General Question

PurpleWig's avatar

Why is there such a flagrant disregard of proper spelling and grammar on many internet forums?

Asked by PurpleWig (52points) August 31st, 2010

I have observed in many online forums that a good number of people don’t use proper spelling and grammar. I am not so surprised when I see this of younger folks, but when an educated adult can’t spell and has a huge number of grammar mistakes, it makes no sense to me. Sure, we all occasionally spell a word wrong or miss-capitalize a word, but I don’t understand why it happens so often.

What do you think?

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56 Answers

Katexyz's avatar

Essentially it is because it is easier and more efficient to use poor grammar. Sad but true that the English language is butchered to make it easier to type.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Forget internet forums – I am applying for a PhD in program and one of the websites for one of the schools here in NYC spells it ‘mutliple’ and ‘insitutions’ – makes me not want to go there.

OptimalMoose's avatar

Mostly, people are just lazy. Some folks honestly don’t know what is the correct way to phrase something though.

JLeslie's avatar

Now that I just purchased an iPad I understand it better. I make so many more mistakes on this thing than on my laptop.

harple's avatar

Is this a bad time to point out the missing “d”?....

PurpleWig's avatar

@JLeslie: But surely you don’t type “u” when you mean “you” or “2” when you mean “too” or “to.” I also notice that your answer is grammatically correct and free of spelling mistakes.

@harple: Thank you, I fixed it. :)

CMaz's avatar

Because we are not taking a test?
Because we do not have to prove anything?
Because we just want to reach out and communicated, hoping that we will not be discriminated upon, us not being you?

And, what @MeinTeil is about to say.

MeinTeil's avatar

Because those users that get bet bent out of shape over such errors deserve the torture.

ragingloli's avatar

Because some people are stupid.

Seek's avatar

Cuz its not lik were in skool r nuthin why shud we if theirs not a grade onit

JLeslie's avatar

@PurpleWig Only when I am texting do I use those type of short cuts. Although, on this Ipad I kind of want to abbreviate things, because I am not typing with my hands in proper typing position, I am typing with two fingers right now. When I type with my hands in proper typing placement I almost can’t use the types of abreviations you mentioned, or what I mean is it is more automatic to write things out correctly, because I am typing so fast the real words wind up on the screen.

Austinlad's avatar

Sorry ChazMaz, but I don’t agree with you. There’s no excuse, even in casual social communication, to misspell words and use improper grammar and punctuation. At least this writer doesn’t think so.

ipso's avatar

@PurpleWig – I believe the word “Internet” in the original post should be capitalized.

That’s why.

PurpleWig's avatar

@ChazMaz: And if the with whom you are trying to communicate do not understand you, what then?

@MeinTeil: Hm… I feel as if it is more a sign of laziness than anything else.

@ipso: I didn’t know it was a proper noun.

rebbel's avatar

Keep also in mind, please, that some Jellies are foreigners (non US-citizens) whose native language isn’t English.
Be considerate with them.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Many people on web sites do not speak English as a second language. Some web sites encourage short, concise answers and accept text-speak. Some people are not as educated, be it through professional training or just from their ability to pick up these skills and knowledge from reading.

mrentropy's avatar

Because it’s the Internet, man! The last truly free frontier! It’s all about the anarchy! It’s all about the chaos! Because you don’t know who I am, man, and I don’t know who you are! So I can do what I want, go where I want, misspell what I want and there ain’t nothing you can do about it, man!

Free love, free beer, free grammar! It’s all about me, it’s all about you, but it’s not about us! You catchin’ my drift, man, ma’am?

Peace out.

OptimalMoose's avatar

No, you’re not being graded on your typing skills, but it does make it alot easier for people to understand you if you put in the extra few moments to at least try to make your posts readable. My main problem with people who use internet shorthand is when they only cut one letter off and just mangle the word (As in nething/anything). Shorthand and meme’s are fine, but only in moderation.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I always appreciate the use of proper English, but I get a bit tired of Grammar Nazis who nit pick on everything, and are not always correct and who don’t seem to understand that for some, English is not a first language, and some others don’t quite have the extreme dexterity to handle tiny intuitive keyboards on phones. I’m sure there are mistakes here, but I bet you get my drift

Seek's avatar

I do want to say that it is pretty easy to tell who is using English as a second language, and who is deliberately not using the English they’ve been taught.

Be kind to the former. Impale the latter.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@rebbel There are other countries that speak English. Where do you think Americans got it from?

CMaz's avatar

“There‚Äôs no excuse, even in casual social communication, to misspell words and use improper grammar and punctuation.”

Sorry you feel that way. I guess you are perfect. :-)

Speaking for myself, I’m dyslexic. And, I am intelligent and successful. But, I have to work VERY HARD to make sure you language Nazis do not get your panties in a knot. Because sometimes I CAN’T HELP IT. And, sometimes I spell backwards and will not notice it till I have read over it a few times.

But it seems that I have to explain it over and over again because some of you have a wonderful gift. That I do not have. I guess, tough luck on me.

And you use your legitimizing argument to rub it in my face.

If you can read what someone wrote, leave the rest alone. Otherwise why not just criticize someones accent or their facial expressions. Or the way they dress. But here you do not have that opportunity. But, you have to poke at something. Its really sad and insignificant.

When all we want to do is say hello.

Here is a smile. :-)
Since there is no inflection and I am sure some will see this as if my panties are in a knot. Just answering the question that has been put before us.

rebbel's avatar

I know about where American English originates from, but i talked about non US citizens because most users on Fluther seem to be from the States.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think being ESL accounts for shortcuts and text speak. I would not know where to start in Spanish to shorten words for texting. For grammar and spelling ESL sometimes is the reason, perfectly understandable.

PurpleWig's avatar

Oops, forgot to write a word in my previous answer. That first one is supposed to be “And if the people with whom…”

@rebbel @Pied_Pfeffer: I understand that and I am most definitely not talking about those people. There are signs, usually, if someone is speaking English as a second language and those people are much easier to forgive but when someone speaks like @Seek_Kolinahr‘s first answer, which I hope is a joke ;), it is honestly difficult to understand them. I am also not talking about the occasional mistake.

@ChazMaz: Hm… seems as if you are the one whose panties are in a knot.

Seek's avatar

@PurpleWig That was definitely a joke. Can’t you tell? I couldn’t keep from capitalizing the first letter in the “sentence”, and it was everything I could do to leave out the necessary punctuation. It kills my brain to write like that.

Aster's avatar

some of it is laziness. we all have to decide if we really care about making a certain impression.

augustlan's avatar

I have no problem whatsoever with the English-as-a-second- (or third or fourth!) language folks. We all make mistakes, and that doesn’t bother me, either. But I truly don’t understand why some don’t even try to write clearly. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of laziness and conditioning (via texting).

CMaz's avatar

“And if the with whom you are trying to communicate do not understand you, what then?”
99% of the time. You can figure it out.

That is an excuse to complain.

Austinlad's avatar

Oh, @ChazMaz, I’m far from perfect, as anyone who reads my comments can see. But why not strive to be better—better person, better, writer, better communicator. Kinda thin-skinned, aren’t you, when somebody disagrees with you?

CMaz's avatar

I did have a smile. And a flare for the dramatic. :-)

And, I do work had at it. I live for spell check. But it only goes so far. “But why not strive to be better”. You have no idea how frustrating it is.

And, I am by no means thin skinned. I just find what you see as simple I see as arrogance. :-)

gailcalled's avatar

Curiously, “misspell” is a word but “misscapitalize” is not (yet).

OptimalMoose's avatar

@ChazMaz English isn’t everyone first language. Sometimes people need to use translators when they don’t understand something, so yes, using semi-formal english to communicate makes life easier (Mostly just an issue with the crappy free translators that are popular these days). Personally, I do like to complain for the sake of complaining from time to time, but not everyone always “gets it”.

PurpleWig's avatar

@ChazMaz: Ah, yes, good point, If it takes me three times as long to read something, it’s okay because, hey, I can figure it out. But if I can’t figure it out, well, I should just suck it up? From what I understand, this site is pretty strict about spelling and grammar but you seem to have a pretty big stick up your butt about people telling you to use proper grammar. Odd.

@gailcalled: That’s why I used the hyphen. ;)

gailcalled's avatar

@PurpleWig: I thought that it was a line break (but wouldn’t it be mis-capitalize ?)

CMaz's avatar

“but you seem to have a pretty big stick up your butt ”

Wow, amazing how negative negative people get when debating a point. lol

I’m just telling it how it is. Will we have to resort to drawing pictures? I’ll get you some crayons.

wundayatta's avatar

Ever the flame bait. No one can resist. I do think there are people for whom English is a second language. In fact, quite a few of them. However, it is easy for me to tell who they are, and I give them a pass. Other people seem to be unable to distinguish between non-natives and the uneducated.

I disagree with @Seek_Kolinahr that people deliberately use txtspk to piss off others. I think that for the most part, people use txtspk because they find it useful. I think it is useful for them partly because they are typing on little keypads on phones. It’s just more efficient to type fewer letters.

There was a time when I invented a lot of contractions for many, many words. Wordperfect would correct the “misspellings” for me. Word will do that, too. Too bad Chrome doesn’t have such a feature. It does have the next best thing—a spell checker. As does Firefox, and, for all I know, maybe even IE by now.

I think the fact that people ignore the misspellings (and the spell checkers should prompt with better spellings) is probably more a matter of laziness and efficiency (both good things, in my book).

I’ve done a lot of chatting in my day. I can type six or seven sentences in the time it took some of my correspondents to type one. I say the hell with spelling mistakes in chat. It just slows things down too much, especially when you are chatting with someone who couldn’t finish a novel in a life time at the speed they type. If you are one of those people and you are chatting with me—feel free to use every short cut you know. I don’t want to grow old waiting for a response.

But no further apologies for bad grammar or txtspk from me. It does annoy me when people do the simple things like their instead of they’re; loose or choose instead of lose or chose; and the like. It breaks the flow of understanding as I wonder what they mean to say for a second. It makes me less likely to want to read further, because they make me do too much sleuthing in order to try to figure out what they mean.

But here’s (non hears) my main answer to the question, carefully tucked away at the bottom where no one with the attention span of a mosquito will ever see it. I think there is a correlation between the amount of attention paid to spelling and grammar and the complexity of the thoughts being conveyed.

The people who use txtspk tend to be younger and less educated. The older people who don’t use good grammar are probably also not as well educated.

When fluther makes a big stink about these things, what they are trying to convey is that this is a site (my fingers typed “sight” before I fixed it) for intelligent people; where you can get well thought-out answers to questions; where you can socialize with other people who can think interesting thoughts.

It chases away the uneducated and the boring (@ChazMaz notwithstanding) (it’s a joke; it’s a joke—I highly respect his contributions, even if he is, occasionally, wrong ;-). Thus the intelligent are left behind, as they are the only ones with any consistent ability to spell properly (or pay attention to spell checkers) and to use grammar correctly.

Now, let me be clear—you don’t need a degree to be considered educated. There are plenty of people here with nothing more than a high school education who are very interesting and express themselves very well. And similarly, a degree does not mean you can think and be interesting.

That’s why I chose to say “complex thinking” rather than educated. There may be a high correlation between education and complex thinking, but there are plenty of people who are officially uneducated but are functionally highly educated.

Sure, I can easily understand poorly written answers. But it is not nearly as easy as it is to understand well written answers. There’s just one thing I don’t get: why is it that people seem to go around and around on this so many times. Isn’t it perfectly obvious what is going on? You might criticize and yell at people to improve their grammar, but will that really help them do so? I doubt it. What they need is a writing class and I don’t see how fluther can be that for anyone.

Seek's avatar

@wundayatta Lurve, even if you don’t believe in the idiot kids that write in a piss-poor fashion just because they’re not being graded on it.

Blackberry's avatar

I think it just reflects the ignorance of many people about proper spelling and grammar. It doesn’t mean they’re stupid or unintelligent, just not informed about this particular subject.

Trillian's avatar

Laziness and carelesness. When you point out errors, people get angry and defensive and call you a spell nazi. I don’t bother anymore. Your abilities and what matters to you are reflected in what you write. EIther way, it shows.

CMaz's avatar

“people get angry and defensive and call you a spell nazi.”

Yessss! Recognition. Sweet!

downtide's avatar

I think for some people it’s laziness, they want to type as fast as possible and can’t be bothered to correct their mistakes.
For some it’s a sign of belonging to a “cool club” – all their friends do it so they do it too.
For some it’s because they didn’t get much education.
For some it’s because English is not their first language, or they are dyslexic.
For some it’s deliberately to annoy people who get their knickers in a twist about it.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
the100thmonkey's avatar


There is such a flagrant disregard for “proper spelling and grammar” (in my opinion, most people who use the word “grammar” don’t really know what the word means anyway) because they really don’t see the need to write in a way that you approve of.


More helpfully, the manner that people adopt to address each other in on- and off-line communication reflects a judgment they have made as to the beliefs and expectations of their audience regarding the style of communication.

Ask yourself this: does the way the straw men write really impede meaning, or does it just annoy you?

mrentropy's avatar

Sometimes it does impede meaning.

So… just out of curiosity, all the people who are fine with the misspellings and everything, would you be in favor of of striking the spelling and grammar portions out of English courses in school?

downtide's avatar

@mrentropy No I wouldn’t, but the internet is not school and nobody here is writing to pass an exam, get a job or impress a customer. I would be horrified if people wrote like that in their school essays or business letters but in the grand scheme of things, nearly everything on the internet is totally unimportant.

BoBo1946's avatar

Well said Chaz…. some don’t take into consideration the problems of being dyslexic! Also, there are many on internet sites that English isn’t their native language. Also, not everyone majored in English or it could have been their worse subject. (that would be me) Btw, one of the smartest people I know speaks horrible English. Easy to be critical of others until you’ve never “walked in their shoes!” Tolerance is a wonderful virtue.

Oh, some of the richest people in the World, don’t know a verb from an adverb.

P.S. to whomever….no one likes to be showed up at anything. Our mods here are very capable of keeping this site clean… very good, yes!


DrC's avatar

Laziness & incomplete education.

AstroChuck's avatar

Because people are lazy or stupid or both.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@mrentropy: “sometimes” is anecdotal, nay unempricial, and more than prone to confirmation bias.

I don’t think anyone on this thread has indicated that striking spelling and “grammar” from the school curriculum is warranted, or indeed even desirable.

If there were any more straw men in this thread, we could have a harvest party – it’s the right time of year after all…

mrentropy's avatar

Wow, you guys are uptight. I only asked if you’d be okay with getting rid of it. You’ve already said it wasn’t important and it doesn’t impede understanding of what’s trying to be communicated.

Another question would be, “If you had a child who was writing a story for themselves or a friend and you saw spelling mistakes, et al, would you make an attempt to correct it?” But since everyone will start going on about straw men and shit I don’t see the point.

Frankly, I think practice makes perfect. And the more people make an effort not to look like an imbecile the better off they’ll be, say, out there in the real world.

But, I can see such thinking doesn’t have a place here.

zen_'s avatar

I agree with @rebbel – just because we use English here as a tool to communicate our thoughts, one must remember that it isn’t everyone’s first language. Or second or third, for that matter. Many of us rely on Google translate and other programs – but grammar and spelling aside, English is idiomatic – and translations of expressions and sayings can be very wrong in these programs.

The phrasal verb, e.g., is a hard one to learn as there are few rules. Not to mention the prepositions; it’s considerate of them, rebbel, not with. And it’s impossible to learn except by memorizing them – only a simple chart exists of time/place at/on propositions – the rest must be learned, so: get with the program, get off your ass, get out of the house and get into your car and then you’ll get things done – now get going and get yourself an English Grammar book – this is fluther, damn it – get to it.


the100thmonkey's avatar

@mrentropy: you misunderstand.

PurpleWig's avatar

Once again, I will say that it is different when someone’s first language is not English. How often do I have to say that? @BoBo1946: Okay, do you really think I would have an issue with dyslexics? Let me clarify: I’m talking about people who just don’t care about spelling or grammar @the100thmonkey: since I obviously don’t know what grammar means, please enlighten me not people who can’t help it. People for whom English is not a first language and dyslexics and anyone else who actually has trouble with the language are not disregarding spelling and grammar, they just have trouble with it.

You all seem to be able to understand someone who spells badly and doesn’t write properly and that’s great, but I, and a lot of other people, can’t. You can understand someone who takes the time to speak properly, so why does it bother you so much when someone wants to be able to understand what is being said?

AstroChuck's avatar

Everyone (and I mean everyone) misspells at some time or another. People need to step down from their high horse and realize that. The problem isn’t the occasional misspelled word; it’s the lazy person who doesn’t care and does so constantly. That’s what really annoys me. Txt spk can get me going as well.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)

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