12 August 2007

" a week grasp of ritten Inglish"

Today's Observer has a story on linguistically challenged students at Imperial College.

I always have mixed feelings when these stories hit the headlines. I feel really depressed at the thought that educational standards in the UK have sunk so low. At the same time, the editor in me feels glee that a new generation of illiterates will require professional help: yes, more work for me! I know it's wrong to see a business opportunity there, but overall I'd rather see primary school teachers knowing their own language better in order to drum the rules into their pupils.

On a related note, a student posted on a forum for journalists that I use, asking about routes into writing entertainment stories for magazines, having done a degree in broadcasting production. Her opening two sentences contained no punctuation whatsoever. Her follow-up post was even worse - spelling errors, poor punctuation, sentences running into each other, no sense of grammar... I politely pointed out that if she was serious about a career in writing, she needed to work on her written English. Many journalists use the forums, quite a few of whom may be in a position to commission others, so showing you can write properly is essential in such an environment.

Did the student thank me? Of course not. I got a tart reply along the lines of "I didn't come here for advice on spelling, but to find out what course I ought to do". That is one budding journalist who is unlikely to progress far. Serious wannabes who want to become hacks eagerly lap up advice even when not asked for, so keen are they to build a career. But I do worry for the next generation of journalists when the education system fails to teach them to write properly in their native language.

4 comments:

Jane Howitt said...

It's not just journalists or budding journalists. There's a rash (and I use the word advisedly) of copywriters on the Internet who seem to revel in using bad grammar, iffy spelling and stupid punctuation.

Apparently, it's the meaning that counts; and all this softie insistence on accuracy is just so uncreative.

Aghhh!!!

Yesterday I downloaded a 'special report' by a copywriter who bills himself as a top writer creating ads that make millions for his clients. And the report was full of mistakes: 'your' for 'you're'; mixing up 'it's' and 'its'; capitals in the wrong place. All stuff he could have put right if he'd just read what he'd written.

But no: he added a PS saying he hadn't got time to correct the typos as he wanted to get the information out to his readers as quickly as possible.

Is this arrogance? Affectation? Or stupidity?

(Sorry for the rant. I'm now going to sit down with a nice cup of tea and do some deep breathing. Ahhh...)

wordsmith_for_hire said...

Jan, I wholeheartedly sympathise! When I've got my copywriter's hat on, I get contacted by marketing people to ask me to take a "quick look" at some new sales copy they've just drummed up and let them know "if it works". If I point out their literacy problems they get incredibly upset, but are unwilling to pay me to put it right for them. And why should I be an unpaid consultant, anyway? Marketing people are often the worst offenders when it comes to poor sales copy - they might know how to market or sell, but 99.9% of them haven't got a clue how to write.

Millymax said...

Good grief! I could get onto my portable soapbox (pat. pend.) about marketers, too! Especially the ones who think they can write copy.

But I need a quiet morning and I don't want to upset my tum!!!

Jane Howitt said...

Erm... the Millymax of the last post was me.

Got into a whirl with my Identities. Think I've got it sorted, now.