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Friday, 27 May 2016

Grammar - sloppy writing, sloppy minds ?

Yesterday it happened to me again: someone claims to be interested in me based upon my profile picture on a social media site. I proposed to have a conversation first. The conversation revealed some serious and fundamental errors in her Dutch grammar and spelling - apart from her typos. I am used to such mistakes with younger people but hardly with people older than me.

I tried to find out whether her origin was foreign. She finally answered she was Dutch. She claimed that she had never heard my remark about her grammar before despite speaking to highly intelligent persons in her life. My increasing annoyance with her made me reply that such would be impossible anyway as grammar errors are mostly noticeable in writing and much less in speaking.

To me grammar and spelling mistakes are a major turn off. I tend to lose my respect quickly. That left me wondering why I am so sensitive about this issue. The only thing I came up with is that a sloppy writing reveals a sloppy mind. Is this even true?? And how about the opposite - me??

Antonin Scalia, the recently deceased U.S. Supreme Court justice "asserted that writing genius consists primarily of an ability to place one’s self in the reader’s shoes, and maintained that careless, sloppy writers have careless, sloppy minds" (source).

Psychology Today: "Graphology developed in conjunction with psychiatry in Europe, not with popular psychology as it did here in the United States. Men such as Jung, Freud, and numerous other scientists were convinced of its value and studied it in depth. [] They came to the conclusion that handwriting was a window to both the conscious and subconscious mind. I consider it as a constantly available EKG for the brain, because it immediately shows our evolving physical and mental state."

The above clearly suggests that handwriting is a 2-way window to the conscious and subconscious mind. In my case, that would probably imply a careful, neat writing and a careful, neat mind. I would not disagree with that. I believe in (grammar) rules and conventions. In principle, I believe that rules benefit societies, although the EU has a habit of proving just the very opposite.

Perhaps I am just a conservative, also given my seniority. “Conservatives speak of cultural decline. But one of the worst aspects of such decline is never spoken of: the laziness, lack of logical rigor, and just plain sloppiness of our intellectual and writing classes” (Source). Perhaps I'm just fighting change. In my view, it's the wrong kind of change and thus worth fighting for.

Language is probably the most crucial binding factor in any culture and identity. Without a common language, social cohesion is bound to deteriorate. The surge of Spanish in the USA was a non-issue for long but a recent NYT article suggests a tipping point. Belgium is the perfect example of the long-term consequences of missing a common language, common culture and common identity (eg, 2001 train disaster in Belgium, number of language based Belgian governments).

I apply high standards to myself and a certain minimum towards others (eg, grammar). I cannot but agree with Antonin Scalia: “careless, sloppy writers have careless, sloppy minds”.

Montell Jordan - This is how we do it (1995) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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