Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Letter to Wired Magazine

Dear Editors:

You published in your February, 2012 issue a piece titled “Use Your Own Words”. In fact, you chose to make it the first article in the magazine. It is this article with which I would like to take issue.

The author, Anne Trubek, bemoans the constraints of proper spelling and the constrictions of English grammar. Yet if you re-read the article (as I assume you at least perused it once before it was published) you will see that her argument boils down to “why spell correctly or construct sensible sentences when it inconveniences me?”

To me, it reads as sheer arrogance. Ms. Trubek advocates throwing away the rules built over hundreds of years simply because using them would require an extra click or two on your “smart” phone or tablet. If such strenuous writing taxes her that terribly perhaps she should make a phone call and communicate orally.

Had she stuck to her contentions I would, perhaps, not have taken umbrage at her opinion. When I reached the end of the article, however, I found that she had undermined her entire argument that people spell and punctuate in any way they chose. Ms. Trubek wrote, “Standardized spelling enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity.”

How, then, does throwing out that standardization help to improve communication? While podcasts, videos, and hangouts allow people to correspond orally in unprecedented ways, it is in these media that spelling and punctuation do not matter. (Grammar, naturally, always applies, though the rules relax dramatically in verbal communication.)

Writing, whether in a text message, on social media, or in an article—on-line or print—demands a higher standard if an author cares at all about being understood. If he or she does not, why write out a message at all?

Ms. Trubek’s assertion that written and oral communication now share a digital grey area couldn’t be less true: the two words have perfectly serviceable definitions that draw a black-and-white line between them. I notice that the article itself, excepting one exemplar, contained words spelled correctly and punctuation used properly to clarify her meaning.

Language continually evolves. It’s to be expected and even embraced. But disregarding the inconveniences of existing rules because you’re too rushed or lazy to follow them leads to degradation, not evolution.

I’d like to see a refutation of her article in a future issue but I presume your publishing of the article to be an intentional stirring of the pot to bring readers to your site. In that respect it was a successful piece, at least.

Thank you for your attention.





I love so much that I've read on here. Why so long without a post? Write! Write!