Internet Writing Doesn’t Have to be Bad

The level of public discourse—in emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts and message boards–  is discouragingly low.  It is profane, gramatically incorrect, and not courteous.  It is rough and insulting, and oft-times mean-spirited.

Some people blame technology—It is easy to hide behind the computer screen,with a degree of anonymity, and throw prose stones.  While it’s easy to be anonymous doing a crude posting to a message board, the other forms of computerized communication actually expose the writer. In business emails are written by individuals who used to have secretaries to correct their grammar and language. People tend to treat emails informally, like they were talking to someone, not writing to them.  Gmail even calls them “conversations”….  And, folks get informal, and they start using slang, and they sometimes use sarcasm, or they make a snide remark, trying to be funny…But, it’s not  a conversation, and when it shows  up on the recipient’s screen, it’s just text.  There’s no facial expression to let the recipient know you are fooling, or making a joke.  Sarcasm shows up as a literal statement.  Anybody reading the email sees the person’s writing directly–unfiltered and usually without editing. This generates another problem—people don’t seem to be receiving effective grammar and language  instruction in school.  I don’t know whether teachers simply tired of trying to teach what for most is a boring, tedious subject, or whether school districts just removed grammar and parts of speech from curricula, but  many emails and other documents in business are starting to show that the writers did not get a good background in grammar and language, and many are spelling and using words phonetically.  This gets people in trouble with possessive pronouns and contractions of pronouns that sound the same.  Thus, they confuse and misuse:  Its and It’s, There,  Their, and They’re;  and Your and You’re.


So….emails show up on screens and make a bad impression, or sometimes no impression, or sometimes they hurt peoples’ feelings .


Emails are not verbal,they are a document, and they can be more effective if they are well-written. The overall Internet writing problem hit a new low  this past week, as people took to Twitter and message boards to denounce the Miss America winner. Because the young woman was Indian, she was called a terrorist, an Arab, and worse.  The nasty tone  and ignorance of the messages  that appeared were embarrassing.


Once you hit the send button, your words may appear in a virtually infinite number of locations. Internet writing is important.  People need to be more careful , and even more cordial and courteous, in the writing they do in the many  electronic venues now available. Workshops should be held to give folks some skills in writing emails and Facebook and other postings–for business or personal use. Good grammar and language create writing that respects the recipient. Angry, selfish communications degrade both the writer and the reader.

Bill Patch








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