A smoothly functioning society is based on clear communication. This clear communication does not simply happen on its own accord; instead, it comes from language. Our language gives us the ability to communicate with nuance, detail, and precision. Consider how often one letter completely changes the meaning of a word: hat or hate, lose or loose, meet or meat. The list is nearly endless.
The proper placement of punctuation has the same effect. For example: “Let’s eat, Grandpa,” has an entirely different connotation than, “Let’s eat Grandpa.” Notice how one comma made all the difference between a harmless statement and something much more sinister. It’s easy to laugh and to brush it off as a silly example but the fact is, punctuation changes meaning and proper punctuation is critical to clear communication.
With the advent of texting and tweeting, more than ever we’re seeing a linguistic shorthand taking over on cell phones and the Internet – and it’s not just teenagers who are using it. Phrases, such as “LOL,” “BRB,” and “OMG,” are commonly used and understood by pretty much anyone who owns a cell phone or a computer. According to CNN Tech, as of February of this year, that’s 90% of Americans.
So, if we’re able to get our point across with abbreviations and shortcuts, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, if it’s in the proper context. Just as you wouldn’t wear pajamas to the office (except those of us who may be lucky to work from home!) or go to the gym in formal wear, you wouldn’t use phrases, such as “C U L8R” on an interoffice memo or “IMHO” in an academic paper. Using this type of communication between friends or within informal settings is fine, but in any professional or academic setting, it’s completely inappropriate.
At every level of our society and with every decision we make, clear communication is essential. Think about your average day. You get up in the morning and check weather and traffic. You rely on clear, precise information in order to decide what clothing is appropriate and what route is best to take to work or school. Of course, if there’s a miscommunication, you’ll maybe be either a bit hot or a bit cold or maybe a bit late to work. Not a big deal, right? What if you’re an emergency room doctor or an air traffic controller? One miscommunication and lives could easily be lost.
Luckily, most of us usually don’t have to worry about life or death situations. But that doesn’t mean proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation can’t have a big impact on our daily lives. Having a good command of our language can determine whether or not we land or even keep a job. In business, proper grammar usage is crucial to projecting an image clients will trust and respect. Would you want to hire a firm whose employees couldn’t put together a clear, well-written proposal? Of course not!
Our language is an amazing thing. Generally you can butcher and mangle it nearly beyond recognition and still get close to what you mean to say. However, if you’re trying to get a point across to someone, is close really good enough?