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Ironically, most of them are communications majors...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DrFrylock, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. DrFrylock

    DrFrylock
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    Inspired by another of today's threads...

    Some people love language. I don't, really, but I think language can be a powerful tool. And, as a guy, I genetically recognize that tools impart power to people. Effective and clear communication is a force-multiplier in my daily life.

    I have exactly one native language, which, unsurprisingly, is English. I took four years of Spanish, but never get to use it conversationally, so I've forgotten much of it. I figure if I am only going to be passable in one language, I might as well be good at it. So I take a strong interest in things like spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. If I encounter a word or idiom I haven't seen before (which, these days, is pretty surprising) I will immediately go look it up.

    Sometimes I have trouble because I will use a word that other people don't know. Invariably, someone will tell me that the point of communication is to establish a common understanding with someone, so it's not productive to use words that other people don't know. My response (out loud) is usually, "you're right, of course." My response (in my head) is usually, "it's not my fault he has a goddamn third grade vocabulary. DURRRRR."

    Beyond just spelling and grammar and the like, a lot of people I know have some sort of blockage between their brains and the keyboard. If I talk to them, they're mostly understandable and their thoughts are, at worst, semi-coherent. If they write those same things down, it's like Faulkner on acid. These are professional adults, but their writing ranges from "functionally illiterate" to "coherent but disorganized."

    I do not see an improved emphasis on writing skills in the next generation, either. On one hand, this makes any writing skill I do have more valuable. On the other hand, I have to read all this shit.

    FOCUS: How important is writing in your job? Are you a stickler for spelling and grammar, or do you misquote Thomas Jefferson to excuse your own inattention to such details? Can the people around you write?

    NINJA EDIT FOCUS: What does someone else's ability to write tell you about them? For example, if someone misuses "their" and "there" or "your" and "you're" regularly, does your opinion about them change?
     
  2. Nom Chompsky

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    Count me in the love language camp.

    Writing is a pretty big part of my life, both professionally and personally, so I definitely appreciate when it's done well. I've always been a bit envious of people who can write clearly and concisely without sacrificing meaning; making good writing look easy takes a unique sort of talent.

    I've always had an interest in grammar, and the way words build upon each other, but if there's one thing I can't stand, it's grammar snobs. Or, at least, grammar snobs that don't really know that much about grammar. Whenever I see a person mock somebody else for misusing "their" or "to", I can't help but feel like they're patting themselves on the back for essentially nothing. The vast majority of the people I've met who REALLY know their shit about grammar and words aren't smug about it: it's a legitimate intellectual pursuit, not a reason to look down on people.
     
  3. Binary

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    Writing is probably a bigger part of my jobs than it has to be, mostly because I'm good at it. Consequently, I frequently end up being the person who rewrites technical documents, or sends out customer communications, or writes a proposal for the team to present for management.

    I'm admittedly a bit of a grammar nazi. I won't hound someone over a typo, or a misused word in the middle of an otherwise adequate paragraph, but it drives me up a wall when people just don't care. To Nom's point, I don't really feel that grammar is really the root of my urge to correct someone - that is, I don't process a misused word as, "HAH! They don't know how to use this word and I do."

    I think it's frequently a sign of fundamental laziness or carelessness. I believe most people know the rules that dictate using there/their/they're. If you gave someone a quiz, my guess is most people who misuse the words would do fine on the quiz. I just don't understand why someone would make the deliberate choice to appear foolish or careless.

    People should communicate well. That takes a certain amount of care, and I think it speaks volumes about someone when they don't take the time to write carefully. The whole thing is exacerbated by the seemingly-universal opinion that nobody should care on the internet. People form habits and if your habit is to write poorly online, that's going to spill over into your writing elsewhere.
     
  4. effinshenanigans

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    Among other things, I'm the managing editor of a niche publication. I've got a staff of nine writers under me, not including the dozen or so other occasional contributors. I'm constantly writing material myself, as well as editing theirs. It also bears mentioning that my writers are all legally blind--some have no light perception whatsoever. All of them rely on either screen readers or text zooming software to write.

    While content is not an issue, grammar is understandably something that is lost on some of them. Many times, commas are missing, letters aren't capitalized, etc. Since it sounds alright to them as it is read back, they don't realize that things are missing. I devote a large amount of time correcting these issues so that the publication is ready for release.

    Ninja Focus:
    Short of someone being utterly hopeless, you have to be careful about how you judge someone based on their writing. My buddy, for example, is a terrible writer because he's dyslexic. But put him in a room with a group of people, and he's smart and charming. In his case, writing does not reveal his ability to communicate well with others and he's quick on his feet. Conversely, I know people who are amazing writers who can't talk to anyone without stumbling over their words. In their case, their ability to communicate properly is governed by how long they have to get their thoughts out.
     
  5. Evildreams

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    Ninja Focus - When I write in my native language there's probably multiple spelling mistakes in each sentence but English is such an easy language that there's really no excuse for not knowing the difference between 'your' and 'you're'. What I find unacceptable is local journalists or politicians who write in 'English as she is spoke' type English. If you open a book every once in a while you should have no problems in writing, especially when considering how ridiculously easy English is to write.
     
  6. lust4life

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    Writing is a critical component of my grad program and my work project at the university, but the styles are completely different. For papers and such, I've had to adopt the lexicon of the social sciences as well as the APA style and format, neither of which was really a big deal for me (though I do wish someone would create a plug-in for MS Word that auto-formats a document to APA standard). My work project involves writing online courses for both counselors and rehabilitation consumers, so the style is simpler and more personal, using contractions, etc. As with any form of communication, know your audience and tailor the delivery of the message accordingly and you'll be much more effective.

    And I definitely evaluate people by how they communicate--written, verbal and non-verbal. That's a big part of counseling. But, I'm also guilty on occasion of judging rather than evaluating. Classmates giving a presentation in class where they just read the power point slides verbatim? I'm always tempted to just take their handout and leave. I'm quite capable of reading, I don't need you to do it for me. Some of the emails I get from them makes me wonder who is writing their papers for them.
     
  7. Superfantastic

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    I'm known among my friends as "the writer" of the group, even though my job is only about 30% writing and I haven't done freelance in more than a year. I find most people are actually better at writing than they think. They seem to consider it some super difficult skill. Don't get me wrong, writing well is difficult, and takes practice. But they look at it the same as someone who's never played a guitar just picking it up and playing -- the big difference being, they write everyday.

    I don't get upset with people for mis-speaking or writing poorly, with one exception that annoys the fuck out of me, especially when I see it on a place like this board, which happens fairly frequently.

    Saying "I could care less" about something, when what they really mean is "couldn't". I will shamelessly steal from my blog to explain:

    Say What You Mean, Asshole...

    As someone who writes, I’m super-conscious about not coming across as a snobby grammar Nazi. People hate that shit. There’s one thing I can’t let go though, and I swear it’s the only instance I ever speak up:

    When someone says, “I could care less”, but they clearly mean could NOT. No one ever means ‘could’, but they say it all the time: “I could care less about what he/she thinks.”

    Do you realize you just said you care?

    I won’t deny it’s easy to skip the N-apostrophe-T, but that’s still a shitty excuse. What really bugs me is that it’s often said with arrogance and dismissal, and being arrogant and dismissive while speaking wrong (not even improperly, which happens, but flat out wrong, like not having learned the difference between do and don’t) makes you sound like an asshole.

    It’s really a variation of “I don’t give a fuck”, but for some reason, people choose to say “I give a fuck” in a tone that implies they don’t give a fuck. The fuck?

    Now when someone says it I reply very directly, in the hopes the say-er will think I’m missing something, and become fifty times smugger (and fifty times more wrong), as they repeat and re-emphasize their piece of anti-language.

    “I could care less who Tiger is fucking.”

    Look of disdain concealed as sincere curiosity…

    “Oh, so you care?”

    Un-justified expression of self-satisfaction, followed by a drawn-out…

    “No…I said I could care less.”

    Most realize it before the end of ‘could’, but some actually finish the sentence and wait for a response, usually with their eyebrows raised. I like to wait it out.

    Realization, defeat…

    “So…you care.”

    That’s when they act cool and say, “oh, well, whatever, you know what I mean,” and continue on.

    Like I said, it’s the only time I correct someone, and I know I won’t change anything, but I had to write something in the hopes that one person who says it reads this and feels retarded for doing so. That’s all.
     
  8. Nom Chompsky

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    All of my grammatical pet peeves have to do with hypercorrection and misuse of fancy words when simple ones will do. Probably the most annoying of these (that has become so common that most dictionaries have given up and reworded the definition) is misuse of the word comprise.

    The parts compose the whole. The whole comprises the parts.

    That's the whole point of the word. If you're just going to use it because it sounds slightly fancier than "forms" or "composes", then you're sapping the soul of a useful word. Don't get me started on any construction that includes the phrase "is comprised of."

    If people are making a good faith effort to be understood, and they mess up, it's cool. But when people try to sound super smart and get stuff wrong, I find it irritating. Comic related, though somewhat ironically:

    [​IMG]
     
  9. lostalldoubt86

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    In my current job, writing isn't important. I do the filing, so as long as I get my point across, no one really cares. This fact annoys me to no end. Mostly because no one in the office is expected to write with anything more than basic skills. No one takes the time to write neatly, spell correctly, or write in full sentences. I really just want to get my masters so I can become a teacher and have the power to correct these mistakes.

    As far as what i think of people who don't speak/write correctly, it drives me fucking insane. I have called off friendships over misuse of homophones.
     
  10. audreymonroe

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    I'm a writer so...it's important.

    I'm not totally a stickler for people having perfect spelling and grammar, because I'm not perfect either. The only things that get to me are messing up the classics (you're/your, its/it's, too/two/to, their/they're/there) because to me that's not a sign of being unable to spell. It's a sign of being stupid.

    What I get obnoxious about is when people just straight up butcher the English language. It's not even a case of having bad grammar and/or spelling. I can't even explain it. They just do not understand the concept or mechanics of putting what they say or think into words that make sense to people outside of their heads. I've always been aware that I've always lived in relatively sheltered environments when it comes to the level of education/intelligence of the people I'm surrounded with, but when I started working on an app last year where people from across the country write in with questions, I was shocked and appalled by how little grasp so many teenagers have on how to write. I don't expect everyone to be fucking Shakespeare, but I get at least one question an hour that is so garbled I can't even begin to have a clue about what the hell they're trying to ask. I can piece together a general idea from most of the rest, but it's like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    I also have absolutely no patience for textspeak. My opinion of someone definitely lowers when I discover they use lol/omg/btw/"2 c u" etc. This is especially so with guys. If I'm texting with someone I just met and they throw out a "What r u doing 2nite?" I won't immediately write them off right then and there, but my interest in them will plummet. Same goes for using a smiley or winky or tongue-sticking-out-y face. (For some reason, I don't mind the other ones, and use them frequently. Those three just piss me off. Shrug.)
     
  11. MoreCowbell

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    I think there is a big distinction to be made in terms of time span and attention detail. Context matters. If you point out that someone used it's as a possessive in an essay, you're being helpful. If you point out said error in a Post-it that they stuck to the fridge as they were heading out the door, you might be a dick.
     
  12. LatinGroove

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    I almost had an aneurysm attempting to read this.
     

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  13. Psk

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    Writing is important in my line of work, even though it only constitutes a very small part of what I do, which is temporarily working in a battalion-level staff. When an order is written, it has to be written so clearly that the person receiving it understands both the task and the implied tasks (for example: at point B., do this, which also implies that one has to move from point A. to B.). Simple in this case, but the more complex and extensive the order, the more important it is. Furthermore there are certain tasks which, though sounding similar, have different, specific, meanings or ambitions. For example, Defend and Hold have different meanings. Search and Clear have different meanings, and so on.

    I would like to argue that these principles are the same in everyday life as well. Certain words can imply different things depending on context. They can set tone, tempo or a certain feeling. Using different words which have similar meanings is not snobbery or showing off, it's using the correct term in the right context to communicate something. One of the best novels I have read, that really shows off how context based the written language is, is A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. Based on just one sentence in the last chapter, you can re-read the novel from an entirely different perspective and the words mean something completely different.

    My point is that we communicate so little with our words when we speak to eachother face to face. We use facial expressions, different tones when we speak, tempo and body language. We use what we know about the person talking to us, or stereotypes, to make judgements on and analyse what they are saying. Using the written language well is a way to communicate those things through just words, and therefore, the smaller the grasp you have of the written language, the less you can communicate and understand through words.

    Ironically, not using the written language correctly can sometimes communicate more about a person than using it well. See Yo'Landa.
     
  14. eric

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    I can't say writing is hugely important in my line of work, other than not looking like an idiot in the 50 to 100 emails I send to various clients each day. I need to have some attention to detail when doing the notes for a technical drawing. Nobody is going to harp about a typo, but calling out "TAP THIS HOLE, M3 X 0.5" vs. "TAP THIS HOLE, M4..." is the difference between something that goes together and something that goes into the garbage. Likewise, when calling out the insertion of hardware into sheetmetal I always need to ensure whether I want to "PRESS STANDOFF FROM FARSIDE" or "PRESS STANDOFF FROM NEARSIDE". Again, mess it up and you'll need to send the parts back for rework.

    I don't want to paint the all young'uns with the same brush, but its the younger people in my life who can't seem to write for shit. A few years ago I actually had to sit down with a new employee, a young engineer just out of school, and explain that we don't use "lol" and emoticons in emails to clients. Unless the acronym is w.r.t. or ASAP I don't want to see it in an email.

    My younger brother, 10 years my junior, sends me emails that I need to read 3 or 4 times before I understand them completely. Aside from being pregnant with incorrect spelling, the guy has no concept of paragraphs. His emails are just one big solid block of text. I've resorted to highlighting sections with the mouse so I can at least break it up visually. Speaking of break, he's also the king of homonym substitution. Last week he was telling me that he was having issues with the "breaks" on his car.
     
  15. Disgustipated

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    I concur with the lawyerly attitude to writing, especially in contract law. You fuck it and it's fucked, good and hard. When I did my degree, it was right around the time that plain English law was getting some momentum. They were trying to do away with the 10 line sentences and interspersed Latin at random. I took to that easily and got my first high distinction (and only, for the record) in Legal Drafting, without too much effort.

    Now, I have to be a real stickler for the way in which correspondence and documents are drafted, because, as Ballsack pointed out, a comma in the wrong position can easily ruin your day. Or get you prosecuted....

    The most challenging thing I have to do seems to lay in the area of writing to people and explaining something to them that should be as obvious as the need to draw successive breaths. Some days it really does seem to be the literal equivalent of trying to dumb down and re-explain "the cat sat on the mat" or "the sky is blue".

    I get rabid at some of the stuff I've seen our staff write and send out. I actually fired one for sending out correspondence that wasn't authorised or checked, after she had already been warned not to do it. Her response/excuse was, "At least it was understandable." She's lucky it was down the phone line in a compulsory mediation conference with the Fair Work Commissioner (but that's another story).

    I have a shit ton of issues with some of the stuff I see floating around. I inherently cringe at my own literary downfalls; which I am keenly aware are there and seem to always be. But, far and away my biggest peeve at the moment is something that I'm seeing crop up in legislation repeatedly. I was always taught that if you're going to give the definition of something, then you should not use the word or term you are defining in the substantive part of the definition. For example, very simply, that would mean saying that the definition of a cat is "a cat".

    Here's an actual definition from some legislation I'm dealing with at the moment:

    "'market value', of goods or services to which a credit contract relates, means fair market value including any good and services tax."

    There is no further definition, and the Accounting Standards don't recognise the term "fair market value".

    Nice work, you bureaucratic hacks.
     
  16. Juice

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    Im a financial (sometimes IT) auditor, so writing is a pretty important part of my job because of the people who read the reports. Usually the reports are read by company's Board of Directors and they respond to their subordinates according to the audit rating. The Office of Comptroller of the Currency (the Fed) also reads a copy of each of our reports and performs their own investigations.

    The shitty part is about 600 hours go into each audit, and the only thing people outside of my department ever see is the 2 page report summing it all up. I have to describe the audit work, my findings, my recommendations, and the managers reponse all within those two pages, so you better believe it has to be worded and written very carefully.
     
  17. ex Animo

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    It's quite shocking how many people don't know how to write. It's even more shocking how much contempt people have towards me when I tell them I'm an English major. It's never an aggressive comment, outright, but a passive aggressive comment/question like:

    "What do you plan on doing with that?"
    " Fucking your mom."

    Anyway.

    I'm a huge stickler when it comes to contractions. I'm a big stickler for words that everyone should know how to spell. For instance, a girl I'm friends with on Facebook - hot, very attractive, huge (read: D's) tits, about 5'3. Can't spell to save her life. Used to spell tomorrow like "tomarrow", ridiculous like "rediculous". I wanted to pluck my eyes out. But then I realized she would never do anything except be a restaurant server for the rest of her life, so I wasn't too angry after that.
     
  18. Frank

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    Jesus fucking christ, I swear 80% of people don't know how to spell ridiculous and it makes my blood boil. I will correct someone and they will to it wrong again, IN THE SAME CONVERSATION.

    Let's not call the kettle black there English boy.
     
  19. Natty

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    I have to be very proficient in writing and amend my tones / approaches based on my audience in order to do my job well. Funny enough, Georgia Tech hammered technical writing into engineering majors from day one because of the universal complaint that technical people couldn't communicate very well in text.

    In day-to-day correspondence, I'm not a grammar nazi in the least. Shit, there are tons of informal emails I send that I go back and read, and hope people aren't making fun of me. But it's all for efficacy's sake, get a quick answer out to the question posed or provide an update regarding the subject matter. Grammar is over-looked mostly.

    What I can't fucking stand however, is people that can't speak properly. "Me and _____, was..." and people that crutch every sentence with the pretense "Well the question is...." or "Let me ask you this..."

    How 'bout this fuck face, conjugate verbs correctly and just ask me a fucking question.
     
  20. Disgustipated

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    My completely one-eyed and poorly informed stance is that the movement away from teaching phonics to kids is to blame. Bring back "Hooked on Phonics", ya dicks. Not only did I learn phonics in school, but also latin roots, prefixes and suffixes.

    You learn the letters of the alphabet to form words. People should also be learning the components of words. None of this "whole word" bullshit. Edumacation.... its fer everbody.