Friday, April 25, 2008

The sentence is imperiled: Pew Study

The Pew Research Center is out with a study this week about writing and teens. There's good news and bad news. The good news is teens write more today than older generations. The bad news from "Writing Technology and Teens:" emoticons and abbreviations threaten the sentence. The study quotes James Billington, the Librarian of Congress:
Young Americans' electronic communication might be damaging "the basic unit of human thought -- the sentence."
Some highlights from the report:
  • 93% of teens say they write for their own pleasure. FOR THEIR OWN PLEASURE. WOW!
  • The impact of technology on writing is hardly a frivolous issue because most believe that good writing is important to teens' future success.
  • Teens more often write by hand for both out-of-school writing and school work.
  • Teens believe that the writing instruction they receive in school could be improved. (OR, MIGHT WE SUGGEST, SUPPLEMENTED BY A CERTAIN WRITING BLOG...)
An Associated Press dispatch about "Writing Technology and Teens" focused on the impact that technology (IM and text-messaging for example) are having on formal writing.
"It's a teachable moment," said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew. "If you find that in a child's or student's writing, that's an opportunity to address the differences between formal and informal writing. They learn to make the distinction ... just as they learn not to use slang terms in formal writing."
"Writing Technology and Teens" doesn't delve into what defines formal writing. Some would say it needs to cover all communications, from email to memos to proposals to contributed articles. Some might argue that different styles fit different forms. I fall into the latter camp.
I think the bigger problem is that the time pressures on everyone in the work place (at least the American work place) are hurting good writing just as much as technology may. It takes time to formulate a coherent thought and then communicate it. If we keep that in mind, we'll be fine. If we continue down our increasingly manic work-environment path, we'll be in trouble.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Word of the Day

Don't know where he finds 'em, but he does. Oregon's favorite adopted son, Mr. B. Santo, forwards:

: granular snow pellets —called also soft hail

In Webster's, it appears derived from the Greek Graupel for hulled grain, which is coincidental since I spent last night reading about malting barley and the joys of the decoction mash in brewing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Batter up

The first month of the 2008 Major League Baseball season is nearly in the bag, and that calls for some reflection. I was driving somewhere this weekend, listening to the Giants' game, when my wife made an insightful remark (not unusual). Why, she asked, do they say he "flied out" when a ballplayer hits a fly ball that is caught by a fielder? Shouldn't it be flew out? Good question. doesn't even mention it, instead defining "to fly out" as

To rush out. To burst into a passion.

Occasionally, you'll hear a broadcaster use "flew out," but not often. It's all the more surprising as it's common to hear a broadcaster describe a long home run by saying "that ball just flew out of here!" (We're not hearing this too frequently this season with the Giants, but that's another story).
The other faux pas that all broadcasters make is the use of the acronym for runs batted in (RBI). "A-Rod has three RBIs today," a broadcaster might say. In fact, the plural needs to be RBI (runs batted in). And then you'll hear newbies exclaim "It's gone! A grand slam home run!" Usually, their more experienced microphone partners will take them aside and gently remind them that a grand slam by definition is a home run.
Such are the things I ponder when my team is forecast to lose 100 games this season.


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