Having company for dinner? You probably make sure your house is neat and clean. After all, you want to make a good impression on your guests, right?
Taking some of your friends somewhere in your car? You probably make sure you cleaned out the backseat. After all, you want to make your friends feel welcome, right?
Dressing for an interview? You probably make sure to wear appropriate clothing. After all, you want to make a good impression on your potential boss, right?
Why is it, then, that for some reason some people don’t feel that way about how they write or speak?
Although I learned the value of using correct spoken and written language in school, my parents, my grandparents, and other adults in my world also played an important part in my spoken and written language.
During the last few years that I taught, I heard more and more students speaking with phrases like
- “Me and Sam be going to class.”
- “We be fixin’ to ___.”
- “I finna ___.”
- “Can I ___?”
As the years passed, students became increasingly upset when I attempted to correct their written and spoken language.
Many times I was met with “That’s the way I talk.” The body language and attitude that accompanied it usually screamed, ‘So you better get used to it’ or ‘I ain’t going to change it for you or anyone else.’
The way a person writes and the way a person speaks conveys volumes about the person. It speaks to the credibility, reliability, and authority of that person or business.
As I was growing up, both my mother and my grandmother would correct my spoken language. Yes, I would be annoyed, but I would repeat myself correctly when they corrected me. It didn’t take long for me to own writing and speaking the language correctly.
In college, I had a professor for public speaking whose pet peeve was the phrase “you know.” If, during a presentation, someone in class used this phrase, those of us in the audience were to stand up and say, “No, we don’t know.” We learned quickly not to use this silence filler or any other. We learned to be knowledgeable about our topic.
I understand that language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean we need to allow English to become a substandard language. It’s not hard to learn to speak and write correctly, but it does take desire and the skill of listening.
I cringe daily at what is becoming acceptable and the adaptions to our own language under the guise of political correctness.
Recently, in a 2015 news broadcast, John McWhorter suggested replacing “he” and “she” with “ze.” When I was in school, “he” was used as the pronoun of choice for reference to collective nouns.
For example: “When a student registers for a class, he needs to bring his student ID.”
Then, as the world became more equality focused, the “he” became “he or she.” Then, it morphed into “he/she,” and then switching back and forth from “he” to “she.” BUT, to eliminate both “he” and “she” and put in “ze” makes no sense to me.
I guess what I really want you to take away from this is that the way you write (grammar, mechanics, and spelling) and the way you speak is as important, if not more important, than the clothes you put on or the upkeep of your personal possessions. If you can’t write with clarity, why should I believe your product is any good? If you can’t speak well, why should I listen to you?