Capitalization and punctuation March 23, 2013 11:46 AM   Subscribe

I just want to take a Saturday morning minute to thank everyone who goes to the trouble of using capitalization and punctuation correctly to make their writing pleasant to read. That's all. Thanks!
posted by found missing to Etiquette/Policy at 11:46 AM (167 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

yr welcome
posted by Splunge at 11:52 AM on March 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


belittle us as much as you want but know that were the 99% without which you cannot put your thoughts in writing every day billions of us work hard for you expecting not even a comma dot or exclamation point
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:59 AM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I appreciate that, too. Some of my colleagues have started using "u" for "you" in work emails, and I find it a bit jarring. I'm OK with friends doing that when they text, but it's weird ina professional setting. Not that MetaFilter is a professional setting, no matter what your background.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:01 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, Timothy Dexter.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2013


It's strange that the edit feature seems to have had little effect on the number of incorrectly punctuated and misspelled comments.
posted by desjardins at 12:04 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Listen, I'm sorry -- I am just never going to remember the right way to type an em dash.
posted by rollick at 12:09 PM on March 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


I would like to sincerely apologize for my recent tragic its/it's error. I had noticed the mistake at four minutes into my allotted edit window when my Internet connection became unstable. I was unable to proceed with the edit before time had expired.

I would like to encourage moderators to consider expanding the amount of time available for edits so that this sort of accident may never occur again.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:13 PM on March 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


nothing is true, found missing

all is permitted
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to take a Saturday morning minute to thank everyone who goes to the trouble of using capitalization and punctuation correctly to make their writing pleasant to read.

Grammarly found 1 critical writing issue and generated 5 word choice corrections for your text.
Issues: Wordiness (1)
Score: 67 of 100
(weak, needs revision)
posted by naju at 12:19 PM on March 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


CAPITALIZATION AND GRAMAR AR TULS OF THE PATRIARCHY!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:19 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


sorry!
posted by nadawi at 12:24 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Related: Russell Baker's How to Punctuate
posted by dancestoblue at 12:32 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


For discussion of differing values of "pleasant to read," see "The Phenomenology of Error" by Joseph M. Williams:
As I said, it may be that you and I will find that for any particular rule, we experience its violation in different ways. But that is an empirical question, not a matter of value. Value- becomes a consideration only when we address the matter of which errors we should notice.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:37 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, when we speak, we make errors all the time: we have false starts, we backtrack, we say things with unintended emphasis, produce unintentional puns, and so on. I routinely swap the first sounds of adjacent words, which isn't that uncommon.

And it takes a weird and pedantic person to listen to a stream of totally ad hoc speech and make a personal judgment about the speaker's personality or abilities. People like this do, of course, exist, but they are more likely to be considered a nuisance.

Written communication is approaching speech in popularity in everyday life. Where decades ago we might have written letters or sent telegrams, these days we text, we send emails at work, we post comments on websites, and we chat with friends. We produce writing in great quantity, and most of that writing is going to be read only once (if that).

So I think it's weird and retrograde and sort of unpleasant that casual writing is still treated like it demands the same effort as carving inscriptions on marble. That was one use of writing. The role of writing has expanded dramatically since then. There is writing that demands a watchmaker's precision. Most writing doesn't. Why do so many of us think that it's a good thing to pretend that it does?
posted by Nomyte at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [51 favorites]


Metafilter must be bored lately.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:44 PM on March 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Now if I could just include the occasional coherent thought in my comments along with the punctuation & capitalization, everything would be peachy-keen!
posted by easily confused at 12:46 PM on March 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Whose really cares about they're spelling & grammar in it's posts.
posted by michaelh at 1:03 PM on March 23, 2013


There is writing that demands a watchmaker's precision. Most writing doesn't. Why do so many of us think that it's a good thing to pretend that it does?

It is the effort put into communicating like adults that counts — and which is greatly appreciated. It is certain people avoiding using their Shift or punctuation keys out of some weird, attention-seeking affectation that is distracting, as much so as someone who would hypothetically type their posts and comments with the CAPS LOCK key held down (exceptions made, of course, for that one special day a year).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


inthe,exquisite;

morning sure lyHer eye s exactly sit,ata little roundtable
among otherlittle roundtables Her,eyes count slow(ly

obstre poroustimidi ties surElyfl)oat iNg,the

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flesh:wakes
in little streets

while exactlygir lisHlegs;play;ing;nake;D
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a firmcool-Ness taxis,s.QuirM

and, b etw ee nch air st ott er s thesillyold
WomanSellingBalloonS

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morning,
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roundtable amongother;littleexacty round. tables,

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posted by drlith at 1:14 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would like to sincerely apologize for my recent tragic its/it's error. I had noticed the mistake at four minutes

Its-It's can spend about 5 minutes on the ground and still be edible. Don't toss it next time.
posted by ORthey at 1:31 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any standard can be taken to an extreme - I once met a person who claimed I was making excuses in order to justify my own behavior when I asked her to clarify what she meant when she demanded to know if I "drive fast." It turned out that she believes that going over any speed limit, ever, is "fast," and that it's "criminal thinking" when you say to yourself something like "everyone on this freeway is driving 65mph when the signs say 60mph, and I had better keep up with traffic." She was extremely irritated when I told her that her question was asking for a subjective assessment; I'm quite sure she thinks I'm a speed demon and I suspect she finds me unimaginably difficult and uncooperative.

Anyway, there's a difference between demanding perfection and appreciating when people make some level of effort (or expecting them to try.) When it comes to basically spelling things right, basically making the right word choices and basically using the right amount/type of punctuation... this is an effort that people really ought to make when communicating in written form. And we really ought to be OK with asking for clarification when things don't make sense, or making "this person isn't taking this piece of communication seriously" kinds of judgments based on the results of that effort (or lack thereof.)

I don't have my employee handbook available, but I'm almost completely certain we made it against the rules to put "u" and other non-business-like abbreviations in email. We had similar rules about semi-casual communications in my college classes. I'm pretty much totally OK with that. This really isn't expecting a lot out of people.

I also unambiguously judge those who do things like write "she couldn't bare to hear it" or "it's gold trim sparkled" or any other silly mistakes we expect 4th graders to avoid. It's not rocket science, this stuff. Yes, do look up the right word to use, even if it's "just" fanfic or "just" a forum comment or whatever.

If we actually treated writing on the internet the way we treated carving on stone tablets, we wouldn't have the internet at all. Also: I can't be the only one here who's found typos on grave markers, cornerstones, and other "actually carved in stone" items...
posted by SMPA at 1:33 PM on March 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ego sum rex Romanus et supra grammaticam!

really, I am
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:34 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


^ I expect it´s extremely clever but could I have a translation please?
posted by adamvasco at 1:34 PM on March 23, 2013


aiyiyi.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You thank us today, but you know it can all go pearshaped overnight. One moment you're doing fine, with great spelling and punctuation, then "bam!" it's 1122 and it all falls to bits and you can't even remember whether micel has one 'l' or two.
posted by Jehan at 1:36 PM on March 23, 2013


WAT DAT
posted by jonmc at 1:36 PM on March 23, 2013


I like to think that all my excess commas are going off to live on a happy typographical farm where they have lots of room to run, play, denote lists, and pause between clauses.
posted by cmyk at 1:38 PM on March 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


So I think it's weird and retrograde and sort of unpleasant that casual writing is still treated like it demands the same effort as carving inscriptions on marble. That was one use of writing. The role of writing has expanded dramatically since then. There is writing that demands a watchmaker's precision. Most writing doesn't. Why do so many of us think that it's a good thing to pretend that it does?

I can't help noticing that your entire comment is written in complete sentences with sufficient punctuation and grammar to be easily understood. So, maybe you've answered your own question?

One of the reasons I like hanging out here is that I have a lot of respect for people who are able to make their points articulately, even when I disagree with them. I don't spend a lot of time on other discussion sites, but when I do, the sheer amount of "u ppl r stoopid lol" makes me all the more glad to come back here.
posted by Crane Shot at 1:39 PM on March 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


This really isn't expecting a lot out of people.

It's also not asking a lot of people to stop caring about how other people write.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:47 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


thx
posted by The Whelk at 1:51 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I volunteer with adults of varying literacy.

Calling us out for being awesome because we all know the rules (4th grade? I've worked with people who had to leave school earlier, I'd be Embarassed to share some of these comments with adult learners. But then, they've already heard and internalized this idea that they should have figured it out by now.) is pointing up that there is or ought to be something shameful about not knowing the rules. Which I don't quite buy.

I don't follow these rules because I like them (though I do, actually. Like the rules of English grammar. Even the stupid made up ones. Sometimes.) I follow them because they were beaten into* me at a young and tender age. By people who believed that my mistakes represented some kind of failing on their part to keep me righteous. Or something. I never asked.

I love the schmoopy as much as anyone else. But I don't love the feeling the I'm expected to feel morally superior because I have a skill. A skill which is largely a result of privilege and which is used to perpetuate a vast array of privileges** upon me.

Because in order for me to benefit from knowing these rules, others have to actually suffer for not knowing them. And guys, that really sucks. Especially because a lot of uses of English get attacked in ways that are outright racist. Language is not one true monolith. It lives and breathes and changes. But while I write this, people I know and care about are struggling to master the sound of short i in Kim, gift, sister, sing, and ring (thanks Laubach!). Painstakingly writing and rewriting their addresses to remember to capitalize in the proper spots. And I'm proud of them for giving a shit even though they don't (yet) meet the high standards of some people I've never met.

*Not hyperbole

**I'm a white lady. Grew up poor, but white.
posted by bilabial at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2013 [41 favorites]


It's also not asking a lot of people to stop caring about how other people write.

I only care about the quality of the writing I actually read. Asking me to read the writing but disregard its quality is like asking me to not care about all kinds of things I have a completely reasonable interest in caring about: it is, in fact, asking quite a lot. At least as much as telling me that I shouldn't care whether the food I eat actually tastes good, for instance (remembering that things which taste awful can, of course, be adequately nutritious.)

But you do make a fair point, so let me attach an addendum to one of my earlier sentences:
Yes, do look up the right word to use, even if it's "just" fanfic or "just" a forum comment or whatever [, though I don't really care if it's one that I will never read, such as Gundam Wing fanfiction or comments at SomethingAwful. However, the principle behind my advice/expectation still stands, even though I am in no way personally invested in your individual performance in that exact instance.]
posted by SMPA at 1:55 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I can't help noticing that your entire comment is written in complete sentences with sufficient punctuation and grammar to be easily understood. So, maybe you've answered your own question?

I was anticipating having to write persuasively for a crowd of pedants. Not all writing is written with that purpose.

By way of anecdote, at one point I was reading a Russian-language LiveJournal. The topic was "as a manager-level person in the US, how hard would you fire your English-speaking employees who make embarrassing typos in English-language work email." I wrote something to the effect of "it's great that native speakers of English can rely on Russians for grammar guidance."

I got an immediate response (in Russian): "Your English is terrible! Why post in a language you struggle with? I counted at least 5 mistakes in your two sentences: grammatical, stylistic, and lexical. Do yourself a favor and rewrite your comment without these errors!"

So, yeah. The road to pedantry is a very short one.
posted by Nomyte at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I tried to figure out where found missing is from, so I could see if it was indeed morning there, and not well into the afternoon like it is here, and his profile puts him in the North Atlantic Ocean! I zoomed all the way in and there's nothing but water! So either he is in immediate need of a water rescue or he's playing hard and fast with his geographical location! It's probably not even morning where he's at. I'm not sure I can take someone seriously who so disregard with the rules he doesn't care about, but wants others to be better at grammar?
posted by cjorgensen at 2:02 PM on March 23, 2013


expecting them to try

People who write "bare" instead of "bear" or "it's" instead of "its" are trying. They don't make the error because they make a conscious decision to not "look up the right word to use." They make the error unconsciously. Perhaps in reviewing their writing one (more) time they might catch the error, but if they don't, especially in the conversational setting of a web forum Nomyte describes, it distresses me far less than other, more substantive problems people enact when trying to communicate through writing, such as unfair summary.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:04 PM on March 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


bilabial: there are different expectations for different arenas. I would not walk around a adult literacy clinic berating people for their inadequate punctuation. I doubt very much the OP, or any one else here, would do such a thing either.

The scenario in question is one where the overwhelming majority of participants are functionally literate in English.

I also give something of a break to fanfic writers and forum commenters when I realize they're non-English speaking or very young... but I also often stop reading what they've written, and it's important for them to recognize that this is something that is important to change if they can, rather than an optional component of communication that they should feel free to completely disregard because the only people who care about it are jerks and pedants.

The quality/word choice/etc. of written communication is fundamental to its reception: we all know that, it's why we tell people they're using words that indicate their "privilege" or are demeaning in some way. Teaching someone to punctuate their sentences is a part of the exact same process behind teaching them how to form the letters in the first place, and it's not wrong to ask someone to spell something correctly or follow the basic conventions of the written word - certainly no more wrong than asking them to make sure their "P" and "R" letters are facing the right way. It's far less intrusive, parochial, or judgmental than telling them what kinds of messages they ought to express, and quite frankly, that is something which happens several times an hour on MetaFilter.

[Please also note that most people here seem to be talking about "its vs. it's" and "u vs. you," not "thereof vs. from" and dangling prepositions. Asking people to be coherent is not asking them to be perfect.]
posted by SMPA at 2:04 PM on March 23, 2013


if people who get twitchy about shit like this are less likely to read my comments, that's fine by me.

honestly this post feels like a passive aggressive dressing down - like when the cheery apartment people post notes on everyone's door, "thanks for cleaning up after your pets at the seven available locations placed throughout the property!"
posted by nadawi at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I also often stop reading what they've written, and it's important for them to recognize that this is something that is important to change if they can

Do you recognize that your aspirational model of English is a constantly moving target, and the reasons it's moving are based on privilege, power, race, and class, rather than some empirical advances in our scientific understanding of English grammar?
posted by Nomyte at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


SMPA you seem to be making it clear that you don't have much experience with literacy that doesn't match your own. That you avoid it when possible and feel competent to judge the cause of the....inadequacy.

Some of my learners use the Internet! (one really loves history and wants to know everything about George Washington and Abe Lincoln...Another writes fiction. I worked briefly with a PhD in science from another country. He reads just fine but his English writing is...awkward. He would love metafilter! Except he'd want to contribute and would be self conscious. He has picked up some of these text abbreviations that drive people crazy. From American PhDs. People he thinks are smart enough to be setting a 'good' example!)

Which is to say, this is personal to me, and I would not be at all surprised if there is a mefite or two who came to reading late.

My vote lies with broadening our own horizons to be able to parse and appreciate the various writing styles that more closely match speech. I hope (and believe) that Language is becoming more democratic as more people gain access to the tools of it. Prescriptivist vs Descriptivist is a linguistic chasm that can be hard to bridge.

But I do think it's a cop out to claim you can't understand people who don't adhere to the norms you expect. I think you just can't be bothered. And that's fine. There is a vast body of work written to that standard. And much of it is also interesting.

Think of language like eating. People with practice eating rice with chopsticks find it quite easy. Folks who don't have that experience find it messy and frustrating, whether they grew up using forks, their hands, or have never seen rice before. But placing value judgments on the struggle doesn't help anyone eat rice any faster. I won't flog this metaphor further, but oh, I could.
posted by bilabial at 2:30 PM on March 23, 2013 [31 favorites]


This is a bullshit callout dressed up as a compliment. This strikes me as about as annoying as the people who go crazy over the use of @.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:33 PM on March 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


All abled humans are biologically endowed with the superpower of spoken language. But writing is this weird and totally awesome skill that we made up! I won't begrudge someone for not being great at it. Heck, my math knowledge ends at algebra. There's pretty much no reason/incentive other than personal interest that someone with a high school education who has always worked at, say, McDonald's would have to be a skilled writer. It would be great to get more of such folks' perspectives around here, I think.
posted by threeants at 2:36 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


(There's also a personal/stylistic thing. I don't think most people around MeFi who eschew capitalization are unfamiliar with the rules of where to capitalize. I have a couple of buddies named e.e. and bell who would probably be happy to comment on the degeneracy of non-capitalizing...)
posted by threeants at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reading why I made this post and its many layers of meaning has been interesting. I do appreciate that people generally make an effort here. To me that is cool. [not writeist]
posted by found missing at 2:43 PM on March 23, 2013


(Don't get me wrong-- when I copy-edit for work I am the pedantiest pedant that ever pedanted. But I'm not going to export that shit to everyday life any more than I want someone at a party to quiz me on 10th grade chemistry.)
posted by threeants at 2:44 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


it's why we tell people they're using words that indicate their "privilege"

Ya, the reason I'm arguing that this 'positive callout' doesn't feel positive is because the original speaker may not (benefit of the doubt here, attributing to ignorance instead of malice) grasp the vastness of the audience.

The post stinks of in-groupiness and shamey language policing. And highlights a privilege of 'belonging' to a group that has a right to praise interlocutors for achieving a standard.

I think that claiming such a right is...not flattering to our community.
posted by bilabial at 2:47 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would like to encourage moderators to consider expanding the amount of time available for edits so that this sort of accident may never occur again.

Could we just get a copy editor?

As I learned in this thread re edit window stats, some folks are so upset by typos that they shame send helpful comments via MeMail. A copy editor would ease their burden and would have changed "had been't" to "hadn't been" in a comment I made a few days ago.
posted by she's not there at 2:49 PM on March 23, 2013


(For clarity, this is not in mod voice, just user voice.)

I like it when people follow those standard conventions of capitalization, punctuation, spelling, usage, etc because it does make it easier for me to read, and it doesn't give me that nasty buzzing in my copyediting lobe.

I agree that:
-I am capable of understanding what someone is saying if they don't follow the conventions.
-The conventions aren't handed down by angels or written in stone.
-It is possible to go too far, be too much of a pedant. Hassling people about their slip-ups is definitely crossing this line.
-Having conventions is related to privilege in various ways.

But even so, following the conventions attached to more-or-less formal writing makes my reading experience subjectively much more pleasant. For that reason, I like that we mostly follow those conventions here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:02 PM on March 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


You are welcome!

(Although I do admit that I would like to play around with ?gRAR and stuff, like real people do).
posted by Namlit at 3:10 PM on March 23, 2013


some folks are so upset by typos that they shame send helpful comments via MeMail.

^ I am greatly upset by my own typos, which I invariably notice about 3 seconds after the edit window closes. I haven't had anyone memail me about any of them yet. I'm not looking forward to the day this happens and the shame spiral that will inevitably follow.
posted by Broseph at 3:10 PM on March 23, 2013


Also, the internet has opened up a lot of really finely-grained stylistic differences that can be used to varying effect. For example, in response to a funny and absurd FPP about cats putting a tiny hat on a banana (obviously), these two single-sentence comments would have completely different affective meaning:

uh what are those cats doing to that banana

Uh, what are those cats doing to that banana?

posted by threeants at 3:12 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


clearly i took too many linguistics courses in college

(SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?!?!)

posted by threeants at 3:14 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


honestly this post feels like a passive aggressive dressing down

Really? I thought it was a nice, if rather trivial, thing to say. I generally try to write clearly, and I have thrown away more than one comment because I realized I didn't have enough time to write it out properly. I get bugged when I see grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors in my own comments, and I have the excuse of having gaps in my visual field that get in the way of self editing (I pretty much can never see an entire sentence). Do I get really bent out of shape when I find my own errors? Nope, and sometimes they are hilarious. Anyway, I'm a bit startled at the number of people who feel this was a secret slur.

Did I edit this enough? Time will tell....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:28 PM on March 23, 2013


GenjiandProust: "Some of my colleagues have started using "u" for "you" in work emails, and I find it a bit jarring."

to sir with millipedes: " This strikes me as about as annoying as the people who go crazy over the use of @."

Apparently I've moved completely over to "get off my lawn" and elastic waist bands because text speak in professional emails drives me batty and inappropriate use of the @ symbol is like nails on my mental chalk board.
posted by Mitheral at 3:30 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


...use of the @ symbol is like nails on my mental chalk board.

Or, for me, the sound of styrofoam rubbing against itself. Aaaargh!
posted by ericb at 3:34 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, not to mention the marshmallows in Lucky Charms cereal! Aaaargh!
posted by ericb at 3:35 PM on March 23, 2013


In my book, for a title or other phrase enclosed by quotes, like "Easy Rider", the comma goes on the fucking outside. Also, words like american and christian, hawaiian or muslim, do not require capitalization. Conversely, I have started to split the occasional infinitive, particularly when the adverb is "not".
posted by Ardiril at 3:37 PM on March 23, 2013


In my book, for a title or other phrase enclosed by quotes, like "Easy Rider", the comma goes on the fucking outside.

If you feel so very strongly about this, it might be worth considering a move to the U.K.?
posted by nobody at 3:45 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


the @ thing annoys me because it goes back long before twitter as a way to visually indicate that you're speaking to someone in a long thread and suddenly because twitter uses it it's bad form everywhere else on the internet. i don't use it, but when i see someone respond to its use with "this isn't twitter!" it makes me want to launch into a get off my lawn style tirade about message boards and irc and the 90s.
posted by nadawi at 3:51 PM on March 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


james while john had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher
posted by Dasein at 4:04 PM on March 23, 2013


It is the effort put into communicating like adults that counts...

Acting like an adult is what counts. Plenty of articulate people behave like complete jerks, yet proper grammar and punctation doesn't make them better jerks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:13 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing is, if we're going to use language as a means of communicating with each other, then we need to have rules and conventions. We know how to safely cross a street because we all agree that a red light means "stop". If a person gets hit by a car because they don't know that, then I think the solution is to educate that person, not to get rid of traffic lights.

I really don't see anything wrong with MeFi taking pride in the fact that the level of debate is generally higher here than other places. I think it's a good thing that we expect to find thoughtful discussions about things like privilege, and I don't see the problem with expecting that people put a bit of thought into choosing their words carefully when having those discussions. No, we don't all have to be literary geniuses, but we can at least try to form coherent sentences. Look around: this place is nothing but language.
posted by Crane Shot at 4:14 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


threeants: "(There's also a personal/stylistic thing. I don't think most people around MeFi who eschew capitalization are unfamiliar with the rules of where to capitalize. I have a couple of buddies named e.e. and bell who would probably be happy to comment on the degeneracy of non-capitalizing...)"

You'd probably do better pointing to bell and danah as examples. Cummings capitalized his name.
posted by Lexica at 4:16 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

james while john had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher
This sentence is easiest to understand if you just accept that James's classmate is called "John Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had". The Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had family struggled with the Ellis Island clerks to retain the correct spelling of their name, who suggested that it be simplified to "Tenhads". Today the Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had-Had clan are very proud of their heritage.
posted by Jehan at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The OP only wrote writing raced past an editor pleased, but indeed the privileged man a leaky boat.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2013


Buffalo sauce buffalo sauce buffalo sauce buffalo sauce buffalo sauce buffalo sauce buffalo sauce blue cheese.
posted by michaelh at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2013


I've been reading MetaFilter since it was only available in home-delivered hard copy. Oh how I miss the shout of my MeFi boy. "Hey, mister, you owe me for last week!"

Anyway, the rise of the @ signaled that the place was changing, that internal norms were being ignored and washed away by external norms. That kind of thing will get a reaction.
posted by found missing at 4:22 PM on March 23, 2013


A GARDEN PATH TOO FAR, sir, A GARDEN PATH TOO FAR!!!
posted by Nomyte at 4:24 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone needs. A hug?
posted by mintcake! at 4:47 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


what do you have against
us poor cockroaches
typing is hard enough
throwing myself against
each and every key
using the shift key is
impossible
maybe mehitabel can help
if she's not off chasing a tom
posted by Ghidorah at 5:08 PM on March 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


There are a few posters 'round these parts who seem to have a rather intense phobia of capital letters. It honestly comes across as rather childish, as if they're trying to say "I'm an adult and nobody gets to tell me what 'DA RULEZ' are!1!1!1!11!".
posted by MattMangels at 5:18 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or, for me, the sound of styrofoam rubbing against itself. Aaaargh!

The word "Styrofoam" is a trademark and should be capitalized. True Styrofoam, made by Dow, is insulation and is a distinctive blue color. Replace with the generic "polystyrene."
posted by purpleclover at 5:32 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dude, don't turn this into a xeroxed drywall roller-blade bandaid, or else I'll samsung iphone your apple windows.
posted by Nomyte at 5:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


but it's weird ina professional setting

It's worse ina Trenchtown, mon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


> The word "Styrofoam" is a trademark and should be capitalized.

Look here, styrofoam, we did aspirin in and we'll do you in too.
posted by jfuller at 5:39 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a xeroxed drywall, it's a roller-blade bandaid, it's every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.
posted by mintcake! at 5:42 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The thing is, if we're going to use language as a means of communicating with each other, then we need to have rules and conventions.

And yet there's always much more discussion of rule breaking that has a minimal effect on understanding, such as homonym confusion or misplaced apostrophes, as compared to violations of other conventions that do more to frustrate communication, such as Grice's maxims.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:43 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hear hear!

In comments, emails, anything less "urgent" in nature, I capitalize and use proper grammar (as well as I can ever) and all that jazz.

In text messages and IMs, i still roughly use proper grammar but i only capitalize FOR EMPHASIS or if it's an acronym, as i instinctively fell into doing here when just THINKING about it (leftover from IRC days, i think). You is always you, never u. Abbreviations tend to be ones that are more contractions; iknorite is a personal favorite, because that seems to be my favorite word. Ever.

When speaking in person, it's generally grammatical but also I bite my nails.

My verbal tics are my written ones, but I try to clarify as much as possible in writing for ease of communication with my intended audience.
posted by RainyJay at 5:44 PM on March 23, 2013


"Written communication is approaching speech in popularity in everyday life. Where decades ago we might have written letters or sent telegrams, these days we text, we send emails at work, we post comments on websites, and we chat with friends. We produce writing in great quantity, and most of that writing is going to be read only once (if that). So I think it's weird and retrograde and sort of unpleasant that casual writing is still treated like it demands the same effort as carving inscriptions on marble. That was one use of writing. The role of writing has expanded dramatically since then. There is writing that demands a watchmaker's precision. Most writing doesn't. Why do so many of us think that it's a good thing to pretend that it does?"

I actually have this conversation with my students when I teach; I point out to them that writing used to be a very formalized exercise but now they probably communicate in writing as often as in speech, and that in school we teach formalized speaking a specific THING different from everyday talking, but we don't yet teach formalized writing as a specific thing different from everyday writing (chatting, texting, etc.). We simply teach formalized writing as THE writing, and act as if texting, etc., are all degenerate forms.

I think this has two implications: First, it is very helpful to students if you separate formal and informal writing and help them see how good they already are at communicating in writing, and that they can always start with informal writing and then go through with an editing cleanup. Second, much like speaking, we can speak with much less precision in daily conversation when chatting with people who know us, because there's personal knowledge of each other's quirks, immediacy of feedback, etc.; similarly, when texting or chatting online, there's immediacy of feedback of intimate knowledge that helps bridge communication gaps. But in something like a forum like metafilter, you need a formality level less than a formal speech but more than a casual chat; something like a business meeting where you speak with more precision and care. Metafilter isn't a dissertation, but it's also not a text chat; generally adhering to the standards of language aids with communication with people who don't know you well and who aren't giving realtime feedback ... although being a grammar nazi also isn't helpful (any more than it is in a business meeting) if someone is communicating their point clearly.

The general agreement I make with my students is that as long as I can understand their point, I won't take points off (but since I am a teacher I will put copy editing marks on their errors so they're aware for harder-ass teachers). That's how I feel about metafilter posts; as long as I can understand people's point, I don't get too worked up about imperfect grammar/spelling/whatever, especially when it's clearly an occasional typo or speed-error or whatever. But I do appreciate people's efforts to communicate clearly in a textual medium because it's helpful for me as a reader and makes reading more pleasant.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:59 PM on March 23, 2013 [36 favorites]


There's such a strong norm here for effortful writing that (as far as I can tell) most people who deviate do so deliberately, as a matter of style. I doubt it's any "trouble" for them to use the more normal style, but rather they choose not to. So the question is less about how much effort is put into writing, and more about agreement on style.

In my experience reading MeFi, regardless of writing style, comments are generally very articulate.
posted by parudox at 6:12 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fart.
posted by The Whelk at 6:21 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I WAS WONDERING WHEN MR CAPS-HAPPY WOULD SHOW UP
posted by drlith at 6:39 PM on March 23, 2013


All I do,
Is Dream of You.
The Whole Night Through!!!!!!!!
posted by h00py at 6:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the care that many MeFites put into their writing here. This place has some of the best bons mots and long-form conversating around.

I also and far more appreciate that many MeFites employ the principle of charitable interpretation and the presumption of good faith in their participation here, both of which are far more integral to communication than stylistic rules that have been dressed up as grammar.
posted by gauche at 6:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


i don't use it, but when i see someone respond to its use with "this isn't twitter!" it makes me want to launch into a get off my lawn style tirade about message boards and irc and the 90s.

For what it's worth, I've been on message boards since the mid-1980s and had never seen the @ convention prior to twitter, so it really may have been a localized thing.
posted by escabeche at 6:48 PM on March 23, 2013


I've had to call out, of all people, my 75 year old mother over this. 'u' is not an acceptable replacement for you. Punctuation is not optional. God damnit woman you were a professional administrator in a national institution for over 20 years as well as a trained psychologist for pushing 50. You *know* how much of conversation is non-verbal. You *know* what respect looks like and you're not even trying.

She's now given me a special exemption and sends only full English sentences. Everyone else still gets messages that look like they came from a 14-year old Justin Bieber fan.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:17 PM on March 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also don't remember @username being used on message boards or Usenet prior to twitter though it is rampant on most message boards now. Though arguably the cluttered form most phpBB and clone message boards are in kind of make the @username convention valid there. I can see it having been popular on IRC though I didn't really hang out on many real time messaging systems.

Is it possible to search Metafilter chronologically? @ isn't exactly a common symbol here so it might be worth it to visually grep a chronological source of @ occurrences to see when the first @USERNAME was used rather than for other purposes.
posted by Mitheral at 7:33 PM on March 23, 2013


threeants: "(There's also a personal/stylistic thing. I don't think most people around MeFi who eschew capitalization are unfamiliar with the rules of where to capitalize. I have a couple of buddies named e.e. and bell who would probably be happy to comment on the degeneracy of non-capitalizing...)"

Lexica: You'd probably do better pointing to bell and danah as examples


Not really. Hooks and Boyd go by lower case names but they both use capital letters and normal punctuation in their writings.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:39 PM on March 23, 2013


Wow, I did not see this positive callout as controversial. There are plenty of places where spelling, punctuation, and capitalization do not matter. Metafilter is not (and should not be, so far as I am concerned) one of those places.
posted by Justinian at 8:06 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, folks here sure like to get angry about shit. Go have a glass of wine or something, folks. I thought this was positive and appreciate the effort. The idea that folks who are careless in their writing only are that way because they don't know any better is silly. True for some, but definitely not for all. And I speak as the parent of a 16 year old with possibly the worst spelling on the West Coast.
posted by purenitrous at 8:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I quit reading this thread when I saw it was becoming controversial. But to the OP, I did want to say: I agree, and good post.

My confession: When I was younger, I posted on Usenet in all lowercase. I didn't use capitals letters because, I dunno, they were stodgy or an archaic convention, or whatever stupid reason I had. I don't remember (thankfully). But since then I've learned a lot about the mechanics of text presentation. I understand the reasons for things like capitalization and punctuation. Not only do I use them, I try to use them smartly. And something I really like about MetaFilter as a community is that mostly, that's what happens here. Comments are coherent and easy to read. It's awesome.

I can't come down too hard on people who eschew caps, because I used to, too. But I'm kind of embarrassed that I did. It was dumb.
posted by cribcage at 8:42 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Should it not be "...his or her writing pleasant to read" since "Everyone" is singular?

By the way, your welcome.
posted by Renoroc at 8:43 PM on March 23, 2013


-Having conventions is related to privilege in various ways.

This is something I've had trouble with. I know that the conventions of what I prefer to read are not neutral. They're considered to be the default, but that doesn't make it neutral. And yet, I just don't read places where people write significantly differently from this default, because I find it an unpleasant experience and because I am generally lazy. I like standard capitalisation (though as a teenager I also didn't bother, and I don't care in chat), and casual-standard sentence structure, and standard spelling. I prefer the spelling "yeah" to "yah", which makes me irritated in indefinable ways. I know this cuts me off from other voices.

(I also like non-nested comments, which is cutting me off from more and more sites. How do you even track new comments when they're all threaded? Argh.)
posted by jeather at 8:45 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


English Regents scholar here. Remember that? Taking the Regents exams in NYC? My English teacher told us to avoid the multiple choice questions. We should do one of the two essay questions. Because they would give as much partial credit as they could.

I did the multiple choice and banged out 100% on that sucker.

K? I rocked that suckr. Big time. So I cn rite like ths nw.
posted by Splunge at 9:00 PM on March 23, 2013


I'm not kidding when I say this, but participating in this community has made me a better writer and a more effective communicator. Part of it is being aware of grammar and such, but part of it is paying attention to the pacing of an argument, a tone that is amenable to fruitful conversation (more often than not), and simply noting a more aesthetic way of interacting. It matters to me because there is a joy to communicating well that goes beyond brute argumentation. Dialogue is not always just a way to push propositions around, but can be enjoyable when viewed, in part, as an art form. It might not matter everywhere that this is done well (and it doesn't always need to be done that way here), but it matters in my profession, and for that I am very appreciative of this community. If it didn't matter here, I'm not sure where I'd find it done quite as well.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:42 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mostly I just want people to stop spelling it 'woah.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:53 PM on March 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


I once jammed up a long Garcia-Marquez quote with Hemingway perfunctory punctuation style... it didn't matter to the ideas ensconced nor their clarity of conveyance. It was still beautiful. It is in a comment.
There are plenty of places where spelling, punctuation, and capitalization do not matter. Metafilter is not (and should not be, so far as I am concerned) one of those places.
It is "controversial" (not really at all 'controversial', but making a post invites others sharing their thoughts, and not all thoughts are of the same mind, so it is just that yeah, some might want to say "their" thing, which is that there are great contributors of many styles here, since, like, the original thing was said, and not everyone agrees with such strict adherence, even if they respect those who do) in that there are excellent contributors to the site who *don't* use such conventions so religiously. The ideas that they bring are not lesser than those of some people who bring great ideas, or wacky ideas, or something else 'but their comments are really "perfect".

"Yay, to some of you", the "rest of you are not showing enough care of though" by not what you write or think or say... but by the conventions you choose. By your style. Language Regulators gonna languish. In our time of mechanized thought construction, style is not symbolic of useful or beautiful ideas, style is not writing qua writing. Communication is what matters (and yes, well formatted comments can be nice communication [so can unformatted plain-text]). Seeing errors is one way that we know a person has written what we are reading; is the person who has had their spelling and grammar "auto-corrected" (not "funny/wrong-word autocorrect") 'better' that a person who conveys an old idea in a novel manner without letter casing. If we cannot distinguish "great dedication to writing style" with "computer guided writing corrections"... what, or where, is the virtue in that?

I mean, those who are "perfect" (no one is), are doing it because it is their nature, or because they were drilled to do it, or trained, or it is their "style"... do they need congratulation pats above and beyond others for doing what they were doing anyway (they can have them if they like [I just see those who write like that as doing it for their own self-expression, rather than for kudos)?

It is easy to confuse or conflate 'grammatico-textual precision' with argumentative precision. One c'n precisely choose their words and line of thought, without adhering to a particular line of regulatory conditions (in fact some of the most experimental writings end up entering the stylistic norms [norms are there to be bent, reformed and updated, to create a space with fluid limits, hard rules are used to stifle]).

That is all just to say, nice work, keep sharing the insights and new/old ideas, the 'alot' of you; as the OP suggested, yay to those who write really precisely formatted comments (of course [no shame for using conventions]), and yet, (personally speaking) yay also to all users who bring forth interesting ideas, thoughts positions, arguments, etc., regardless of your conventions, keep up the high quality and let your ideas speak. If your thoughts are well formed, it doesn't matter to me how they are shaped. So, cheers to well formatted folks, and also to them-those-there who don't capitalize, or punctuate otherwise, no shame in being less than formalized (attention is granted or denied for the ideas, not the formatting, this goes for super "perfect" or "casual" [and forgiveness should be the norm to those who miss an "it's" within the 5 minute window of Judgement]).
Using @ to speak "to" someone will, as always, be judged with extreme prejudice.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:02 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


This discussion is all well and fine, but how does it help those of us who still don't like the titles, even when they're invisible?
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:18 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]




-Having conventions is related to privilege in various ways.

So are food, water, shelter, love, hate, football, auto-racing, root vegetables, the color orange, cats, dogs, cancer, vaccination, soap operas, adoption, abortion, and -- why not -- views on the Israeli/Palestine issue.

However, in this case the only relevant privilege is that of being taken seriously by a group of persnickety Metafilter users (of whom I proudly count myself a member). You don't have to get everything perfect but you at least need to make the effort if you want people to even read what you've written.

Grump.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:53 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to thank everyone on Metafilter for mostly speaking English, a language I understand.

Even if it's to convey ideas of which I do not always understand.
posted by mazola at 12:34 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


infinite intimation: It's true that people can make interesting comments and engage in worthwhile conversation while rejecting conventions of punctuation, spelling, and grammar, but they are doing so despite that rejection and not because of it. You're avoiding that distinction.

And, yes, there have been talented artists and writers who deliberately eschew convention to make a larger point, doing so skillfully and well. But the typical random internet commenter who does not use punctuation correctly is no more e.e. cummings than I am Jackson Pollock because I drunkenly knocked over some paint cans and made a pseudo-random spatter pattern across a canvas.

You generally must have mastery of the conventions before you can break them in useful and interesting ways, such that your breaking the conventions is a deliberate choice and not simply an inability to follow them or an apathy towards them.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 AM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would like to thank the Academy.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:33 AM on March 24, 2013


I'm posting this because I drank a bunch-a-brrrz for the first time in awhile and gave myself a hangover while still awake, which is typically more of a once every 5 year or so occurrence involving fourth of July and drinking during the day for a long time with sunlight and other summer things going on. There you go...my brain is softening up now as I type, ahhh...

First, I must address:

the @ thing annoys me because it goes back long before twitter as a way to visually indicate that you're speaking to someone in a long thread and suddenly because twitter uses it it's bad form everywhere else on the internet. i don't use it, but when i see someone respond to its use with "this isn't twitter!" it makes me want to launch into a get off my lawn style tirade about message boards and irc and the 90s."

On IRC the "@" prefix meant "has operator privileges" aka "ops" or AWPZ or whatever the kids call it today and is typically not employed in conversation when addressing someone, IIRC. So @joe_schmoe has +o privileges and can kickban mofoz from the chan br0 but that's just how his name appears so you know not to piss him off. Class warfare! It doesn't bother me but it does kind of automatically mark someone as "on my dang lawn" in some primal way, but I don't really protect my lawn that aggressively.

And now, a short essay that may or may not be relevant, I just noticed myself typing it while zoning out and thought I'd proofread it without figuring out what it's all about.

MetaFilter is a filter in several ways.

It costs $5 to participate, filtering out casual trolls or drive-by interlopers

People post good stuff from the internet typically, filtering out the bad so we don't have to randomly type IP addresses in our browser to find good stuff to read

The posting rules filter out conflicts of interest and such so they are not posted by less casual drive-by interlopers and otherwise up-and-up posters who might have a reason to be even less objective than a partisan troll in moments of weakness

The mods filter out disruptions and maintain the level of discourse (IMHO)

The quality of discourse (both superficial and uhhh, ficial) filters out self-conscious would-be posters or commenters with insufficient posting or commenting skills through sheer force of intimidation until they have LURKED MOAR sufficiently to enter thunderdome. Maybe this is detrimental sometimes and it kept me away for a long time (started lurking around 2002) but it's basically like hanging out with a bunch of people who are smarter than you and learning to actually appreciate it and sulk and lurk and grimace at shit and then reconsider it later and be all persuaded and shit, when you're used to being the "smartest guy in the room" (yeah I read that thread, and I think it kind of ties back to this one) with a 150+ IQ that in and of itself is proof of nothing but still makes you warm and fuzzy deep down and is just incidentally co-morbid with your freaky fascination with learning stuff and talking about it and having your co-workers and friends telling you how smart you are and not ever calling out your bullshit. That's a hypothetical character in this essay.

In summary, MetaFilter is a filter. In many ways!
posted by lordaych at 2:07 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Note: the error in the "freaky fascination" sentence perhaps implying that I am fascinated with getting people to think I'm weird for being fascinated with learning stuff is not some subconscious revelation of narcissism as far as I know; I simply took the "I sort of know them grammar rules in some dusty muscle-memory sense and therefore I can break them like the cool kids" maneuver too far and lost my way. A true narcissist would never make that error or try to explain it away. Or need to type "narcissist" a bunch until the little red lines go away before moving to the next word...OR WOULD THEY

EAT MOAR CHIQ0N, PHATKRO
posted by lordaych at 2:17 AM on March 24, 2013


medulla oblongata

hit the dirt or sand as it may be

the time remains

the buildings

it's not your fault you're unhappy
posted by sirlikeitalot at 3:20 AM on March 24, 2013


You know, you haven't lived until you posted an ask metafilter q about your poo and then look at it and see its full of typos. It's like, jesus, put me in the monkey pen already.
posted by angrycat at 3:33 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just want to take a Saturday morning minute to thank everyone who goes to the trouble of using capitalization and punctuation correctly to make their writing pleasant to read.

Whell, blesse you're haert.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:38 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There have been times in the past when reaching over to hit the shift to capitalise every sentence was a huge trigger for my RSI issues and caused a lot of pain, so I typed without the big letters as much as I could. I was totally fine with normal typing, it was just that shift thing which aggravated a very specific injury (it's been fixed now and I think it predated my mefi membership, but still). If that makes me childish or some kind of show off then whatever. I guess when my body isn't working perfectly I should hide myself away rather than continue engaging with people online.
posted by shelleycat at 3:43 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


(And OK, that last sentence probably was childish. But there are lots of reasons why people type the way they do that aren't petulant showing off or worthy of being judged.)
posted by shelleycat at 3:53 AM on March 24, 2013


It's also not asking a lot of people to stop caring about how other people write.

Not asking a lot? I'd have no idea how to do that.

I love that spelling and grammar seem to matter to most people here. It makes everything just so much easier to read for me.
Please keep in mind that for non-native speakers, like me, more-or-less standard English is by far the easiest variety to read.

Here's an example:
'U' for 'you' throws me off, because in Dutch, that's one of the two possible words we have for 'you', and it's quite formal (like, a whole lot more formal than you'd see in a text in which someone writes 'u' for 'you') and also because in Dutch it sounds nothing at all like 'yoo'.
To me, it's like someone substitutes 'thy' and 'thee' for 'you' in informal, slangy writing. Which would probably be funny, but also very distracting.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:55 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's weird ina professional setting

still happens alot tho
posted by flabdablet at 4:25 AM on March 24, 2013

It's true that people can make interesting comments and engage in worthwhile conversation while rejecting conventions of punctuation, spelling, and grammar, but they are doing so despite that rejection and not because of it. You're avoiding that distinction.
To me it's a distinction without cause for this purpose. You said everything I meant in that sentence. I never believed they were 'artistes' for some alternate style choices (my reference to such a phenomena in wider society was sort of a red herring to discussion of the site, it was merely a contextual side-road of 'language at large', rather than 'on-site', where those who don't follow 'Strunk and White's Guide to All things' are absolutely not 'problems', nor misbehaving, nor distracting, or a downside to the site [and actually contribute far more than I or some arbitrary other])... I was noting that any scorn (assuming and projecting malicious motives such as "attention seeking" in sweeping prejudicial manners seems more 'harmful' to discussion, more 'distracting', than some dropped 'postrophes, commas or capitals [I feel such a pronouncement could in fact be called attention seeking in itself, but that might be reading too much into antipathy to 'the different').

Clearly Metafilter wouldn't be well served by masses of people using letters sprinkled pollaksianly across its pages, I wasn't suggesting it would. We are absolutely not seeing that, nor people using it like a canvas for other random-letter-art (besides in threads where such a thing might be appropriate). This is why I referred to communicating the point being more important than the typesetting. Would an ode to "Good" writing as defined by a few not preclude a number of people who are are members in good standing? But since issues of 'trolling' and general 'bad Internet behavior' are either moderated or dealt with in group discussion, we are talking about people who either have limitations in their ability to interface (as RSI, mentioned above), or the many people who interact just fine, despite raising the hackles of a small set of easily 'tilted' users. Since the site isn't being trolled it can't help but seem like a backhanded comment to the people with differing sensibilities towards the importance of appearance. I am not saying that it might not be a style choice for users who don't capitalize... but it is also a style choice to follow conventions. I am not suggesting a second ode to "bad" writing, I am suggesting that what is appreciated in Metafilter is the sharing of beautiful ideas, not how pretty the formatting of a few users is, what seems worth appreciating is the wealth of well formed ideas, which come in many forms around here. Not to make this too much like candy in kindergarten, but writing a "thank you" to some, is, by design a "fix yourself" to the rest. Since the original post didn't bring enough treats for the whole class, others stepped up and shared their lunch snacks. No problem with the original post, just seemed to be more to the story than was let on.

There seems to be a conflation of 'bad grammar' with bad behavior that seems undue (on Metafilter, yes, on 'the WWW"s' sure, bad-wording is co-Rellated with The Horrible Youtube Comment). There are plenty of "bad-behaviors" that are coming from folks with perfect typesetting and absolute adherence to grammar moses.

You generally must have mastery of the conventions before you can break them in useful and interesting ways, such that your breaking the conventions is a deliberate choice and not simply an inability to follow them or an apathy towards them.

Or antipathy. Or multiple priorities. Or an alternate value system of language. Or a choice. Or a physical issue. Or whatever else.
posted by infinite intimation at 5:02 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


writing a "thank you" to some, is, by design a "fix yourself" to the rest.

That's one way of seeing it, and one that I don't share. It's perfectly possible to thank some people for something they did, without resenting the others for not doing that thing.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:06 AM on March 24, 2013


Sure, like I said, no problem with the original post. People can appreciate many things, and "keep up the precise writing" is a thing. It's pretty clear that there are those who resent "others for not doing the same". Opening a discussion post about something opens up discussion about that. So here we all are discussing it.
posted by infinite intimation at 5:12 AM on March 24, 2013


I appreciate "proper" writing, (I am an editor, thus biassed towards the normative), but walls of text on this site I will not read. Up with this I will not put. There are many people here. Make your point in a compact manner and stop sucking up all the air. Or at least be entertaining.

Yes, I have two asses. Thanks for noticing.
posted by Wolof at 6:59 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, in this case the only relevant privilege is that of being taken seriously by a group of persnickety Metafilter users (of whom I proudly count myself a member).

That's not the only relevant privilege. Or, to put it another way, the persnickety Metafilter privilege overlaps with other privileges.

Standard English Privilege and the Literate Argument
Not everyone has this privilege. For one reason or another, not everyone possesses the same level of comfort with Standard English as we bloggers do. These reasons are very often related to race and class; it has been my experience that students of a different race than me and students from a lower socioeconomic background than me posses (often exquisite) command over a different English grammatical structure than me. But does this make their arguments and ideas less valid?
Literacy Privilege: How I Learned to Check Mine Instead of Making Fun of People’s Grammar on the Internet
But when people study dialects in an objective, scientific way (which is what cunning linguists actually do), they find that low-prestige dialects, such as African-American Vernacular English or Cockney English, have fully-formed grammar rules of their own that make just as much sense as any others. They are perfectly valid and functional forms of communication used by millions of people. The only difference is that they don’t have people running around telling everyone else to do it their way.
Literacy Privilege, Part 2: But Wait… You’re an English Teacher
I don’t think high-prestige dialects are inherently oppressive, nor do I wish to bash on everyone who uses them (hello; I am using one right now). But I certainly see how they can be used as yet another subtle means of withholding power and influence from certain groups of people.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:03 AM on March 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Make your point in a compact manner.

This is my struggle! I really appreciate the people in my life who are confident enough to grab me by the shoulders and tell me to. Just. Shut. Up. Mostly the blathering is my insecurity coping mechanism. But it's also not being smart enough in the 'noticing when people's eyes have glazed over' kind of way.

So I do appreciate reminders like this, brevity is the soul of wit, etc etc.
posted by bilabial at 7:04 AM on March 24, 2013


Q: about 'brevity is the soul of wit'
as Polonius sez this to Laertes with a bunch of other silly things, is Shakespeare mocking that sentiment, or is it that thing about cliches being truth repeated too often and Polonius is just a cliche-machine.
Sorry.
posted by angrycat at 7:07 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Angrycat, I don't know! But I do love tha shakey-cakes (as I call him, we're cool) appears to have invented the maternal insult joke. Timon of Athens:
Painter: "Y'are a dog."
Apemantus: "Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog?"
So, I'm having a giggle.
posted by bilabial at 7:48 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The edit window didn't help me that much because if I'm having a bad brain day I just can't see errors. When my brain gets better I can look back at some of my posts and go "wha...?" but sometimes my brain just doesn't work very well. On the other hand I tried firefox and suddenly there was MAGIC RED underlining everything spelled wrong. It's like... a whooooole new world!-- ever other word red letter....

Seriously, ya'll can tell that I can spell now write? (Mostly) If it doesn't turn red I'll have a hard time figuring it out though. Sorry about that. I do want my writing to fill you all with wonder and awe and happiness and pleasant feelings and such.

But then I have to confess, part of me, like appearance standards, also thinks it's a fucked up world where we can give a little leeway to words and writing styles at demonstrate less intelligence or less education or learning disabilities.

Some people don't have as easy of a time accessing the extrenal resources or the interal skillsets to focus on that as a goal and they might still have value as a human being or things to say worth hearing.

No it's not as much fun to look at people who are eyesores and are unwilling to cover their flaws, but they are humans too.
posted by xarnop at 8:48 AM on March 24, 2013


That said I prefer writing well done, and I prefer people who are pleasant to my eyes as much as the next person. It's just when we make such a big deal out of it that we really alienate people with less education or learning disabilities or just plain OTHER THINGS IN LIFE that have taken precedence I think it can be a tool by which people who really really need voice in community discussions lose their voice.

Also-- "spell now write" that was totally a brilliant accident. HA, red underlining can only help so much!!
posted by xarnop at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2013


For one reason or another, not everyone possesses the same level of comfort with Standard English

Bah. If not speaking the local language makes you underprivileged then I've spent a lot of time being underprivileged.

Except for some extreme cases everybody grows up fluent in something. So two things:

1) As of this morning Dutch is the only language I've heard of in which 'u' is a word. I find it hard to believe that every person who uses it is Dutch.

2) Whatever variation of whatever language you grew up speaking, it's your job as a communicator to make yourself understood. It's always nice if the other person will come to you, but in the end you've got to figure out how to make your message heard.

Metafilter uses a variety of Standard English (or several varieties depending on the AskMe). I wouldn't expect everyone to be fluent in it anymore than I would expect myself to understand more than two-thirds of what emerged from the mouth of a Manchester United fan. But I would try with her and I expect people to try with Standard English.

This is not to say that being fluent in Standard English does not convey massive benefits in the wider world and that not having it be your native dialect doesn't hobble you greatly in the U.S., but to repeat here -- the stakes at this time and place are that if you don't even try then a certain subgroup of Metafilter users won't take you seriously.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:54 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I apologize for my abhorrent writing - in particular randomly capitalized nouns, improper use of commas, it's/its, then/than, wrong prepositions, tiny vocabulary, and all of the other things I don't know that I don't know. I have no idea what is wrong with my brain. By some standards I'm probably illiterate. As a cognitively disadvantaged person, I have to say it sometimes seems the primary intention of half the comments on MetaFilter are to call someone an idiot. When it comes to being a target of derision and mockery, low intelligence is certainly an entirely unprotected characteristic, unless one is truly disabled.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:31 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


but to repeat here -- the stakes at this time and place are that if you don't even try then a certain subgroup of Metafilter users won't take you seriously.

Tell Me No Lies, I don't think Metafilter or any discourse community can be cordoned off like this ("at this time and place"), though I acknowledge that you are focusing your comments on a particular context. I just disagree. The stakes include both disapproval from some audiences and perpetuation of attitudes toward language that can (not, I emphasize, always and everywhere will) perpetuate arbitrary social privileges.

I'm not sure what you mean about the use of "u." The single letter representation of the word "you" happens in the context of textspeak dialects. It is an abbreviation of "you," not a loanword borrowed from Dutch. To be honest, the use of "u" rubs me the wrong way viscerally too, but I understand what someone means when s/he uses it because of context and my awareness of operation of multiple dialects (even as I know very little about some of those dialects).

The one-way transmission model of communication you describe, wherein the speaker is responsible for conveying information intelligibly to a recipient, overlooks some of the more nuanced models of communication. In some contexts and in order to reach certain goals, it does behoove speakers to conform to dominant language norms, such as writing a letter of application for a job. However, even in those contexts I think it is important to draw attention to the way such norms enable and reinforce the distribution of power. In other contexts, differing languages and dialects might intermingle on a more even basis such as in the development of pidgin and creole languages.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:54 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As of this morning Dutch is the only language I've heard of in which 'u' is a word. I find it hard to believe that every person who uses it is Dutch.

You know exactly what "u" means when used in typed English. Don't feign incredulity.

It's always nice if the other person will come to you, but in the end you've got to figure out how to make your message heard.

That depends on the context. On a site like Metafilter, I think Wheaton's law is in force. If you pretend like you just can't understand what someone is saying when they swap "its" for "it's", then you're violating Wheaton's law.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:07 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree that it's generally dickish to pounce on minor typos and mistakes like "it's/its". Things like that do bug me, but even insufferable pedants like myself have our off days, so who am I to judge?

I think the "privilege" thing is a bit of a red herring here, though. I have no scientific basis for saying this, but I think it's likely that most "u ppl"-type text-speak constructions are perpetrated not by underprivileged people who can't write readable English, but by smartphone-wielding overprivileged ones who won't.

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted one of those silly memes with a shitty-font slogan that said something like, "No, you can't "axe" me a question... I don't speak Wal-Mart". Which gave me a chuckle at first, but as I thought about it, did strike me as being condescending and classist. But at the same time, another one of my FB friends is a published author who happens to be one of the few people in my newsfeed whose status updates are littered with text-speak, and who misspells the word "tomorrow" every time. That does make me think less of his talents, even if I would never publicly call him out on it.
posted by Crane Shot at 11:55 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thought ran long, so, since wolof needs entertainment, I will front load it with borrowed Breve-wit.
/*Juggles* Pies the Clown.
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
I can resist everything except temptation.
If you want to see a person as they really are, their real face; give them a mask.
To acknowledge you were wrong yesterday is simply to let the world know that you are wiser today than you were then.

Tomorrow is a word difficult to judge how many "m"s and "r"s there are in it when typing it swiftly... I sympathize with that person.

low intelligence is certainly an entirely unprotected characteristic

This is interesting (and true, and sad), because I know of many highly interesting actually smart and wise people, who, by simply career choice [driven by an education system that is unable or unwilling to value multiple intelligences] are deemed less intelligent, yet they have far more interesting thoughts and ideas to share, than some of the equally many 'educated-stupid' folks. This goes to that other thread the other day, about how bad we are at assessing intelligence in meaningful ways, it matters most what one does with what they have, not how they fit on someone else's chart, or how someone else chooses to judge them.
the stakes at this time and place are that if you don't even try then a certain subgroup of Metafilter users won't take you seriously.
i guess what people are saying in response to that is this; does this subgroup have a window into all other users hearts, minds, lives or webcams?

No? Than how can one be sure, or even have the first hint of a clue if/how much another is "trying"? This "position" seems to have led to assumptions more often than not (are those assumptions worth taking seriously [this is why ideas are more important than "grammar", here is a classically well formed position, that just makes no sense to me, I mean, anyone can hold it of course, I just can't grasp it]?)

"Standard English" (you capitalized it, suggesting an "entity", a singular "Thing"; yet 'it' is a pretty varied language (if one can even manage to pin it down at a single point in time). There are many standards, variations and flavors. Flavours. Colors. Colours, Neighbour. Favor, Favour, a little leeway, por-favor. Worth noting that you call it "standard english", not "$formal english". How do we deal with the coming globalizations of transliteration as contrasted with translations used near exclusively in the imperial past (when language policing was far 'easier' [and more popular])? Kak tebya zob(V)oot? Or neologisms; Horrorshow, good, Droogs, friends; nadsat is coming (as in the globalized multi-lingual language of the youth, not the actual language of the book, the language of the global teens ["x"Nadsat/tri-nadsat being like "x"teen/thir-teen]). Or desi. English? Or not? We may report on this trend (but demographics tell us you don't get to decide).

Not all languages are "equal", so no "If not speaking the local language makes you underprivileged" is not an accurate way of interpreting what others were saying earlier about privilege, and the many cases of language policing used in an implementation towards inequality.

U is a shorter phonetic spelling of you (not sure if serious), hearing that it is a formal word in Dutch makes me want to spread this, and adopt that nice adorable little single letter word and bring it back home to English (I'm bringing home a baby bumble bee, won't Iamkimiam be-so-proud of me, I'm bringing home a baby-word you seee).

"standard" english has far too few descriptive words for talking to others, in relation to the speaker. German has like "subordinates", most other languages have "formals", and at least several "yous" and "theys" and "thems". Arabic has a number of words for specific lines of relation. English folks can either sit in a sand box guarding the edges, while cats urinate in the middle of it, and then find Modern Chinese, or Neo-heiratic has replaced it as the language of communication-Franka, but both are so structured and formalized that many of the fluid uses that english has would be unlikely to be duplicated congruently. Alternately, english can evolve, and grow, but this starts with losing the "turf guarding" thought process (again, this is one of those side-roads, nothing to do with the site). You might want to look at this chart before deciding how zealously you want to "regulate" language. It is possible to regulate oneself into obscurity.

This comment is not advocating changing the generally accepted 'normal language of communication on Metafilter', or anything remotely like that. I understand that no one who values grammar highly will find this persuasive or a useful tangent. Are there people that people are consistently having trouble understanding (and asking what was meant isn't working)? I find I am left wondering if this an issue that people are having here, or more "my facebook has people who don't take the internet Seriously", and "YouTube has bad comments"... slippery slope prevention.
posted by infinite intimation at 12:28 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm on my way out the door here but I thought I'd clarify the letter 'u' thing since my attempt at sarcasm has confused things.

In my view the use of 'u' in the context of Metafilter is a lazy and disrespectful abrogation of social norms. Unlike much of what has been mentioned in this thread it cannot be chalked up to typos or a poor understanding of English or cognitive quirks. The fact that it is clearly deliberate makes it in my mind a good example.

Anyway, I find the group identity stuff interesting and I hope you'll excuse this quick note on just this topic.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:58 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my view the use of 'u' in the context of Metafilter is a lazy and disrespectful abrogation of social norms.

Well, those social norms are ours to construct. The people who make it a violation of the social norms are the people that are annoyed by it. To blame the violator of the social norm rather than the (apparently invisible) enforcer is a bit strange, as if the norms were simply there, independent of everyone.

As you can see in this discussion, many people reject thse norms. Now, you can either be someone who reads "u" and gets annoyed, or you can be the opposite. You can be someone who enforces arbitrary language-use norms, or someone who doesn't. When viewed in this light, your statement

'In my view the use of 'u' in the context of Metafilter is a lazy and disrespectful abrogation of social norms'

becomes the much less defensible

'In my view the use of 'u' in the context of Metafilter is a lazy and disrespectful violation of rules that I want the the community to enforce.'

Don't assume we all want to enforce your norms.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:21 PM on March 24, 2013


u mad bro?
posted by The Whelk at 2:25 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


@all ilu #yolo
posted by naju at 2:28 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Conversational and social norms do serve a useful and essential purpose. They facilitate communication and allow mutual understanding. Witness what happened to Usenet when Eternal September meant that the ability of Usenet to assimilate newcomers into the prevalent conversational norms was overtaxed and unable to compensate.

If one or two people out of a large group do not adhere to the cultural norms there isn't an issue. If a significant fraction reject the norms such that norms no longer exist, things become incoherent and participation is no longer worth the trouble.
posted by Justinian at 2:37 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I literally don't think I've ever seen a regularly-posting MeFite use "u" on the site. Am I way off-base here?
posted by threeants at 3:14 PM on March 24, 2013


If a significant fraction reject the norms such that norms no longer exist, things become incoherent and participation is no longer worth the trouble.

This doesn't make sense, though. People who enter a community and don't follow its norms didn't crawl in from some linguistic wildland, they just abide by different norms. There's an argument to be made that the sort of linguistic balkanization you describe is suboptimal, but characterizing the difference between these hypothetical subgroups as order versus chaos instead of one set of conventions versus another is at odds with the reality.
posted by invitapriore at 3:25 PM on March 24, 2013


I think characterizing Usenet -vs- AOL's Eternal September as order vs chaos is fairly accurate, actually.
posted by Justinian at 3:40 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the "privilege" thing is a bit of a red herring here, though.

I think privilege is relevant because arguments similar to those voiced in this thread have been used to reinforce social inequality. Now, I don't think I've been explicit on this point, so let me say that I do not think the existence of community norms or advocating for adherence to norms are inherently problematic or unethical. So I can understand Tell Me No Lies' concern about an intentionally disruptive violation of community norms (though in the case of "u" I share threeants lack of familiarity with the practice occurring on Metafilter). I do, however, see the potential for norm advocacy to be used to maintain unequal relationships between groups.

For example, the image mocking "can I axe you" isn't only classist but also racist, as /aks/ is a common pronunciation of "ask" in African American Vernacular Englishes. Another example is the its/it's error discussed in this thread, which privileges literacy over orality.

I also see here in our discussion viewpoints that linguistics, literacy and communications scholarship has at least complicated if not over-turned outright. invitapriore's point above is important: all languages and dialects are internally comprehensible and equally grammatical/correct. Between languages and dialects there can be a breakdown in communication until translation or a combined understanding is reached (as in pidgins), but this doesn't mean that one side is coherent and the other incoherent. Rather, two languages foreign to each other are mutually incoherent.

In the end, I just want to voice a note of caution. Linguistic walls may make good linguistic neighbors, but I'd like to know what's being walled in and what's being walled out.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:34 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I'm about to say seems to be awfully petty and nitpicky, but since we're here: the sidebar posts on the front page of the blue, the ones that don't begin with a capital letter? They make me cringe a little bit, every time I see them. I realize it's just a style thing, and it could be argued that there's a perfectly good reason for some of them to be that way, but.

So, yeah.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:38 PM on March 24, 2013


Was this authorized?
posted by thelonius at 8:55 PM on March 24, 2013


I would like to thank the Academy.
Are you trying to actually thank the Academy, or say that you would like to thank the Academy, but can't?

See, I can be more nitpicky about words than almost anyone I know.
posted by dg at 9:02 PM on March 24, 2013


I literally don't think I've ever seen a regularly-posting MeFite use "u" on the site. Am I way off-base here?

Occasionally people try to smuggle it onto the blue inside words like "color" and "flavor".
posted by Pyry at 10:46 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, I just tidied up the caps on the sidebar (I left one lower-case that was a quote that started mid-sentence in the original comment). The best-of blog automatically transforms headers to title case (or whatever it's called), and the input happens in the same place, so it's easy to forget that the sidebar doesn't.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I stopped caring about "your" vs "you're" and started paying attention to what people were actually trying to say, I learned many new things and got to know many more nice people. Spelling and grammar aren't always a bellwether for wisdom and value (or lack thereof.)
posted by davejay at 10:55 PM on March 24, 2013


Okay, I just tidied up the caps on the sidebar

Heh, thanks taz. It wasn't really a request-for-action or anything, just a moan, but my wee grammarian homunculus thanks you for it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:12 PM on March 24, 2013


...but characterizing the difference between these hypothetical subgroups as order versus chaos instead of one set of conventions versus another is at odds with the reality.

I agree with Justinian's view of what happened at the beginning of Eternal September. A culture was simply crushed under an onslaught of newcomers.

So while I'm sitting here making "Learn English Or Go Home" statements that would look more at home on a Tea Party protest sign, I've been thinking about why. And it comes down to this:

Online, language is virtually all a community has.

There's no body language, no tone of voice, no clothing, no cars, no geographical location ... none of the societal markers that you can look at and assign a group to.

What is the difference between Metafilter and 4chan and Reddit and Fark? I would argue that it is language. It's not content as that moves between the four readily enough and well... there's really nothing else other than language and content online.

So yeah, I think language has an exaggerated importance with regard to online communities, but it's not unreasonable because it is one of the major ways they define themselves.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:18 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Taz, I think I love you.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:19 PM on March 24, 2013


I literally don't think I've ever seen a regularly-posting MeFite use "u" on the site. Am I way off-base here?

I don't think so. Someone new starts doing it everyone in a while (along with '@') but they seem to either disappear or adapt.

Occasionally people try to smuggle it onto the blue inside words like "color" and "flavor".

That's a different matter. Those people are being dealt with.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:22 PM on March 24, 2013


To blame the violator of the social norm rather than the (apparently invisible) enforcer is a bit strange, as if the norms were simply there, independent of everyone.

I'm honestly not following you on the enforcer thing. There is a social norm, plain for all to see in millions of lines of text. It can be changed, in fact it changes in small ways all the time, but someone who sets out to violate it has violated it regardless of the repercussions or lack thereof.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:33 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


the stakes at this time and place are that if you don't even try then a certain subgroup of Metafilter users won't take you seriously.
i guess what people are saying in response to that is this; does this subgroup have a window into all other users hearts, minds, lives or webcams?


I've got something far more useful: a memory of the last hundred times I read a message from someone that was in all caps. Or in all lower caps. Or in anyway purposefully violating common grammar rules. Statistically they can be skipped -- It would be much more thorough of course to read every single message in every single thread, but unfortunately there's a sliding scale based on how much time I have and those go right on past.

Truthfully things that are visually distinguishable probably get cut disproportionately just because they are easy to spot. But any way you look at it I've got hundreds of thousands of words to read today. Something has got to go.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:01 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just want to take a Saturday morning minute to thank everyone who goes to the trouble of using capitalization and punctuation correctly to make their writing pleasant to read. That's all. Thanks!

Beholde, found missing was Instructe in gramayre & other scyences. Prethee, letts ride somwhether and it be but to showe ourselues.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:07 AM on March 25, 2013


i don't use it, but when i see someone respond to its use with "this isn't twitter!" it makes me want to launch into a get off my lawn style tirade about message boards and irc and the 90s.

I was berated once for that and had no idea what it was about. I’d never actually seen Twitter at the time, and have only a couple of times since, and am still not totally sure what’s going on there. I certainly didn’t get the use of @ from it, I thought it was long established on the internet in discussions. When I did the same thing, substituting another symbol for the @, no one said a word. I’m still not sure why the @ is so much more reviled than the other symbols, maybe it has a past so horrible no one will even speak of it.

It’s for the best though; it’s one of the only text speak conventions I’ve ever used and I’m glad it was nipped in the bud.

The "as long as I can understand them" position is fine, as long as I can understand them. The times when I have no idea what someone is trying to say in a written message are disturbingly common.

I’m glad there are those fighting to break the tyranny of punctuation, for all of us. And the children.
posted by bongo_x at 2:19 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a different matter. Those people are being dealt with.

There is no caebal.
posted by drlith at 6:03 AM on March 25, 2013


What is the difference between Metafilter and 4chan and Reddit and Fark?

My sense is that differences in posting format and moderation create the differences between these sites. Language reflects a site's culture. It does not drive it. I think it interesting to note that Metafilter's moderation focuses on the higher-order, substantive conventions of argumentation (such as whether a comment is on-topic or a derail) instead of on grammar.

I said above that I can understand a concern for purposeful violations of norms, but I don't share it. If someone writes in a way that conflicts with the norms of the predominant Metafilter dialect, I don't see her/him as "someone who sets out to violate," or who is "purposefully violating" those norms. I see one person, who is accustomed to one set of norms (be they oral English, a non-English language, a non-Standard English written dialect, etc.) writing to another person who is expecting the kind of standardized written English common on Metafilter.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to take a Saturday morning minute to thank everyone who goes to the trouble of using capitalization and punctuation correctly to make their writing pleasant to read. That's all. Thanks!

De rien ! Cela me fit toujours grand plaisir que de taper soigneusement les "no break space" avant les points d'exclamation et d'interrogation pour s'assurer que vous, Métafiltaires, puissiez comprendre pleinement l'étendue de mon discours. De plus, que cela soit loué dans une autre langue... ! Eh bien, merci, merci.

Je continuerai dans cet effort pour m'exprimer le plus clairement possible, puisque cela plaît au plus grand nombre.

Paix à vous, et que la grammaire du français moderne soit avec vous.

(ca va faire ke de changer de tte manière, hé, allé zou les pitchouns)
posted by fraula at 8:19 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


If a significant fraction reject the norms such that norms no longer exist, things become incoherent and participation is no longer worth the trouble.

That is why the norm here [it is entirely possible I just don't understand anything about how norms work, or am confused about the site, that is also a possibility] is something like a snarkier, funnier, and yet nicer Wheatons law, or "communicate clearly, ideas which you have reason to believe would be valued if shared", rather than "grammarian", or "sign/signifier" in nature (yes, those are 'soft norms', and people bristle at @, and some other text things, but seems by far the behavioural things are more important). The 'norm' is (far as I can tell, anyhow) behavioural, social norm based, rather than arbitrary linguistic-symbolic.

This sort of norm is quite different to build continuity with (and why the idea of Eternal September might be the wrong analogy for this situation [if someone has more information, I would love to learn about specifics, what were some behaviours/signifiers that new users used that "ruined everything" in the case of Eternal September, it seems to be invoked often around the web, but often without specific issues attached]); imagine if you had to use three "Metafilter:Taglines", or had to say one of the other old 'things' that make people angry now (now, showing those signifiers to some is a 'reverse' signifier [dozens of metatalks worried about the rise of use of "snowflake" back this up]) to be in the norm… textual signifiers will always be broken, and don't actually provide much cohesion (particularly as the web, and the site globalize).

Conversational norms that deal with "not hurting others in the community through your actions (words), or allowing harm to come to others in the community through inaction", of "first, do no harm" are far more powerful, more universally human, less 'exclusive', less 'elitist', and concurrently have a longer shelf life than things like conventions on spellings, grammar, or other things vulnerable to the winds of a great vowel movement.

Those behavioural ideas last, they are standards of behaviour that anyone can manage, they are not dependant on education. "Use your capitals properly, and spell your words in British English or Canadian Style", or "always use metric notations" do not seem really 'absolutely necessary' (to community creation). Dear Ask: I live in crippling fear that we will witness a new vowel movement in our time, so I have been saving up all my "e"s, and "u"s they are now filling up all of my words... Hallp!

Those, of course, are silly as rules, but I guess I would say "you might be missing some valuable thoughts from people who use a different style, but that is not the end of the world, because there are plenty of other people who are fine with that quirk, and we read those comments for you.
posted by infinite intimation at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cela me fit toujours grand plaisir que de taper soigneusement les "no break space" avant les points d'exclamation et d'interrogation pour s'assurer que vous, Métafiltaires, puissiez comprendre pleinement l'étendue de mon discours.

You forgot the guillemets! I TOLD YOU ABOUT THE GIULLAMOTS, BRO!
posted by Nomyte at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2013


This thread just makes me sad.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:27 AM on March 25, 2013


I'm British, so I would spell with a "u" - I try not to because this is an American site, but it's obviously automatic for me.

I used "overegged the pudding" in a thread once and I was accused of wearing a monocle, which was delightful.
posted by alasdair at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


the dictionary says heretic
holder of an unorthodox opinion
do you know anyone who isnt a heretic
i dont

-archy
posted by gorbichov at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2013


Yes, and yes again.

In defense of writing: the trend toward sloppy writing in texting is understandable, even if the messages are becoming increasingly less so. Punctuation exists, for example, to help provide context for the idea where vocabulary fails--but it's not only for the less gifted writer. We've all read works by geniuses who lead us through convoluted mazes of inspired imagery, and get us out the other side with our sensibilities intact. That's impossible without paying some respect to the tools. And besides that, the rest of us have to do the best we can.

In writing, we don't have the benefit of the hand on the arm, the wry face, to help resolve ambiguity, nor voice inflection to point out that we are quoting someone, or to set the tone by which our listener might evaluate our little offering. When we have time and energy we edit for brevity, and in doing that we promote clarity. Spontaneity is the editor's deceit: carefully crafted gems, plucked from what was in fact a simple brainfart, clothed with some hopeful elegance, so that we can be looked upon kindly by the reader.

Emoticons are a poor substitute. Could be that our future technology will come up with a way to supertext that will relieve us from the burden of striving for clarity--perhaps those little (prospective) implants will relieve us of the burden of structured thought, and we can transmit to our posse* all we experience, and they to us, in a great ménage of experience rivaled only by the sea itself.

In the meantime, give me your commas, your crafted nuance, your huddled adverbs.

;>

*if anyone will provide the plural for the term posse, I will gladly use it the future.
posted by mule98J at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I prefer to keep things loose by eschewing them but most places I go to aren't cool with that. I also love 'yr'...reminds me of old poems and MySpace blogs. The ideal is sorta a loose, rambling style
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:05 PM on March 25, 2013


What is the difference between Metafilter and 4chan and Reddit and Fark? I would argue that it is language. It's not content as that moves between the four readily enough and well... there's really nothing else other than language and content online.

Something Awful will probate you for bad grammar, not capitalizing words, poor spelling, and using catchphrases. I'm not sure why, but maybe it is to differentiate it from 4Chan.

This MeTa post feels like yet another 'Metafilter is so superior and smart and empathetic' posts that I've noticed lately. We get it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:18 PM on March 25, 2013


*if anyone will provide the plural for the term posse, I will gladly use it the future.

Posses? Do you want it to be possodes?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2013


The plural of posse is posses. There's no controversy I'm aware of around it...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:31 PM on March 25, 2013


I would like to thank the Academy.
Are you trying to actually thank the Academy, or say that you would like to thank the Academy, but can't?

Never mind about that. Just tell us where you want the body sent.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:27 PM on March 25, 2013


There is no plural to Posse. Only the one was ever made. After te gloriousness of Mario Van Peebles, Big Daddy Kane, Tone Loc, Billy Zane, and Stephen Baldwin (?!) was committed to film, Hollywood shut down, and no more movies were ever made, the art form having been perfected. A sequel was discussed, but abandoned when it was discovered that the cast had ascended directly to heaven after completing the film.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:45 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Posses.....yeah. I wrote that the first time, but it seems so....so much like a misspelling. Maybe I just should use more, at least until I get used to it.

Possodes. Hmm. Possies?
posted by mule98J at 10:47 PM on March 25, 2013


Posies, the plural noun for a group of power-pop bands.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:02 PM on March 25, 2013


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