Monday, 24 March 2014

Grammar, spelling and punctuation - Are they still important?

When I was at primary school in the 1960s, every morning we recited the timestables from 2x1 through to 12x12.  All these years later, the answers still come automatically to me.

Once a week we had a "spelling bee" and it was a matter of pride to move up to the next level book.  Punctuation and grammar were given the same attention.  How it annoys me now on social media to see misuse of apostrophes and capital letters, not to mention misspellings.  The most common and annoying error appears to be "your" for you+are (you're).  Some people think every word ending in s must have an apostrophe before the s.  Have they never stopped to think of the actual purpose of an apostrophe?

I guess if one can make sense of the sentence, it doesn't really matter about spelling or punctuation but grammar is probably more important.  Grammatical errors can be quite humorous; they're common in newspapers and magazines these days, not to mention on television.  "Stupidness", "ambitiousness"?  We know what is meant but they are so wrong.

Though I could spell and punctuate relatively well during my childhood, my grammar was less than perfect.  One example was saying "should of" rather than "should have"; another was a "k" at the end of words ending with "thing", e.g. "something" became "somethink".  I wasn't even aware I was doing it.  Once my errors were pointed out to me, I became very conscious of the way I spoke and that in turn made me aware of how others speak.

It's not as if I don't still make the odd grammatical error but I'm careful with how I word things.  It's a similar thing with spelling; I can usually tell when I spell an unfamiliar word incorrectly.  I'm not happy with, "Oh, it doesn't matter; people will know what I mean."  I have to make sure I get it right; it's the perfectionist in me.

It's said the English language is a difficult one to learn.  I don't know how people learning English as a second or third language can get to grips with it when it confuses those that are "born into it".  Language is a constantly evolving entity, I understand that, but surely punctuation was created for a reason?  Or was it?  Who first used punctuation and capital letters and what made them do so?

Perhaps young people today have decided it's no longer important.  With "text speak", are vowels even necessary?  Is language going to become a blend of letters and numbers; will numbers replace apostrophes?  Texting is a nightmare for "oldies" like me.