Grammar & Web 2.0 Writing

There are places and times to use less than perfect grammar in Web 2.0. Twitter, for example, restricts you to 140 characters. It makes sense to abbreviate and leave out articles like “a” or “the” and even to sneak in a “u for “you” on occasion:

what are u doing 2 make high score on practice exams?

The space limits demand a limited, shortened writing style (it’s why you’re encouraged to use URL shorteners, to maximize your character count for other content). The example above should still make sense to most, if not all, Twitter readers. That’s important–you need your abbreviations to be comprehended by your audience.

When we move over to blogs or wikis, the space limitations go away. You can write and write and write for a blog entry. It’s a different platform, and there’s not a good reason NOT to use flawless grammar and mechanics, complete sentences that aren’t run-ons, a capital “I” when you’re referring to yourself, etc.

A blog or portfolio web site may be one of the only extended pieces of writing, aside from your cover letter, that an employer sees in the first round of screening. Employers care, many of them deeply, about your writing skills or at least that you care enough about professionalism and self-presentation to get help on a cover letter and make it well-written. Here’s just a sampling of career advice that emphasizes the importance of grammar and mechanics:

  • First and foremost, PROOFREAD. A sure-fire way to look like an idiot is to leave typos on your resume. (SimplyHired)
  • In the current economic climate, with the scarcity of jobs, a well-written cover letter distinguishes your application. (About.com)
  • Double and triple check your spelling and grammar. (Jobtrackr)
  • Neal Murray, director of the career services center at the University of California, San Diego, sees a lot of email from job-seekers. “You’d be amazed at the number of emails I receive that have spelling errors, grammatical errors, formatting errors—emails that are too informal in tone or just poorly written,” says Murray. Such emails can send the message that you are unprofessional or unqualified. (PVAMU Career Services)

Furthermore, a lot of folks doing the hiring today are probably older than you are. They are among the people who fear that “James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was right when he recently suggested that young Americans’ electronic communication might be damaging ‘the basic unit of human thought – the sentence.’ They are concerned that the quality of writing by young Americans is being degraded by their electronic communication, with its carefree spelling, lax punctuation and grammar, and its acronym shortcuts” (Writing, Technology, and Teens). A poorly written Web 2.0 artifact can reinforce this mindset, misguided or not, and jeopardize your chances of landing an interview.

Even if you are hired, you may not be promoted if your writing skills are perceived as weak. Consider the following blunt statements from pages 3 and 4 of a 2004 College Board report called “Writing: A Ticket to Work…Or a Ticket Out”

  • Writing is a “threshold skill” for both employment and promotion, particularly for salaried employees. Half the responding companies report that they take writing into consideration when hiring professional employees.
  • People who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.
  • Half of all companies take writing into account when making promotion decisions. One succinct comment: “You can’t
    move up without writing skills.”
  • “Because of e-mail, more employees have to write more often. Also, a lot more has to be documented,” said one respondent.

For ENGL3043, you aren’t just doing a bunch of pretend assignments. You are making online resources to speak for your hopes, skills, and professionalism. Even if you delete your blog, a cached (or saved) copy may pop up in a web search for years to come.

So, yes, as the grading criteria for your blog project explain, I am grading your blogs for required content, interest level, and grammar and mechanics. It’s a 3000-level English class, for one thing. Far more important, most of you want to become educators. You have to be able to write well, whether you’re teaching preschool, 3rd grade reading, or 6th grade social studies. I know more than one parent who has complained to a principal when a teacher’s note home was full of mistakes. Something like “You’re child is having many problem in language arts, please read to her everyday at home” does not strike a note of confidence that the teacher has a grasp of standard English, and the important message–Jane needs help–can get lost.

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