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.