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Are Modern Communications Ruining The English Language?

I often cringe at the incorrect spelling and grammar I come across regularly in posts and comments across forums and social media. I’m not sure if this has eventuated because of the abbreviated language often used in messages these days or because of poor schooling. When I went to school, many years ago, correct spelling and grammar were an important and integral part of the curriculum. However, even toward the end of my school days, there was a trend toward more acceptability for phonetic spelling rather than correct spelling. Maybe it’s been a combination of both. Regardless, the misused spelling and grammar today would have definitely been unacceptable in my day. Call me an old fogy, I don’t mind. 🙂

Here are some of the common mistakes that really raise my blood pressure:

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Their, There, They’re

Their, there, and they’re are not interchangeable. Their is possessive, indicative of ownership or belonging. There is positional, indicating a place or position. They’re is a contraction of “they are”.

Example: “The dogs over there (positional) are wagging their (possessive) tails because they’re (they are) happy“.

Would of, Could of, Should of, Might of

There is no such thing in the English language as could of, would of, should of, and might of. The correct English is could have, would have, should have, might have. This is one of the most common and irritating misuses of the English language.

Examples: “I should of gone swimming with my friends“. Wrong! The correct English is, “I should have gone swimming with my friends”.

I might of forgotten our date“. Wrong! The correct English is, “I might have forgotten our date“.

I would have gone swimming with my friends if I could have and, as it turns out, I probably should have“. Beautifully correct English. 🙂

Alot (as in many)

I have no idea when “alot” became a single word but I see it written that way over and over. Alot (as in many) is two separate words “a lot”.

Example: “That child has a lot of toys“.

Allot: all one word, means to apportion or share out.

Its and It’s

Its is possessive, indicating ownership or some attribute. It’s is a contraction of “it is”.

Example: “Look at the dog, it’s (it is) wagging its (possessive) tail“.

Rule of thumb: if the “its” in a sentence can be replaced with “it is” and still make sense then it’s is the correct form. If not, then its is correct.

Acronyms vs Abbreviations

Acronyms vs Abbreviations

Many people confuse acronyms and abbreviations. It’s a common mistake that I see repeated across tech sites all the time, where abbreviations are incorrectly labeled as acronyms. Rule of thumb: all acronyms are abbreviations but not all abbreviations are acronyms.

Acronyms are when the first letters of each word in a title, term, or saying, are used to form a new word. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) are examples of acronyms.

Abbreviations can also use the first letter of each word in a title, term, or saying but they do not form a new word. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) and HDD (Hard Disk Drive) are examples of abbreviations that are not acronyms. Technically, these types of abbreviations that use the first letter of each word are known as “initialisms”.

Incorrect Spelling

Here are some examples of commonly misspelled words I have come across, I kid you not: sossage (sausage), karnt (can’t or cannot), becoz (because), probly (probably), luvly (lovely), showfer (chauffeur) chimmerly (chimney), mindue (mind you), brekfest (breakfast), beleave (believe), floresent (fluorescent) cannoo (canoe), bega (beggar), tounge (tongue) basicly (basically), antidisestablishmentarianism (antidisestablishmentarianism)– just kidding on that last one. 🙂

BOTTOM LINE:

Maybe I am being a tad pedantic and perhaps somewhat intolerant too but, IMHO (an abbreviation), the use of the English language has gone to the dogs and I am pretty sure the savvy people who regularly visit DCT (another abbreviation) would tend to agree. What particular abuses of the English language rattle your cage? Let us know via the comments.

41 thoughts on “Are Modern Communications Ruining The English Language?”

  1. Thank you Jim for venting. Know I fall into this category (Grammar). Spelling mistakes (typos), can be easily corrected with Spell Checkers. I always struggled as a youngster with English Composition. The culprit was reading an excessive amount of comic books and comic magazines. Loved the illustrations. Though texting can be partly responsible, believe the major culprit is the education system. Their excuse is that Students are required to master more information today than in our day. Then there is the overlooked aspect of not reading (and re-reading) a post, making corrections, prior to submitting, Mindblower!

  2. What happened to brave, braver, bravest? Instead, we have more brave. more better, instead of good, better, best. More this, more that.
    All announcers should study a usage book before they get paid.
    less and fewer is misused heavily.
    Thanks Jim, too much to list here.

    1. All good points Jim. We have a popular football commentator and TV quiz master here who insists on pronouncing “furthest” as “furtherest”. I shout at the TV every time he does it. 🙂

  3. One that really gets me is the way people refer to the second month of the year and a place where one can borrow books. I plan to visit the libRary in FebRuary. Not the liberry in Febuary. I hear newscasters get this wrong all the time. The ‘R’ in those words is not silent.
    Language does, however, evolve and change is inevitable. Just listen to newscasts and ads from the 50’s and earlier to hear the difference.

    1. The “Febuary” pronunciation has been the norm in the US and Canada for many, many years, even among well-educated people. But here’s another one: “I could care less” !

  4. Hi Jim,
    I wholeheartedly agree with your informative comment, having been
    a UK Grammar school student when subjects were taught using an iron fist
    in a velvet glove, and the correct use of the English Language is still prominent
    in my head.
    I become damned annoyed with the American ‘SpellChecker’ and phonetic or otherwise the misspelled words look ridiculously incorrect, plow instead of plough, especially seeing ‘snow-plow’.
    From my list of disagreeable words/abbreviations :-
    Absolutely instead of “Yes”.
    PIN number.
    ATM machine.
    Free Gift, a gift is free isn’t it?
    Youse, Guys, Gotten, Bring, Brought, Bought used incorrectly, and Like, this is used unnecessarily by many young people.
    Heard frequently from many individuals, “Between several people” which should be, ‘Among’, because ‘between’ can only have two people involved.
    Here is a puzzle which 99.9% of people from all walks of life failed to solve.
    “This information contains a puzzle and its difficult to solve.
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0, can you see the mistake?”
    I bet that you solve it, Jim,

    Regards,
    Jonno

    1. Hey Jonno,

      Assuming the mistake is in the whole of the puzzle as quoted: “This information contains a puzzle and its difficult to solve. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0, can you see the mistake?”

      The “its” should be “it’s” or “it is”.

        1. Hi Jim,
          Just taking the opportunity to ‘slip in’ another terrible use of English, ‘quick’ and ‘fast’, TV ads, commentators, news readers and more appear to not have a clue relating to the difference.
          The basis of each is, as you will be aware, is that ‘quick’ relates to time, ‘fast’ relates to speed.
          Eg; “XYZ painkillers ease the pain faster than other brands”, the pills do not travel at a speed, they ease the pain much quicker.
          In our news on TV, “The new bridge on the Bruce Highway will allow drivers to arrive home faster.”
          I thought, “Since when does a bridge allow a vehicle to increase it’s speed.”
          A car built for racing can travel very fast, and is quick to reach its top speed.
          Trusting that this clarifies the use of the words in the correct manner for readers on the whole DCT article.

          Regards,
          Jonno

  5. I’ve often thought about this quote when watching people looking down at their phones instead of interacting:

    “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” – Albert Einstein

      1. I heard this afternoon in the fruit and vegetables barn, an addition to the list :–
        Great minds cease to exist in the large amount of people who look or point and say, “These ones or those ones.”
        Aggravating it is to hear it spoken,

  6. Yes, indeed, Jim did get it. Also, many folks confuse further and farther. The former meaning “in addition to” while the later is related to distance.
    When I was an admin in PC Tech in Paltalk I saw so many errors I made a list. I could publish it here but it is huge.
    Then again there are a few I hear nightly by professional communicators on TV.
    Try and when it is try to.
    Continuing on when the on is not needed as continue means to “go on”
    different than when correctly it is different from
    import instead of importance.
    some spellings using a computer can be problematic for we Canucks because the US spells many words differently from what we do. EG. Color when we use colour — and the spell checker flagged our version, neighbour. LoL
    We also double a lot of consonants too.
    Then because of the spell checker, I have to check my own spelling in case I am actually wrong or just move on and spell it the US method.

    1. Hey Murray,

      We use the same spelling here (in Australia)- colour, neighbour, etc. I tend to use the US spelling in my articles only because I cannot abide those squiggly red underlines used by spellchecker, they drive me nuts. 🙂

      1. I often spell those words without the “u” so as not to annoy the spell-checker. It’s slightly irritating that life in the computer world is driven by American preferences.

        When I’m using pen and paper, I go back to “normal” UK English.

        1. It is fun to annoy the spell checker. I have travelled all over the US and am a grad of UW in Seattle ’64 but born, raised and live in Canada. What drives me over the edge is all the errors in grammar used by TV and print reporters — “try and”, “whether or not” and many others.
          With the “U” I do it both ways — basically whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

  7. Hi Jim,
    I need to add a common comment which is used when many people see an event or other action when it is seen in reality, how ridiculous is the modern-day comment, “Unbelievable”, more proof that people with good eyesight are ‘too blind to see’ …. or even understand what the h**l is the use of s.t,u.p.i,d comments that are the opposite to the true meaning?

  8. What’s even worse, modern touchy-feely oh-so-sensitive politics are doing more destruction. WItness
    1. The current _required_ spelling of “Black”–as in race–in the AP style guide to “emphasize the commonality of the African-American experience,” including Barack Obama–born in Hawaii of an African-not-African American–father and white mother.
    2. The insistence that punctuation is “too harsh” and must be replaced by emojis.
    3. The declarations by more than one university that “grammar and spelling are culturally-oriented and shall no longer be evaluated in student work.”

  9. Nancy Fitzgerald

    Thank you for adding this grammar based article! I am noticing that people have trouble with pronoun usage. For example, they start sentences with “Me” instead of “I”: Me and Susie went to the store. Or they say, “Joe and I’s wedding” instead of “Joe and my wedding”, etc. We really need grammar back in the schools!

  10. Elliott W. Carmack

    Here are some of my pet peeves. I see or hear these with increasing frequency in the media:
    Incorrect: James is the person that won the race.
    Correct: James is the person who won the race.
    Use of “alright” or “allright” instead of “all right”.
    Use of “which” in a sentence instead of “, which” or “that”.
    Incorrect use of “to”, “too” and “two” (“to” is frequently misused for “too”). Correct: I too went to the store to purchase two loaves of bread.

    1. Hi Elliott,

      Very good points. “That” rather than “who” when referring to a human being is one of my pet peeves too. It’s something that seems to be more prevalent in the US than here (in Australia).

    1. Hi Will,
      You had better not be pedantic with a Geordie education. 😉
      Ex LankyLad (UK)
      (Vera would sort you out if you were a bad lad)

  11. Some might call you an old “fogy” Jim but I certainly wouldn’t support the use of such language unless they spelt it “fogey”. As much as I like our American cousins I certainly don’t want to encourage any more of their spelling atrocities in our “UK English language.

    Almost as bad as schools in Australia teaching our kids to pronounce “Z” as “Zee” instead of “Zed” or spell words like color, gray and aluminum instead of colour, grey and aluminium.

    1. Time to agree and disagree. If simple spelling differences get you upset, what about different words? My examples are two every day automobile terms. Boot vs trunk, and bonnet vs hood, Mindblower!

      1. No arguments from me there Mindblower 🙂

        And you can add windscreen/windshield, tyre/tire, indicators/blinkers, sedan/saloon and a host of others…

  12. How about “incidence” when it should be “incidents”. Even worse: “incidences” instead of “incidents”.

    The one that really grates for me is hearing people, sometimes those who work in the industry, saying “nucular” instead of “nuclear”.

    Patrick

  13. I agree with you about the absence of standards.
    One peeve is “further” and “farther.” If in doubt, the “far” in “farther” indicates distance, if you forget. Then you know that “further” indicates additional, or more.
    Another peeve is the misuse of adjectives and adverbs. “He ran more quicker.” We, on this forum, know that “more quickly” is correct.
    Faster” is also acceptable.

  14. Absolute pet peeve – people who say loose when they mean lose. I subscribe to one of the health and fitness sites and often see this in the comments section. Some members say they want to loose 50 lbs (or 22.68 Kg if you prefer). I wanted to lose weight, not loose weight.

  15. True Story. The following conversation took place not long after I started writing for DCT, many moons ago:

    David: We’re going to have to do something about your spelling
    Me: Why, what’s wrong with my spelling?
    David: You keep putting a “u” in words where there is no “u” plus you keep using an “s” where you should be using a “z”
    Me: But that’s the correct way to spell those words
    David: No it isn’t
    Me: Well, I suspect there would be about 130 odd million people in other English speaking countries who’d be prepared to debate that with you.
    🙂

  16. Hi Jim,
    I am a little late in replying due to a family happening.
    I agree with your answer to Dave, and one thought immediately entered my mind.
    I hope that one day Dave can travel all over thr UK and try to understand the plethora of local dialects which are, the English Language.

    Regards,

    Jonno
    🙂

    1. Hey Jonno,

      Sincerely hope all is well with your family.

      Yes, my wife (who is a dinkum Aussie) and I watch a lot of British TV shows and when they are set up North, particularly Liverpool or Manchester areas, I often have to interpret for her. 🙂

  17. Hi Jim,
    Thank you, my Aussie wife’s 90 year old mum’s final days ended, she also was confused with
    Northern English speech, my wife is ok with understanding most if it, the Irish and Scottish speaking in TV shows has to be interpreted by me. ;-o 🙂
    Regards,
    Jonno
    (P.S. I tried to send you some interesting information some time ago
    using the Ozbloke email which Claw and I used but it appears that it is no longer used.)
    Cheerybye ….. (Scottish)

  18. Getting back to the title of your story, I read somewhere recently that younger people think of us “older’ ones as strange when we write proper English in “Modern Communications” such as WhatsApp messages. It was also noted that punctuation at the end of a sentence in social media is considered harsh or denotes anger!!

    1. Hey Tony,

      Yes, social media and messaging apps have definitely had an impact on the way in which modern communications have evolved. Hadn’t heard of punctuation marks at the end of sentences denoting anger though, that’s a weird one.!?,. 🙂

  19. Hi Jim,
    One particular word which is misused is ‘fast’ and is almost always used instead of ‘quick’ in innumerable instances including TV ads.
    Fast relates to speed, quick relates to time.
    Painkillers do not cure a headache fast, they cure it quickly.
    The items are disappearing fast, hurry to buy one.
    Incorrect, the items are disappearing quickly.
    The driver of the race car was quick off the mark and was too fast to be passed by other car drivers.
    Get dressed quickly and run fast to catch the bus son.

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