We're more connected to each other than ever before in the history of the world, but in our haste to post, share, comment and react, we've decided that paying attention to grammar, punctuation and spelling is too time-consuming. After all, everyone knows what we MEAN, right?
Or maybe that's not the issue. Maybe we've been this bad at English all along, and the explosion of written communication is just exposing our transgressions like a spotlight in a cave.
Why SHOULD we care about spelling everything perfectly? Or whether to use "I" or "me" in a sentence? Don't we traditionally make fun of snobs who insist on speaking archaically?
We still make the effort to use proper language when we're applying for a job or composing a college entrance essay (heck, we'll pay money to have someone else correct it for us) because we know the people who'll be reading it are absolutely judging us based on our writing.
But why bother to expend the mental energy - or heaven forbid, look something up - when we're casually dashing off an email to a friend or posting about our vacation on Facebook?
Because good writing (or speaking) is the verbal equivalent of good manners. And according to Emily Post, "Good manners reflect something from the inside - an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self."
When you write sloppily, you're sending your reader a mental picture of the rest of you: sloppy dresser, sloppy eater, someone who doesn't care much about themselves or their impact on others.
Clean copy - no spelling errors, proper grammar, punctuation in the right place - shows you care about your message and you care about the person reading it.
Keep in mind that your writing should reflect the authentic YOU, so you can totally take liberties with the rules of language to fit your voice and your energy. Partial sentences. Idioms - who'da thunk? And my latest favorite construction: Best. Emphasis. Ever.
Now if you're Winston Churchill, you can get away with a phrase like that. For realz.
But for the rest of us, knowing which pronoun to use or how to spell everyday words is really just common courtesy. It's like walking out of your house in a T-shirt and jeans, NOT your underwear and bunny slippers.
The Internet is full of resources for double-checking and learning proper usage. Check out The Oatmeal for some practical and funny grammar tips. And be sure to subscribe to KathleenStrecker.com for my forthcoming posts on good communication!