Want a funny, entertaining new Facebook page to follow? Head on over to Singaporean Influencers and Bloggers Write SHIT English and are Annoying AF and knock yourself out. Yes, that is their real name, and it’s hilarious AF.
The page has recently stirred up some discussion among writers in Singapore about the supposed SHIT-ification of the written word in the country’s publishing landscape, at the hands of bloggers.
“We don’t ask for inspired, lofty, brilliant prose,” they write. “We ask only for grammatically correct English. Is that too much to ask? Surely not.”
“Surely not”, indeed.
The Grammar Nazi’s Dilemma
We, of course, will not pretend to stand tall as beacons of fine literary prose. Alas, some may even consider us a part of the common shit-writing rabble *cough* snobs *cough*. Yet, we can’t help but find a part of ourselves identifying with the frustration of the folks behind said FB page. An annoying, grammar-nazi-like part, but a part nonetheless.
The English language, like any other language, is essentially a system of communication; a tool that requires consensus on its set of rules and established structure. Communicators using such a system need to agree to be bound by the standards that govern it in order to enable clear communication. If we ignore the established rules of grammar and syntax in writing and reading English, we betray and erode the very purpose of language.
But then again, should we just chill out?
If readers understand the “shitty” writing that they’re reading, is that not enough to meet the needs of the writer-reader exchange?
Every potential grammar Nazi faces the same dilemma when feeling tempted to correct the language of others. Should I defend the integrity of the English language? Or should I not be an annoying prick? No one likes being corrected, especially when the error of their language is not significant enough to compromise their message. On the other hand, allowing mistakes to slide enables an environment for the bastardization of language to propagate.
“Which side should I lean to? Grammar Nazi or inactive enabler?” I don’t know. That’s why it’s called a dilemma.
Let it be
Should we begrudge bloggers for wanting to transform their thoughts into writing, eye-stabbingly bad as it may be, for an audience that doesn’t seem to mind? Purveyors of bad writing could always break out the old “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” argument, and, honestly, they’d kind of have a point.
Critics of bad writing, filmmaking, and music have tried long and hard to push back against the shit that permeates their respective industries and improve their overall quality, yet we still get inundated with successful trash like Twilight, 50 Shades, Transformers, and Justin f*cking Bieber. People just like stuff like this, and while we can do our part to raise the standards of media that we as a society consume, we cannot control what people like.
The point is, with the democratization of media, you can’t stop people from writing shit-quality blogposts, as long as that work gets viewed by readers. We live in a neoliberal click-obsessed world where success in writing is determined not necessarily by the quality of said writing, but by how many people click on it.
Try as we may to champion the improvement of clear English communication, many people just don’t care, and we can’t blame them. Some people don’t have a perfect command of English, and therefore see no need for it in the writing they consume. Those people still have a right to read what they want, and if what they want happens to be packaged in English that’s been dragged through the literary sewers, there’s really nothing we can do to stop them.
While it pains me to admit it, lampooning and looking down on those who peddle less-than-worthy written content, while understandable, is simply pointless. We should instead focus on creating and promoting content with proper English in an effort to shift the popular opinion away from “shitty” bloggers, and towards the writers that deserve it.