grammer aint wot it used two be

Fiona @ lovefibre and I have often discussed the worrying decline of language used in many comments and postings on the web. Sometimes people are using compressed txtng language or even leetspeak, both of these are reasonable alternative codes to ‘proper’ English, and potentially part of the natural growth of the language.  However, it is often clear that the cause is ignorance not choice.  One of the reasons may be that many more people are getting a voice on the Internet; it is not just the journalists, academics and professional classes.  If so, this could be a positive social sign indicating that a public voice is no longer restricted to university graduates, who, of course, know their grammar perfectly …

Earlier today I was using Google to look up the author of a book I was reading and one of the top links was a listing on  For interest I clicked through and saw:

“He sucks.. hes mean and way to demanding if u wanan work your ass off for a C+ take his class1

Hmm I wonder what this student’s course assignment looked like?

and a little web-usability tag story

In case you are wondering, yes I did try to look to see if I was listed (although I am sure all my British students have perfect grammar :-/ ).  However, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I could not tell.  In order to search UK universities you need to use a pull-down menu.  But2, of course, being an up-to-date and cool site, uses a funky Javascript+DOM menu not a plain HTML-form one .  Notice the little gap between the button for the pull-down and the menu itself.  As you try to move your mouse over the menu it disappears!  So for a Firefox user like me it is a US-only site.

  1. In case you think I’m a complete pedant, personally, I am happy with both the slang ‘sucks’ and ‘ass’ (instead of ‘arse’!), and the compressed speech ‘u’. These could be well-considered choices in language. The mistyped ‘wanna’ is also just a slip. It is the slightly more proper “hes mean and way to demanding” that seems to show  general lack of understanding.  Happily, the other comments, were not as bad as this one, but I did find the student who wanted a “descent grade” amusing 🙂 [back]
  2. Yes, that was a sentence starting with a conjunction.  And, yes, you may have heard this is bad grammar, but only when used carelessly; see “Grammar- Starting a Sentence with Or, And or But” @ Suite101 or “Beginning a Sentence with And or But” for an apposite quote.[back]