Monday, July 13, 2009

Pet Peeve

Blogging is, I know, an informal medium, but would it be too much to expect someone with an English degree from an Ivy League university to write better than Megan McCardle does on her Atlantic blog? Here's just one of her offenses today (from this post):

But of course, if Hilzoy [a prominent, pseudonymous liberal blogger] were in the Senate, she wouldn't be Hilzoy; she'd be someone who had just spent some of the best years of their life putting themself into a position to get into the Senate.


How hard would it have been to substitute her and herself for "their" and "themself" (which isn't even a word)?

Sloppy writing often correlates with sloppy thinking.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I disagree.

I never noticed any correlation between profound ideas and good grammar/writing.

DaveinHackensack said...

Writing probably is an over-rated skill. If you screw up your grammar, or gratuitously violate The Elements of Style (Megan does both), obsessives like me will complain about it, but your writing ability (or lack thereof) will probably have a negligible impact on your life or career. This raises the question of why a third of students' SAT scores are now derived from their performance on an essay section.

DaveinHackensack said...

Another take on the value of writing, by 37Signals, the authors of Getting Real:

"Hire good writers

If you are trying to decide between a few people to fill a position, always hire the better writer. It doesn't matter if that person is a designer, programmer, marketer, salesperson, or whatever, the writing skills will pay off. Effective, concise writing and editing leads to effective, concise code, design, emails, instant messages, and more.

That's because being a good writer is about more than words. Good writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else's shoes. They know what to omit. They think clearly. And those are the qualities you need."

silly girl said...

You expect dialect from dialect speakers, but is she even a dialect speaker? I mean a woman from a Standard English speaking home should naturally be able to use Standard English. Dialect does not indicate lack of intelligence or thinking skills, nor does any language or language subgroup. However proficiency in a language does indicate verbal ability and intelligence. Who would ever say, "Shut door!" instead of, "Shut the door!" ? You almost can't make that mistake. Some mistakes are egregious and surprising, such as the example given of Megan McArdle using "themself".

Billy G. Tickts said...

I hav gooder skills thenn everbody elze. That why I sooo suckcessful.

JK said...

" your writing ability (or lack thereof) will probably have a negligible impact on your life or career.This raises the question of why a third of students' SAT scores are now derived from their performance on an essay section."

Because the SAT is about scholastic aptitude, not job aptitude. A solid writing ability will help you in most subjects.

You could argue that having an essay section on the SAT is a bit redundant, since most students write essays when applying to college, but having it on the SAT ensures the student themself (j/k!) is writing the essay, as opposed to a friend/family-member/admissions-'consultant'. Plus, essays are probably evaluated more objectively on the SAT than admissions essays.

However, many colleges do share your skepticism regarding the essay section, so they choose to ignore it. The report that colleges receive from the College Board shows the scores on the individual SAT sections, so colleges can still look at SAT scores "the old way" if they want to. They aren't forced into incorporating that section when making admissions decisions.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Because the SAT is about scholastic aptitude, not job aptitude. A solid writing ability will help you in most subjects."

It will help you in the classes which require essays.

"You could argue that having an essay section on the SAT is a bit redundant, since most students write essays when applying to college, but having it on the SAT ensures the student themself (j/k!) is writing the essay"

My issue wasn't that it was redundant with the essays, and you make a good point about ensuring that the essays were actually written by the student. My issue was just that it was folded into the total score. I mentioned this in a recent post about the NYC valedictorians. I see your point about how schools can elect to ignore the essay score though.

Mark Pennington said...

Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves
If you are grammatically challenged, or let’s face it, a grammatical snob who will catch the grammatical error in the title of this blog, you owe it to yourself to check out these grammatical pet peeves and tips at Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves