Language of Literacy: Expectations and Lamentations

In Feeling Alienated, protagonist Rowan Layne laments on social media regarding tweets spewing from a vile and unfortunately influential figure: “Concerned citizen here. Anyone think we have a problem when our own president can’t spell Washington? Who voted for this?”

No doubt many of us felt this way during the nightmare of a past presidential administration, before the former guy was banished from Twitter. Yet there are too many of his hapless followers with less than impressive language skills who keep right on murdering the English language—and some are in Congress.

Beginning with Alienable Rights and throughout the Other Worldly series, illiteracy of this former president and his bigoted HUMANS FIRST! cult members is highlighted in barely coherent Twitter postings rife with misspellings and more.

I’m not talking about mere typos, because all of us occasionally inevitably fall prey to embarrassing autocorrect indignities. But when you have what appears to be a barely literate member of the House of Representatives (initials of MTG) who doesn’t know, for instance, that martial law is not marshal law, it becomes blatantly obvious that too many Americans are functionally illiterate—and quite brash in their constant display of ignorance.

Another odd quirk of the former guy and his idiot ilk is that of random capitalization of words. As if they’re all Founding Fathers drafting the Constitution. Yet many of them have likely never read this iconic document along with its Bill of Rights—if their apparent misconception that it’s comprised only of the Second Amendment is any indication.

Plus, it’s 2021, not 1776. Capitalizing words for emphasis in a willy-nilly manner is almost as bad as using all caps. One makes you look like you don’t know how to eloquently make a point, the other just indicates you’re screeching. Both scream verbal impotency.

Then there are those who blather away on social media, mangling the written word by failing to use one scrap of punctuation, a seeming excuse is that Twitter limits the number of characters per tweet. Or those who don’t bother to fix numerous typos because there is no edit button provided on that particular social media site.

Lack of punctuation and poor sentence structure render messages pretty much incoherent, regardless of misspelled words.

It’s not that I think incoherence is a crime. But perhaps those who engage in frequent social media posts ought to better respect themselves and their message. If their words are incomprehensible, or painful to read for reasons other than subject matter, it’s a waste of space and time—theirs and everyone else’s.

Lately on Facebook there’s this “math challenge” some seem to relish. As if numerical calculations are the ultimate determination of one’s intelligence level—on a social media site requiring use of the written word, no less.

For me, the ability to craft a decently punctuated, literate sentence devoid of rampant misspellings and missing words is the arbiter of one’s basic level of competence. Especially for those whom English is their first, and often only, language.

Even if the message is righteous, if the written word is garbled either by laziness or lack of language acumen, it takes away from what one is attempting to communicate.

When it comes to those working in the word business, media members and various social media “influencers,” the only thing worse than a clickbait headline is one riddled with typographical or grammatical errors. Yes, it’s a fast-paced news world, but that shouldn’t mean abandoning all attempts at coherence and credibility in the name of getting a story out there.

Those who deal in the written word can’t afford to be so lazy or rushed that they routinely forsake the appearance of literacy. Illiteracy is not a cool form of minimalistic speak, regardless of one’s generation.

Folks working in math and science fields can’t get away with a work product riddled with errors, so why should it be any different for a journalist, author, or any professional who uses the written word to inform or entertain?

Illiteracy is, after all, defined as showing a marked lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge.





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