Thursday, May 6, 2021

Grammar: The Neglected Art

It is not a new dispute that our generation’s punctuation and grammar use, or lack thereof, has become problematic.

With technology that allows us to communicate in an immensely quick manner, our writing has become just that: quick and to the point.

A study conducted by Richard Ling of University of Michigan showed that only 39 percent of college students use punctuation at the end of text messages and only 45 percent use punctuation in instant messages.

Though writing is affected by the rapidness of communication today, Sara Richman, Plattsburgh State adjunct professor of journalism and English, said grammatical errors have always been a problem but in different ways and less so before the digital age.

“People used to write letters and so they were more concerned with what their actual writing looked like,” Richman said. “So writing is more affected on digital media.”

The lack of punctuation in text messages leads to run-on sentences, when two or more independent clauses are linked together without the proper punctuation or conjunction.
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“Run-on sentences are the most injurious mistakes I see in writing,” Richman said. “They come from lack of knowledge on commas and capitalization.”

The immediacy of our communication today causes people to write more speedily, focusing less on punctuation and grammar, which can creep into professional writing as well.

While applying for jobs it is important to pay attention to grammar and punctuation as resumes and cover letters are what an employer will see as a first impression.

“It’s the first impression an employer will get, so you’d hopefully want it to be as grammatically correct as possible,” Richman said. “If someone knows you made a mistake it could put you out of the job pool.”

With social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, writing has become less important and is taken less seriously when communicating with friends.

“In our daily lives we manipulate language depending on who we’re communicating with,” said Julia Overton-Healy, director for the Career Development Center. “I can use shorthand with my best friend, but it’s less OK to do that with my colleagues.”

Overton-Healy said it’s fine to use shortened language when talking with friends but it becomes less acceptable in a professional setting where it is necessary to conform to the rules of writing.

“I think there is a value in conforming,” Overton-Healy said. “Until you’ve earned enough credibility that you can break the rules.”

In a job, and even college, it is also important to be mindful when writing emails.

Overton-Healy said it is common for individuals to confuse the immediacy of email with urgency, leading to a rapid response that may not be so grammar-conscious. She also noted that email is permanent record that showcases who you are.

“It’s about learning to discern between what is truly urgent and what is simply timely and to craft your response accordingly,” she said.

Both Richman and Overton-Healy believe there are ways to avoid grammatical errors in the professional world, noting that writing is a skill that must be practiced and crafted.

“I think you have to be a better writer,” Overton-Healy said. “Writing is a skill. It comes from reading good works, it comes from writing, it comes from practicing it and being aware of the mistakes that we make.”

It is also important to be aware of the mistakes that you make as an individual and to pay attention to your own linguistic style and to acquire a group of people who can proofread your work if need be.

Email Tawnee Bradham at

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