And I am a language snob.
I got called one the other day, and I have to admit, I think I am. I really do think it’s important that people with the opportunity/ability are able to spell and apply grammatical rules.
I think language is a big deal. Not only because I love to read and write–that’s just me, I know that. But the thing is, nowadays, a large part of the average Dutch/English speaker’s daily communication is text-based.
No, I don’t think perfect spelling and grammar is vital to casual communication, but I am constantly surprised by the fact that this constant exposure to text does not help, or at least stimulate a lot of people’s language skills. Neither does the fact that now, when you can email people your CV or motivation for applying for a job/grant/whatever, it is vital to make a good impression with what you write.
Yes, I realise that a lot of people are too lazy to spell properly. But time and again, I see people who don’t realise that they’re making fundamental mistakes–misspelling common words, or even conjugating verbs incorrectly.
I tend not to comment on individual cases, so I don’t find out if the person in question suffers from dyslexia. But, really, what are the chances of so many people having that perfectly valid reason?
I know that it’s stupid to get annoyed by something like this. And yes, this very likely does make me a snob when it comes to language. But I still don’t think language is rocket science, and that it’s ridiculous that people (with no valid reason for having problems with language) who’ve had the privilege of getting an education can’t spell five-letter words.
Then there’s the fact that I’m also something of a prescriptivist when it comes to language. I like rules. I know language is something that is constantly evolving, and so it’s futile to wave a dictionary around and shout that everybody’s doing it wrong. When it comes to language, change is inevitable, and, I think, beneficial. Sure, the new orthography or grammar might seem jarring or flat-out ugly, but in the long term it’s making it easier for the speakers of the language to communicate, which is the whole point of having a language in the first place.
So, doesn’t this cancel out the fact that I think proper spelling is important? After all, isn’t that essentially just clinging on to the dictionary for dear life?
No. There is a time and a place for linguistic innovation, and that time is not office hours, and that place is not where formal interactions are to be found.
The evolution of language is just like any other kind of evolution: slow. Really, really slow. It’s not like a Tyrannosaurus shat out a chicken one day. Until ‘nite’ is accepted as a better spelling than ‘night’ (I have to agree with that–I might think the old spelling is prettier, but the new spelling makes much more sense), people who use ‘nite’ and other informal variants are going to look like they can’t spell, which affects the way other people view them.
Anyway, those are my current thoughts on why it’s important to be able to spell properly. If that makes me a language snob–well, so be it.