Shifting Baselines

Reading my Twitter stream and the many blogs that are in my RSS reader, it’s become painfully obvious that the general command and valuation of written English is on a downward spiral. This morning, I read this wonderfully concise and sarcastic post by Alicia Jay about why proofreading doesn’t matter.

While I agree with the points that Jay makes, it got me thinking about some of the rockstar bloggers that I am forced by peer pressure to read. Their posts are full of spelling and grammatical errors, and sometimes even malapropisms, but that hasn’t affected their rockstar standings.

How could it? Their audience has an equally poor or worse command of written English! They can’t recognize any of the errors as such. The baselines appear to have shifted.

I realize this is making me sound like the proverbial spinster English grammar teacher picking the fly shit out of the pepper. Yet, I can’t help but think that if we didn’t hold on to a firm baseline of what’s right and what’s wrong, we’ll soon have linguistic anarchy and at some point in time, the whole system becomes unstable and written communication becomes a crap shoot.

Some would argue that we must be afforded some flexibility and artistic licence. Of course we do. I’m invoking some of that licence right here in this post. The point is that it’s not licence if you don’t know what it is you’ve deviated from.