Mark[ing] My Words…Virtually

Syed Ahad Hussain, Opinions Editor


A recent discussion in class really got the old brain juices flowing. The professor gave students an article to analyze and discuss that was written by the CEO of a computer programming and software development company. The article outlined his practice of testing the grammar of job applicants by literally giving them grammar-based quizzes during the interview process. Applicants who failed the quiz are declined employment despite their exceptional academic qualifications and programming skills.

In the digital age where so much of a company’s image is built through online interactions, it is understandable that people get laid off and are declined employment because of their Facebook and Twitter activities. But hinging an applicant’s interview process on a grammar test for a job like computer programming, where a comprehensive grasp the English language is fairly unnecessary is scary. In the near future will construction workers, bus drivers, janitors, contractors and exterminators have to take a grammar test too? Where are this country’s employers heading with these nonsensical requirements? The tough economy already makes finding employment difficult. Now computer programmers have to memorize grammatical structures to be considered by inexplicably demanding employers when it isn’t necessary skill for the job?

The debate in the class concluded on the sad fact that texting, and the virtual social network is creating a society of incoherent and just plain bad writers. Twitter, for instance has a character limit which causes users to exclude punctuation marks and abbreviate most of the words. Ironic is the fact that people tend to be humorous on a site like Twitter, which was only intended as a means to convey short and important messages to one’s followers, not pointless jokes. While the site doesn’t have as short a character limit for statuses like Twitter, Facebook has become a place of irritating virtual comedy where sanity, respect, and tolerance often takes the backseat and grammar and style obviously ends up exiting through the back door.

Imagine Facebook and Twitter prompting users to be grammatically correct and not letting them post unless their sentences are free of grammatical errors. The number of accounts on both websites would be reduced dramatically within weeks, or maybe days. Do people have to be grammatically correct and coherent in their statuses and Tweets? Yes and no. People come to socialize with their friends and family members on Facebook and those conversations don’t necessarily have to be grammatically correct. Mediated forms of communication; including but not limited to cell phones, iPads and computers with the social networking sites, are all developed on the idea of creating a global village on the palm of one’s hand, a global village where conversations are direct, straight-forward and casual. If a student had a stressful day full of quizzes and papers, they shouldn’t be boiling their heads correcting tenses and punctuation marks in their Facebook posts, tweet and/or texts. Who would want to live in such a world?

On the other hand, texting and virtual social networking is destroying the writing abilities of the general population. The article discussed in class lamented on how well-educated, groomed and trained graduates of today make major grammar mistakes implying the fact that they did not pay much attention to grammar rules in their academic life.

The fast pace of today’s world is also partly to blame. People want to shout out on Facebook, twitter and in their texts as fast as they can and consume information even faster. Another possible explanation could be the ever-increasing habit of multitasking. Today students work on a paper, post on Facebook, chat online and listen to music at the same time. Because of this multi-directional task management style, we tend to details can easily get overlooked.

After graduating any institution of education everyone should be an adequate enough writer to be understood. To expect everyone to use the exact same grammar and language lexicon ignores the natural evolution a language undergoes over time. People no longer speak Shakespearian English- it would be strange to hear ‘thou’ and ‘thy’ these days. The dictionary of the 18th century is totally different than the dictionary of 19th century. The dictionary of 2012 is surely different than that of the 90s and the dictionary of 2020 will obviously be different than one used today. Before the Simpsons, Homer Simpson’s ‘Doh’ wasn’t part of the Webster’s dictionary, but now it is immortalized and accepted as a part of the English language. Language and its rules change over time- to ignore that is to choose to stagnate in the midst of communication fluidity. To impose that choice upon potential employees is to refuse potentially highly skilled people the opportunities they deserve by deconstructing their skills and value down to how well they diagram a sentence.