With the increased use of social media sites, text messages and instant messaging, it seems that correct grammar has taken something of a bashing over recent years. Certain words are being misspelled with alarming regularity and sadly the internet is lacking its own grammar police to put a stop to the trend.
The beloved apostrophe
Every translator and writer has their own list of pet hates when it comes to poor spelling. An extremely common one is the inability of many people to grasp the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’ It’s really not difficult, but if you scan popular social media sites you are guaranteed to come across the misuse of both of these words within a very short space of time. ‘Were’ and ‘we’re’ is a similar example. It seems the use of the apostrophe is a sadly neglected concept in the modern world of text-speak, despite many smartphones’ best attempts to autocorrect their users’ spellings as they type.
Afraid of being a pedant?
One of the most worrying aspects of the decline in adherence to correct spelling is the wide-scale acceptance of it. As lovers of language we often spot errors in the communications of others, but how often do we stop and point them out? If a friend says ‘threw’ instead of ‘through’ on Facebook, do we helpfully correct them or just twitch an eyebrow in irritation and move on? Often it’s the latter, as avoiding appearing pedantic tends to rank higher in our priorities than preserving our language correctly for future generations.
No time to write words in full
Social media sites and text messages are also to blame for some shocking abbreviations. ‘L8r’ for ‘later,’ ‘u’ for ‘you’ and – perhaps most distressingly – ‘gawjus’ for ‘gorgeous’ all crop up regularly, at times with such frequency that you can almost hear the world of professional writers collectively weeping for the future of the written word.
Brazil tackles the problem head-on
An English school in Brazil has finally decided that enough is enough. To impart in their students a love of proper grammar, teachers have been encouraging them to tackle spelling gaffes head-on, regardless of who has made them.
To date, the children have corrected a range of celebrities’ Tweets, including teaching Rihanna the correct usage of ‘her’ and ‘she,’ and advising Sylvester Stallone on when to use ‘need’ versus ‘needs.’
Hope for the future
For those of us who have completed their schooldays and gone on to careers as professional freelance translators, the loss of language that texting and Tweeting has brought about can be at times a painful process. But don’t despair – it is all of our responsibility to promote language as a beautiful thing and, if we work together with the younger generations there may still be some hope that we can undo (or at least lessen) the negative impact of modern communication on our mother tongues.
The initiative in Brazil is a great example of how children can engage with correct spelling in a positive way. Who knows, perhaps the Brazilian children will grow up to be the next generation of freelance translators, perfecting people’s grammar in two languages!
Which common spelling mistakes really get your goat? Share your frustrations with us by leaving a comment in the box.