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The Lack of Effective Communication Skills in Today's Society
I first met my grandmother when I was four years old, and she died when I was seven. However, in those three short years, she ingrained into me one very important lesson. Since she was a retired first-grade teacher, she taught me the basics of great communication skills before I even started kindergarten. She often said that people judge us by our communication skills. To quote her, "If you speak and write like an idiot, people will think you are an idiot." Now that I am in my forties, I still hear those words every day, and it saddens me that we, humans as a whole, are becoming very apathetic about our communication skills.
Correct spelling, proper grammar and correct use of punctuation are the foundation to effective writing. In fact, my high school Creative Writing teacher told me that it is very rare for a young writer to have all three of the basic skills of great writing. These skills are spelling, grammar/punctuation and creativity. She said that I was one of those rare young writers. Again, her words, like my grandmother's, stuck with me. While I did not go into the writing profession, I kept those words in my head whenever writing anything for my other jobs.
However, when I earned my associate's degree online, I participated in class discussions and team projects via the written/typed word. During my two years of classes, I never heard the voices of my professors or classmates. What really appalled me was the lack of the three basic writing skills in my fellow students. The spelling and grammar was so atrocious that it was literally painful to read. The assignments and tests were not near as difficult as it was to read and decipher the meanings of my classmates' posts in order to respond with something useful, which was important because participation was a large part of the course grades. Furthermore, the complete lack of punctuation made it extremely bothersome for me to interpret the meaning of their posts. I just sat at my computer trying to figure out how these people called themselves literate and worthy of obtaining a college degree. With all of the effort I put into my writing skills and course work, I still graduated with a 3.63 GPA. I can only wonder what kind of grades they earned.
After much resistance, I finally joined my first of many social websites in April 2008. Actually, it was the only way to communicate with some of my old friends or even family members. Once I got into it, I was creating profiles left and right for all different kinds of social sites. The more I joined, the more I came across posts and statuses with incorrect spelling, bad grammar and omitted punctuation, even among people that had "earned" college degrees or whom I considered quite intelligent. Again, it is literally painful for me to read the various news feeds. One could say that I could just refrain from reading, but I question if I would still have friends that way. Even bloggers splatter their sites with offerings and posts mired with misspellings, improper grammar, and a lack of punctuation.
The misuse of homophones, or homonyms, is throughout the social and blog sites. Common examples include "your" for "you're", "were" for "where" and/or "we're", "then" for "than", and "its" for "it's" or vice versa. The examples endlessly go on. I see an insane amount every day.
The spoken word is just as god-awful. My own sister often speaks with incorrect verbiage. Instead of saying, "she doesn't", she will say, "she don't". When I correct her, she becomes very agitated with me, or even angry. It was not just my sister either. My second wife would get annoyed with me when I corrected the grammar of my stepson and stepdaughter. She and I are now divorced, but her daughter has earned her degree the University of Virginia. Her son completed his sophomore year at Old Dominion University before enlisting into the United States Army. Both of them performed extremely well at two very prestigious universities in Virginia and beyond. People just do not like being corrected, but I believe that every one of us should be concerned about how we speak and come across to people.
While there are offenders of all ages, it seems the heaviest concentration of offense is in today's youth, more specifically the age range of 14-25. I wonder if this is due to texting and Twitter, where character limits apply. However, when it comes to forums with no limits, the texting and Twitter abbreviations still abound. I also seriously think about the writing skills displayed in term papers for both high school and college, and how are they graded? I know that many students would not be pleased with some of the grades they would see if I became their English teacher/professor.
I beg to wonder who is actually speaking up to correct the course this ship is travelling. Are the parents even making an effort to teach their children effective communication skills? Are the hands of teachers bound by Standard of Learning scores? It seems they are just teaching the tests and not what is truly important for the future of generations to come. Are we really accepting this "dumbing down" of civilization? Will we really criticize those that are not so apathetic about their communication skills? Will being smart and using our skills effectively become liabilities? I wonder what my grandmother would say.
Therefore, I put this challenge to everyone.
Take pride in what you are communicating to others. Show some courtesy for yourself and others. Display your intelligence and earn the respect of everyone. Because when you communicate like an idiot, people will treat you like an idiot. In addition, you would make my grandmother proud, which is what I try to do every single day that I breathe.
© 2012 Charles Dawson