Not to get all Glenda Goodhug on the situation—as I believe in the potential of learning from discord and dissension—but I hope that cooler heads will prevail from this point forward.
I want to thank all of those who have joined in on the conversation sparked by what I incorrectly assumed was an innocuous classroom task on Wednesday. I also want to thank Matthew Baldwin from Defective Yeti for managing the surprise attack of compliments and solicitations for blog advice. I didn’t consider that so many students would choose the same blog to comment upon. Nor did I assume that their comments would resemble one another’s and a template of “blog-whoring” (thank you, Dorothy, for the term) besides. We now have a perfect backdrop for our discussion about rules and constraints specific to the genre of blogging, and I’ll get to use the term “discourse community” with the advantage of having a real, meaty example to demonstrate the concept. I will certainly encourage more fervently that future classes make their comments more substantial and that they wipe their grammatical feet at the door before entering such a well-kept den of blogging. Live and learn.
For the most part, as a teacher of English composition, I understand blanching at poor observation of grammatical rules, and I think that the lesson the 109.02 students will learn—I hope—is that care should be practiced in all writing acts, for fear of turning others off with our syntactic halitosis. However, it has been my experience that some folk in online communities use debasing a poster's grammar to suffice for rebuttal of the ideas proffered in the post (not necessarily true here). I also find the impulse of pointing out grammatical errors on online communication to be quite bullying in most cases—an attempt to kick virtual sand in the faces of the 98-word weaklings. (Mind you, I’m not accusing those who are posting on Genuine Drafting of this aim; the ensuing dialogue may be a “sizing-up” measure, but there’s no need to involve Charles Atlas). And while I enjoyed spazmatic’s analogy,
However, typing like "wow ur post was awesome comecheck mine out" is the rough equivalent of walking into a restaurant wearing nought but your birthday suit, placing your feet on the table, and then flagging down a waiter with armpit flatulence. Okay, I exaggerate, but it's still rude and a great way to make people stop caring.
the difference is that for the crude diner to stop being offensive to those around him, he need only don a sweat suit, pull his feet down, and get his hand out of his musical armpit. For those who have yet to navigate with great success the choppy seas of Strunk & White, the task is far more time-consuming and arduous. Most of us who have had the privilege of being exposed from the start to “proper” construction take for granted the commitment and, really, immersion in writing and reading needed to master the handbook’s rules. So tired have I become of hearing coprolites bemoan improper usage as if the offender had just torched their Diagnosis: Murder DVD collection. For those of us who have long forgotten, I’m happy to assert it with tongue planted firmly in my cheek here: WRITING GOOD AIN’T EASY.
If it were, I’d be out of a job.
It smacks as elitist, I think, to deride one’s grammar without offering any advice or explanation (I’m sorry to say that there are examples of this in the comment trail on Defective Yeti). I, the flippin’ composition instructor, honestly am flabbergasted by the impulse to call out someone’s usage. And I would like to add, speaking to Dorothy’s and April’s thought-provoking comments about Netspeak, that from what I’ve seen, the comments my students left here are emblematic of comments we often see on MySpace or Facebook, where no one seems to be overly concerned with proper usage. I am keenly interested in how communication in these venues will affect our grammar in other texts we write—although I believe the significant difference between the students’ comments on DY and the entries in the students’ own blogs suggests that there is an awareness of genre, or at least of being graded.
The best we, the neophyte bloggers of the 109.02 class, can offer is to say that we are working on it—and boy are we ever. I’ve been as pleased as Punch with the effort these students—many of whom plan to write as little as possible for their careers—have put into all aspects of this class (a lot of reading and writing to complete in 10 weeks, although maybe not as much as in a 600-level course). There was a little less effort in these particular comments, some of it attributable to my lack of detailed direction of what exactly it was I wanted. The truth here, I believe, is that more time and care in the crafting of the original comments probably would have circumvented much of the chatter that followed.
But, oh, think of the learning opportunity we all would have missed.