can cope if I use the wrong their. So there.



6 thoughts on “I spell things wrong on the Internet. Deal with it

  1. Bravo! Bravo! It winds me up no end when I see sneery comments regarding English usage in online debates.

  2. As a linguist this post intrigues me (I have only quickly read through it though and must come back to it again). I like language variation (I am a sociolinguist after all – if there was no variation I’d be out of a job) – but not sure I buy the ‘just because Shakespeare could spell his name 5 different ways’ argument, though (he wrote in the time before English was codified – hence also why he could get away with making up so many new words! Glorious Shakespeare!). I, however, also spell things wrong on the internet. There is no greater point to this post. #endramble

  3. Hearing the English language abused every day has made me even more language fascist than I already was. I hate the “it’s only the internet” argument. I’m sure you don’t think “2b or not 2b” has the same equivalent as the beautiful “To be or not to be” which moves with eloquence and grace.

  4. I agree. Maybe because I struggle so much with spelling and grammar and have been criticised for it in informal discussions on the internet which meant the point I was making was completely overlooked. As long as the other person can understand what I’m saying then I’m happy.

  5. Sometimes I am so passionately involved in an online debate that logic, punctuation and grammar go out the window. My brother is highly entertaining and intelligent but doesn’t use social media because he’s dyslexic and sick of being labelled “thick” which makes me sad.

  6. I agree that communicating is the most important thing – but when I read stuff anywhere, not just the net, especially with the wrong your/you’re it stops me in my tracks and I have to go back and re-read the sentence to figure out if I’ve read it wrong – which is possible since I skim read a lot – or if the word has been mixed up. :S That said, it’s someone with no confidence in their own argument to point out grammatical errors in response to an argument as if that is more important than the content itself.

    At work, we use instant messenger to get into contact with people. There is one girl based in India who contacts me usually at least once a day. Her opening gambit is always something like, ‘nd sum hlp’ – to which I reply, ‘sure, how can I help’ – I just can’t bring myself to write in this new fangled text speak! #oldie

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