I found my cage well and truly rattled the other day; reading how Totally Un PC had had a a lecture on his use of grammar and clichés.
My reaction may have been a bit OTT, but on this subject I have a history.
My brother in law (BiL) ‘outed’ me as a blogger the other day, at a dinner table full of friends; the question most wanted to know is why? Why do I want to do it? (It’s OK BiL, all is forgiven and it was a nice compliment you paid me thank you!) Caught on the hop I wasn’t quite ready for the moment, I don’t think I explained very well, but the bottom line is that I like reading blogs and having found I have far to much to say on other people blogs and a growing confidence in my own abilities I decided to dive in and join the fun.
One of the friends was concerned that I took all I read as gospel, ‘You know it might all be fictitious.’ (Although I truly believe that there are prostitutes in Scotland and that someone lives next door to them.) No I don’t take every thing I read on a blog as the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, for one thing it is a subjective personal account not investigative journalism, a statement for cross examination in court or an academic paper; nor do I take as gospel what I read in the press or watch on TV. To inform my thoughts and decisions; I look at what’s on offer, chuck in my own experience and knowledge and make up my own mind.
Blogs that I like make me think some of the following, ‘Oh I’d never thought about it like that’ ‘well I never knew that’ they also make me laugh, cry, and scream in sympathy with the frustration of the blogger. In a nutshell they are interesting, entertaining an informative and TUPC’s blog does all of that and more.
I think to criticise a blogger for their poor spelling, writing style or ‘standard of English’ (shudder, flash back to school) is out of order, for many people, myself included a blog is the first place they have ever ‘exposed’ anything they have written, it’s a place for the first ‘baby steps’ towards better writing. There is, it seems to me, a slow steady and insidious erosion of peoples self esteem when it comes to writing, from the moment a child picks up a pencil it seems to be told what it is doing wrong rather than right, (the fact that there is so much that is ‘wrong’ would suggest to me the teaching methods are less than ideal) the message is clear if you have poor written skills an inability to spell you should be ashamed, you are obviously stupid and ignorant.
An article in Sundays Observer newspaper reported how a tutor, a member of the Queens English Society at Imperial College London was so unimpressed by the standard of of English used by his students that he has ‘named and shamed them’. I can appreciate poor English is detrimental to clarity of academic writing and that better standards across the board are something to aspire to (and Lamb is quoted as saying ‘The rot thus extends from top to bottom in education’) but to me, the thrust of the article was a placing the blame upon the students, not the educational system that had led these presumably intelligent people to his academic institution.
To meet me you would probably say I was a confident person, I am happy stand up and speak in public, in front of an audience of a couple of hundred people if needs be, (although having looked at the Queens English Society web site, I don’t think they would like my accent) but ask me to write on a white board in front of anyone and I will flee. For me, my fear of ridicule and embarrassment about my writing (especially by teachers and academics) is so powerful that even to this day I will not write a comment in my children’s home work diary without first writing it in a word document and spell checking it. If this sort of tactic is not available to me (whenever I have to write) to allow me hide my ‘shameful secret’ it is most likely I will say nothing; it’s a shame, because you never know I might have had an opinion worth listening to.