• Sandra Burke

Nobody cares about spelling!

Are you reading this with a critical eye? Are you ready to pounce on any spelling mistake or grammatical error with a sour face and a harsh frown? Chances are then that you are a baby boomer or a communications professional because, quite frankly, these things don’t matter too much to most younger people.

Speaking with the teenage daughter of a friend recently about a school project she’s working on, I noticed a few spelling mistakes and tactfully pointed them out. “That doesn’t matter in this subject” she said rolling her eyes. “I won’t get marked down for that if the teacher can see what I meant. Nobody cares about spelling!”. Cue a sharp intake of breath from me. Can things really have changed so much since my school days in the seventies? Turns out yes, they have. In a big way.

So much communication is done by texts these days on mobile phones and devices, and we all find that abbreviations speed things up. You’ll be familiar with TLC perhaps (tender loving care) and NIMBY (not in my back yard) but what about LOL (lots of laughs), BTW (by the way), BRB (be right back) and XOXO (hugs and kisses). Yes, I don’t get the last one either. There are hundreds of these and most of them very well known by the post-millennials. Who needs spelling and grammar? Heck, who actually needs words when a picture will do?

There are also emojis. What’s an emoji? They started out as simple smiley faces with lots of different expressions. A quicker way of expressing how you are feeling apparently. Which is fine if you know what they all mean. But no-one does, not even teenagers. There are now thousands of them and they’re no longer confined to faces. You get objects, animals, people, weather, nature, food and drink etc. etc. It’s like a whole new language and some folk just can’t help sending a really obscure one over as a challenge. Personally, I quite like them because a picture can paint a thousand words. And, as a cheery soul - the grinning smileys, big red heart and party poppers are well used on my keypad – much to the dismay of my “grammar geek” chums!

Then there’s the catchy words and phrases in use by younger people these days. Do you ever overhear kids chatting and can’t make head nor tail of it? No wonder. Just recently it was reported that Scrabble has added 300 new words to the dictionary. Many of them only because they’ve come into everyday use on mobile phones and social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The acceptable words list now includes emoji, twerk and coulda, kinda and yowza. It’s a safe bet that wordsmiths and writers throughout the land are squirming at the news.

Does it matter if we all “get” their meaning? Discussing this recently at home, I had to admit that I’m a fan of plain, conversational language. Training in the civil service long ago, we were encouraged to write to impress. To use flowery, obscure language. To pen ten long sentences when one short sentence would have done. Thank goodness that’s largely no longer the case. The fact is that millennials want to get to the point quicker. Grammar has become redundant in texts and on social media and being a slave to correct spelling gives away your (older) age. Increasingly, what matters is that you get the meaning of what’s been said and, if you do, all is well.

Some of our best laughs at home in recent years have been when the kids explain new text abbreviations. Just don’t ask me what DILLIGAS or ROTFLMAO mean. I couldn’t possibly say - you’ll have to google it. And, yes, google is a real word, since entering the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006!

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© 2019 by Sandra Burke