Formerly SpringBlog

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Standard English and the Internet

In another English class I am enrolled in we discussed whether Non-Standard English is acceptable to use in online conversations. While listening to the discussion in class, I found myself in the middle on whether or not nonstandard English was acceptable. When I read some of my emails sent out by my professors many of them are not written in Standard English. Some people in my class said that the professor writing in Nonstandard made the email and notification seem more personable. On the other hand, some people said they preferred their professors to write in Standard English in their emails because it was more professional. They also said that it made the professor seem slightly hypocritical because they expected their students to write in Standard English so shouldn't the professor also?

After our class discussed emails it then shifted to Facebook. In our ENG 213 class, we discussed way back how what we write on Facebook could be considered our "literature" in the distant future. As we discussed in the beginning of the semester stories that had no moral lesson or wasn't teaching you anything was not considered "real" literature, and we discussed how what we write on our Facebooks could be considered "literature" someday. So if this is possible, would we want our generation to be known for talking improperly?

Also, what we post online is there forever and future employers do look up applicants Facebooks. So if on Facebook I am speaking in a manner that is less intelligent it could potentially be detrimental to myself. But in all reality, I cannot say everything I post online is written in proper English.

In the end our class remained divided on whether or not Nonstandard English was acceptable, and neither sides arguement won me over.


  1. I think that this is a very interesting discussion. However, I would argue that this question is something that our society struggles with in regards to trying to find a happy medium. When we think about writing in general, we often think about Standard English. In our heads we automatically associate the written language as being proper and the spoken language as being more informal. Although there are exceptions to these rules, we often struggle trying to figure out what these exceptions are. Therefore, the ultimate question becomes: should the Internet be a place where we use the written principle of Standard English? My answer is: it depends. Like speaking or writing, the Internet has different purposes for communicating. I think it would be silly for Facebook to require all of its members to use proper English because Facebook is a sort of informal dialogue. Depending on who you are addressing, email can be either formal or informal. Personally, I believe that business emails should be kept formal, whereas emails to your grandma can be a little more informal. When it comes down to it, I think that the situation will help to determine the type of language that should be used.

  2. You mentioned that Facebook may be the future of our literature. I can honestly say I've seen books written completely in Twitter conversations or chat rooms. That form of literature is already here. I personally don't think it's a good thing, but it's entertaining for some.

    Also, you mentioned the Nonstandard English on the Internet. When I worked with some 7th graders last winter, I noticed the Nonstandard English didn't stay on the Internet for them. These kids included things like "lol" and other text abbreviations into papers they turned in. One day, we're going to have to face the consequences of text speak and how it's affecting kids who can't differentiate when to use it and went to be more formal.

  3. We need two separate working definitions for standard English.
    In informal writing - such as e-mail and letter writing - I find that the definition of "proper basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation" is certainly reasonable, and should be critically expected by people. In such English, things like sentence fragments, verbal expressions, and other such nonstandard concepts for emphasis or characterization are fully acceptable, but the basic structuring forces of standard language should apply. Granted, in most venues nowadays, there are no ways to regulate it... Facebook and Twitter certainly have their share of voluntary "grammar police" (or "grammar nazis", as most textspeak advocates so lovingly call them), but there can be no formal moderation of such. On principle, however, they should be encouraged, especially by the likes of professors, employers, and other such figures.
    That said, the finer points of standard English in writing should be reserved for formal letters, papers, essays, etc.; such things as clause agreement, argument structure, or clear thesis statements obviously can't be expected of all casual writing, but the second we throw that away in critical literature (either digital or otherwise), we murder language itself.

    That said, with the way everything is now, we really can't judge someone based on his or her written vernacular, but frankly, I think we should be able to. If you can write properly, for the love of whatever you worship, do it.