Language in the New Millennium

One of my passions has always been the articulate expression of oneself through language.  We have this wonderful, rich language we call English and there is great joy to be found in learning to use it effectively.  The point of this post isn’t to rant about the degradation of the language or our frequent abuse of it – I’ve covered that already – instead I’d like to talk about different ways of using the language in different contexts, and that I believe it doesn’t make sense to enforce strict, blanket rules across the board.

Spoken language

With the possible exception of presenting a formal talk or making a speech, I don’t believe we should be pedantic about spoken language.  People are all raised in different environments and have acquired their knowledge and techniques of language usage in different ways.  Everyone’s thought patterns also differ widely and speech is our way of converting those thoughts into a form that we can share with others.  I will never correct another person’s spoken language under any circumstances.  We need to respect each individual’s way of expressing themselves.

Written language

This is really the core of knowledge transfer and has formed the basis for accurate handing down of knowledge through the ages.  Thanks to the digital age this might change to include new mediums such as video, but for now we all still write a tremendous amount in various forms.

Attention to detail and careful thought are required to make sure that our thoughts are interpreted to the reader as clearly as we perceive them in our heads.  Even when writing a simple email there is something about sending away a piece of writing, to be read at the receiver’s leisure, that forces us to be more broad and accommodating with our choice of wording and sentence structure.  We are never quite sure what mood or state of mind the reader may be in when they read it.  Often we may never even have met the person.  This is vastly different to spoken language because when we’re speaking to someone, or even to a group of people, we can update our attitude and try different approaches in real time.

Text messaging, instant messaging, and services like Twitter technically form part of written language but based on their semi-live nature I treat them the same as spoken language.  I can’t help but still make at least a half decent attempt at proper spelling and grammar, but I don’t mind how casual people want to be as long as they’re able to get their point across.

Remember, the reason we have language is for communication.  As long as we can get our point across clearly and effectively then I think we’re doing just fine.

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