I work a day job in the legal field where part of my responsibilities involve editing all the correspondence, documents, etc. Hold on, I’ll stop now so you can laugh with me. My editing skills are in no way deserving of this honor, particularly my copy editing skills (check out the different types of editing). I’m pretty good with the overall big picture stuff, but when it comes to a line by line detailed dissection… forget it. And lo and behold what do I do on a daily basis? Yup, detailed crap. So let’s have a good laugh together. Okay, I know this is helping me be a better writer and all that jazz, but it’s like being punished by sticking needles into myself every day. And I’m still not sure how I was elected for it. Guess I impressed someone, believe me that wasn’t on purpose. But having done this for almost five years now and seeing the deterioration of basic skills, it makes me wonder what is happening to our English language and what the future holds for it.
Just a few months ago I had to give a new hire a lesson on plural words. Yes, I’m talking about taking a word like dog and making it plural by adding an s, thus dogs. They were using ‘s for plural, so it would look like dog’s, which turned the lesson into one on possessive words. I’m not in any way trying to make fun of this person. I’m just dumbfounded that someone with a college degree who’s first language is English could get through life without knowing how to make a plural word or more so that schools are apparently slacking on teaching basic grammar (or maybe schools are being too lazy to correct bad grammar).
Then I see so much of the following examples (that I pretty much made up because of privacy reasons I can’t take from actual documents, but they’re close enough and again all the people speak English as their first language) that I wonder if people even notice my corrections. Well, some of them do because they will argue with me until the end of time (even after I show them proof of what I’m saying) that their way is the correct way. They’re usually the attorneys, so I’m not surprised at that. Well, let me give you some examples…
1. This is what I; see on a daily basis, Comma, Comma, random Semicolon; Common, and lots of aimless Capitalization. Great sentence, right?
2. And also things like this… IRA Form, that mailing to you to Bank–sign and return. Say what? What happened to those tricky little articles like a, an, the or even a verb like is or I don’t know, a simple conjunction like and (parts of speech)?
3. Can I give you one more example? Okay… let’s use this sentence… Enclosed Filed Copy of Power of Attorney for you and wife, kindly store with important Documents, we have copy in File, thank you for being a most courteous Client, which offered great assistance in achieving Results. Hold on, let me go catch that sentence before it runs away forever.
When I first started doing the editing it wasn’t that bad, but I can’t get over how corrupted it has become in five short years. What happened? Has twitter with their infamous 140 characters, texting, and a rapid need to get things done (or just plain laziness) really affected our language that much? I hope not and I hope this doesn’t mean the demise of basic grammar as we know it.
What do you think? Have you noticed this kind of shift in writing and grammar skills? What do you think is the cause of it? Let me know!