Basic Writing Skills – Are They Down the Crapper, or is it Evolution?

A thought occurred to me the other day, in the throes of angst at coming across the apostrophe horrorsentence “You want to be known as a thought leader in you’re industry.” Having my usual reaction to such apostrophe atrocities (resisting the urge to butt the nearest wall with my head), I thought about how basic English grammar and punctuation in general seem to be disappearing as fast as landlines. As I was gloomily pondering the death of literacy, it hit me. What if proper punctuation and grammar aren’t dying, but rather evolving?

After all, the English language is certainly different than it was in the 19th century. The general style of language is much more casual than it was, say, 150 years ago.  When I was little, I remember reading The 5 Little Peppers and How They Grew, written in past century women1881. The Pepper kids said things like “‘Tain’t a mite of matter” and “‘Twas grand, I shall say!” And when did you last see a sentence like “Dost thou yet live?” That one’s from The Scarlet Letter, from 1892. Certainly Hester would never have said to her neighbors, “Hey look, dude, we’re just chillin’, so get over it.”

Maybe it’s okay that commas are less prevalent than they used to be, and the English language is becoming more and more casual and, well, abbreviated. After all, now that most of us are often on our phones texting with two thumbs instead of ten fingers, much of what we write kinda has to be shorter and simpler. Maybe soon we’ll all write like Hemingway on crack.

But maybe that’s inevitable. Maybe it’s just progress.