Students today feel that if their meaning and purpose can be deciphered from a sentence then their job is done, regardless of spelling and grammar errors. What they don’t realize is that, in their negligence, they are contributing to the death of the very language they speak.
In “Goodbye, cruel words: English. Its dead to me,” Gene Weingarten gives a satirical send off to the English language, placing much of the blame on youth:
“It was not immediately clear to what degree the English language will be mourned, or if it will be mourned at all. In the United States, English has become increasingly irrelevant, particularly among young adults. Once the most popular major at the nation’s leading colleges and universities, it now often trails more pragmatic disciplines, such as economics, politics, government, and, ironically, “communications,” which increasingly involves learning to write mobile-device-friendly ads for products like Cheez Doodles.”
Weingarten also distributes culpability to the press:
“The language’s demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America’s daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.”
So what can we do to help preserve the English language? Proper spelling is a must, but grammar – consisting of proper sentence structure and verb agreement – is a necessity, as is knowing the difference between certain homophones. Here are a few crucial examples:
There – Indicates location – It’s over there.
Their – Indicates possession – It’s their car.
They’re – They are – They’re going to be here any minute.
Where – Indicates location – Where are you?
Were – Indicates time – Were you there?
Right – Correct – The right answer.
Rite – A formal/ceremonial act – The last rites.
Write – To transcribe on paper, or express through words. – He wants to write a book.
Wright – A worker, especially of a constructive nature – He is a playwright.
Too – Also; as well – She will go too.
Two – A number – There are two.
To – Used to express direction – We went to the library.