The Hazards Of Online-Speak & The Loss Of Grammar

I didn’t even realize this problem existed until recently. At the airport in Atlanta, I spoke with a college instructor who’s taught for forty years, and then I heard about it again at interviews for a job at a local university. Spelling and grammar are in serious danger. Ok, yes, this example is silly and funny and from 3rd grade, but I remember learning grammar and spelling in 1st grade. And something like carrots or horses, I probably knew by 3rd grade. Okay, perhaps it gave you a good laugh. I’m glad, but this post is serious. Unlike my norm, this post has nothing to do with science fiction. This is all fact. Are some kids spelling challenged more than others? Well, sure, okay, I can accept that, but these days there’s a far bigger culprit for spelling and grammar ills: ONLINE SPEAK.

Hw r u?

F & u?

Doing gr8. thx 4 asking

Look familiar?

Would you believe that kind of spelling shows up in college essays, on college exams and, even worse, in business applications and letters from college grads? Would you believe this trend has been happening for several years?

Having never received one of those missives, I had no idea. But I am told this is a HUGE problem these days. I guess I’m ignorant. I assumed people knew that such online shortcuts are acceptable in context of online features such as Twitter or even cell phone texting, but I also assumed they knew they had no place in serious correspondence. Apparently, I was wrong. And this is a real problem.

Imagine a society where people stop using grammar and spelling? What place is there for people who do? Will all the books currently in existence go out of print? Will people laugh at people who actually make an effort to communicate correctly? And what about translations? You can’t translate those shortcuts into foreign language easily.

The same conversation in Portuguese would have to look something like this:

Cmo ta?

Td bm. E vc?

Td bm tmbm. brgd

Translation is hard, trust me. And it’s hard already when proper grammar is involved. Dealing with that crap is extremely challenging. If I didn’t know what such short cuts looks like from having seen them, I probably couldn’t have done that.

I met a guy recently who told me he actually never studied much grammar and spelling in school. It was deemed less important than other things.


Communication is not important? That’s woefully frightening. It could lead to the downfall of our civilization. No, I’m not being overly dramatic. What would happen if we can’t understand each other? More wars? Maybe. Lots of problems and frustration. It absolutely blows my mind that any school would consider grammar and spelling unimportant. They are so fundamental to every other subject.

It’s a scary thought, if you ask me. It’s something everyone should sit back, take a deep breath, and pray to whatever higher force you believe in that it won’t happen.; Because it’s absolutely going to devastate our competitive edge with the rest of the world and our ability to live in peace with ourselves, let alone anyone else. It’s absolutely one of the worst things we could have happen in our society–to lose communication skills. And if it’s progressed this far already, I can’t imagine where that will lead.

There are hazards to online and digital communication mediums I’d never imagined; pitfalls which never occurred to me. I sincerely hope we can find a way to reverse this one before it’s too late. Don’t you?

For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindle or Nook$14.99 tpb