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redhen4's avatar

Have you noticed an increase in spelling and grammatical errors?

Asked by redhen4 (490 points ) January 29th, 2013

Between books, e-books, and online articles I’ve read lately it seems more and more there are spelling and grammatical errors.

I’ve only had a high school education (I had to look up spelling on grammatical) but I know the difference between there and they’re, or to and too. And I notice more spelling errors in general. I don’t know what that means in regards to the education in this day and age (I graduated high school in 1975).

I notice it more online and e-books than in paper print.

PS I’ve been reading some of the “comments” area on Yahoo, and it just makes me sad to see how many people do not know spell. It does not seem to bode well for the future.

(Maybe due to texting? All the shorthand making it harder to actually spell out words?)

Or am I just being too critical? Or a snob?

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42 Answers

morphail's avatar

Recency illusion. Writers have always been making mistakes. Show us your data showing that the number of mistakes now is greater than it was in the past. If it is actually true, I would guess it is because more people are writing now than in the past, and because we get to see everyone’s unedited writing now. In the past whenever I wrote something, it was not immediately seen by the world.

ucme's avatar

Knot espeshaly kno.

burntbonez's avatar

Apparently this is due to less editing going on. People are self-publishing on the internet and if they edit themselves at all, they don’t do it well. After all, if you don’t know how to use their, they’re or there, you can’t catch yourself when you do it wrong.

thorninmud's avatar

I just finished a book published by Oxford University Press that was chock full of errors that any mediocre editor should have caught. I can’t help but think that we’ve become so reliant on spell-check that if the computer doesn’t red-line it, we just assume it’s OK.

Pachy's avatar

Yes, absolutely, and it makes me crazy and sad. I see it in magazine (even those I most revere, The New Yorker), in newspapers, in ads, and of course all over the Web. I hear it on radio, TV, in commercials, and out of the mouths of people everywhere. There are many causes, but one of the leading ones, in my opinion, is email and IM—social media in general—in which the ability to communicate instant trumps the the luxury of thoughtful writing and attention to its time-honored rules. I’m reading the collected letters of P.G, Wodehouse, one of my favorite authors, and I’m fascinated with his the content and style of those letters. Hae would have been horrified by email.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes. Editorial attention to the content of books is not what it used to be when everything was gone over by hand by a qualified editor, typeset, and then carefully checked by a proofreader. I used to be a freelance copyeditor and proofreader in those days, and I did hand-marking of typewritten manuscripts and line by line proofing of typeset galleys. Those arts have fallen out of use.

Today there is an expectation that the text will be ready for print when it comes in electronically from the author and that spell-checker will take care of the typos. Authors are expected to hire their own editors. The book publishing industry is in chaos and greatly stressed at present, and this is one of the signs.

This is one reason why I really like to read editions of books published 50 or more years ago, when the older values still held secure.

As for the spelling habits of ordinary folks, ignorance seems to be on the upswing, but there is also a lot of indifference. Many people don’t care and don’t see the point of caring.

Even some of the best magazines are showing a slackness they didn’t used to have.

Pachy's avatar

I loved hand-writing and later typing letters when I was a kid and young adult, and I have a packet of letters written in those days, given to me by a friend who kept them all these years, to prove how good I was at it. I can recall tearing up page after page because I hadn’t gotten the words down exactly the way I wanted or because of misspellings or grammar mistakes. Nowadays, when I knock out an email to a business associate or a friend or craft a post like this one, I still take as much care as possible—but my passion and ability to write the way I did in those letters is fading fast.

Shippy's avatar

No can’t say I have bows down to your Highness, due to my peasant grammatical status

Jeruba's avatar

^^^ That’s the attitude that says there’s something wrong with being careful and giving a damn. Why should holding a standard of quality in mind be an offense to anyone and attract sarcastic jabs?

Shippy's avatar

@Jeruba It was a joke! Not everyone here is an editor, not everyone here is interested in grammar. Some like the content of the question. Some like the imagery of the question. Some like to reach out to people in need, who are in pain, and maybe grammar is not in the forefront of their mind. I also said that because the word “snob” was used. Which implies by its very nature that the person is higher than one. If that is the case, I better delete my account, as my grammar is crap.

ragingloli's avatar

Yeah, but that has been the case for enturies. American texts are chock full of spelling errors, even their dictionaries.

morphail's avatar

It’s not because of texting.

Text messages aren’t full of abbreviations – typically less than ten percent of the words use them. [Frequency Illusion]
These abbreviations aren’t a new language – they’ve been around for decades. [Recency Illusion]
They aren’t just used by kids – adults of all ages and institutions are the leading texters these days. [Adolescent Illusion]
Pupils don’t routinely put them into their school-work or examinations.
It isn’t a cause of bad spelling: you have to know how to spell before you can text.
Texting actually improves your literacy, as it gives you more practice in reading and writing.

burntbonez's avatar

The grammar war begins!

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@Jeruba And then the attitude where people are unable to take a joke like yourself also points to there being something wrong.

Bellatrix's avatar

A large number of journalists have been made redundant across the Australian media industry. Many of them were the sub-editors. In order to cut costs it would seem a decision has been made to cut quality.

Seek's avatar

Nah. I read a lot of dime-store sci-fi novels from the 70s and 80s, and they are chock full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Mostly typos. But when the book of several dozen thousand words is being written on a typewriter or word processor, they often couldn’t be arsed to change the whole page for the sake of a misplaced letter or two.

I do see what @Jeruba is talking about, though. The errors I see in present-day books are rarely spelling mistakes or typos. It’s more often poor grammar, a weird sentence fragment, or a serious comma problem (either too many or not enough).

It’s also particularly hard to find writers who take time to appeal to a high reading level. It seems everything lately is intended for a 5th-8th grade-level audience. Nothing to the tune of Frank Herbert or H.P. Lovecraft comes down the pipe anymore.

morphail's avatar

Frank Hebert’s writing is full of comma splices.

Jeruba's avatar

@Shippy, if that was a joke, I apologize for misreading. (We have a convention that uses the character ~ to indicate that something is meant tongue in cheek.) But I have heard remarks so similar, uttered seriously and with intent to disparage, even among professional writers, that your humorous meaning wasn’t obvious to me.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

Language is far more fluid now and maybe this means it is more a case of some errors are actually due to some rules being outdated to how we generally write or speak.

Shippy's avatar

@Jeruba Yes it was. I am improving on my grammar, I think? Plus a few people here help. I really appreciate help actually and am never offended by that offer. Nor if it is pointed out after my post. I would imagine most people cringe and most of my posts, grammar wise ~and other wise maybe~

Seek's avatar

@morphail Yes, however, it takes a little more than the bare minimum of reading comprehension to get through Dune. I find this makes the reading experience a bit more enjoyable. I outgrew children’s books a long time ago, and such bestsellers as “The Hunger Games” are painfully simple.

marinelife's avatar

Welcome to my world.

tinyfaery's avatar

Maybe grammar is changing just like everything else does.

I find my own “mistakes” are a result of reading on a screen and not paper. I can’t say if old habits die hard (I always wrote things out long hand and when computer use became so prolific I printed out what I wrote to edit it; hopefully, fixing my mistakes.) or modern language use has replaced what I learned oh, so long ago.

So I don’t waste paper, but I make a mistake or 2. Hm. Not much to worry about. I’d rather save a tree.

Why some people seem to be so precious about the past and “correct” grammar and spelling I’ll never know. We have a living language that changes and adapts with time.

Sure, I cringe at text speak and I hate when I make a mistake that everyone can see, especially when I know certain people will judge me because of it, but I’d rather worry about important things like oxygen or genocide.

Try correcting grammar when you can’t breathe.

flutherother's avatar

Grammar and punctuation aren’t just a set of arbitrary rules, they are necessary for clear communication. Faulty grammar is bad as it puts a strain on the reader who wants to know what the author intends to say. If you have to guess then you might get it wrong.

Bellatrix's avatar

The original poster wasn’t only talking about informal writing such as texting or posts on social media. They were referring to errors in digital books, online magazines and newspapers. I can overlook poor grammar and spelling (to a point) in an informal setting but when it is becoming a regular part of reading formal material online, I don’t think that’s acceptable. I also don’t think those who want to see standards for quality writing upheld generally are being unreasonable.

CWOTUS's avatar

I no, right?

Symbeline's avatar

Can’t say that I have, but I’m not very good in English, and I’ve always been to French schools. While they all had English courses, I learned English mostly through video games, (which is pretty bad considering the reputation a lot of nineties games have for not so great Japanese to English translation) the Internet, TV and books.
So I’m far from any kind of expert, especially when it comes to grammar. I’ll notice things like to/too they’re/there/their, but I can’t say that there has been an increase of such mistakes as time goes by. Then again, took forever for ME to understand the differences between there, then, to/what hast thou.

I might sometimes notice bad grammar. I read a Stephen King book where there was an error that was so bad, I was like, how did they NOT catch this? Otherwise, I’m pretty much fuckin’ clueless. XD

But it happens. English is also really ’‘stretchy’’ if that makes any sense. You can improvise, replaces and slang everything up and people will still understand. Since not all of us are writers, editors or teachers, we tend to do what a lot of people do; write like how we talk. That could be one reason for the English language to constantly be riddled with mistakes, if it is indeed. As far as texting goes, I can see a point there, except I’m pretty sure that the nature of texting itself isn’t responsible…I mean when you text and you’re in a hurry, you’re not going to be careful on how you write. However, the only texting I’m actually familiar with is the type that was done before touch screens. You pretty much had to purposely misspell everything, or use numbers and stuff, like ’‘im coming 4 u’’. Otherwise, writing something just took too damn long.
Although I do understand that this isn’t what texting is anymore, but I think my point remains; the nature and intent of texting has very little to do with how the English language is being shaped.

And if you go on Yahoo Answers…well what do you expect? I’m surprised those people even know how to turn on their computers. XD

redhen4's avatar

@Jeruba that was my thought too, that people just don’t care as much about the quality of their work. That said, everything is such a rush these days people don’t always have the time to review their work for errors. I rely on spell check just as much as the next person,so unless something really stands out, you believe it has caught all the errors.

OK OK! I’m not against texting. I realize that spelling errors is not the most horrific thing going on in the world today. I live in a bubble and just wondered if anyone else was thinking the same thing about errors.

@bellatrix you said it much better than I did!

@symbeline I do understand your word “stretchy”. New words are created all the time now, and spelling has changed what with texting and the speed with which everyone sees to go these days.

The internet is a wonderful tool to reach out and have conversations and disagreements, and learn other opinions and facts. And I “see” people get angry, hurt feelings, etc., just like in the real world.

I like reading Fluther. Some stuff, a lot of stuff, actually, is way over my head.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Copy editors have become an endangered species. Yes, you’re seeing more and more typos, misused words, and bad punctuation.

morphail's avatar

@flutherother What’s an example of faulty grammar that causes a lack of clarity?

CWOTUS's avatar

“Let’s eat Grandma!”
“Let’s eat, Grandma!”

Howzat, @morphail?

morphail's avatar

@CWOTUS That’s punctuation, not grammar.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
wundayatta's avatar

Not really. Things seem to be at about the same level of quality. The internet isn’t as good, but the major papers I read on the Internet seem to be pretty decent. I heard on the radio that there is a reduction, but of course, they would say that. I think it’s pretty much hype. But I could change my mind if you could show me some actual data.

flutherother's avatar

@morphail A couple of examples: “Try our curry – you’ll never get better.”

And this:

“Supervisors must inform their staff of the help that is available before June 1.”

Is the help available before June 1 or must supervisors inform their staff by this date? I’m sure this sort of confusion wastes a lot of time in the workplace.

morphail's avatar

@flutherother In both of those examples, I wouldn’t say that the grammar is faulty. They are ambiguous, but almost every sentence is ambiguous. In the first example, the meaning is obvious. The second one could be misinterpreted.

http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/the-inescapability-of-ambiguity/
http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/i-come-to-praise-ambiguity-not-to-bury-it/

Shippy's avatar

@morphail You really do have a lot of knowledge.

tinyfaery's avatar

Sentences usually occur with other sentences an create a context for the ambiguous sentence.

Juels's avatar

Is it wrong of me to giggle about the typo in your question?

Yes; I’ve noticed a lot of errors in my eBooks. It drives me crazy! I catch myself focusing on the error instead of the story. As for user posts, I’m guessing that a lot of people are using their cell phones and just don’t care about the typos.

(I really hope I haven’t left any in this post. LOL)

redhen4's avatar

@Juels I just read it again, looking for my error, what is it? :)

I agree, texting on phones may be the cause. I recently realized that people are using phones and i-pads to leave messages online. I don’t have a smart phone or i-pad so I didn’t realize that is the cause. I think people type on phones so fast to get the message back as quickly as possible so they don’t worry about typos and such.

Juels's avatar

I’m sure the grammar police could pick apart my posts and have a good laugh. I often leave out entire words.

“it just makes me sad to see how many people do not know spell” I assumed you meant “do not know how to spell”.

redhen4's avatar

@juels ya got me!

Even now I almost missed it. It is like one of those puzzles with letters and numbers as words and you can read it because your mind can “see” the words. Pretty cool.

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