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English major in the real world

| Monday, September 14, 2015

Moving into a new dorm, starting classes, and going to the ever-present “syllabooze week” parties make syllabus week a time full of new people and new connections. In honor of making new connections — and possibly new romantic connections — this column is written for all the students out there who are about to send that first flirty text.

Believe it or not, I have received one or two flirty texts in my day. Some texts that I’ve opened have led the way to wonderful conversations and strong feelings. Others have made me regret that I ever spoke to a person who would text another person like that. While there are plenty of possible things that you can send to a girl to make her throw her phone across the room, one of the easiest ways to incite that reaction is to send a text with bad grammar.

I’ve spoken with many female and male friends about this, and even those who aren’t English majors agree that someone with awful grammar — meaning they ignore or misuse punctuation and capitalization and/or spell things completely wrong — often isn’t someone you want to text back. Why? Because when you’re communicating exclusively though words and letters, every symbol counts. Whether or not the sender or receiver is aware of it, letters and punctuation marks affect the tone and meaning of the message and will affect how well it is received. And usually, a message “were u talk like this lol,” will be poorly received haha. The sender seems lazy. The sender seems stupid. The sender seems like he doesn’t even care enough about the recipient to re-read his text before he sends it. The sender seems like someone you don’t want to talk with.

(Before I go too far, I want to make a brief clarification. This column is not directed at people without smartphones whose keypads are difficult to type full sentences with. Nor is this column directed at people with disabilities, people who genuinely struggle with grammar and spelling, people who speak and write in a non-standard English dialect, people who make occasional mistakes and typos, English language learners, or any other person who has a valid reason for using shortcuts or not typing perfectly. This column is directed at people with iPhones or Samsung Galaxies, who know how to employ proper grammar, use it consistently in their academic or other writings, who had a quality education that including language arts classes and Type-to-Learn software, and who still make the active choice to type like they don’t know how to. In short, this column is directed at the students of Notre Dame.)

Back in they day, when flip phone keypads were awkward to type on and some carriers charged per symbol, texting shortcuts were useful. Some common ones included “u” instead of “you,” “b4” instead of “before,” “y” instead of “why,” as well as acronyms like “brb” for “be right back,” “g2g” for “got to go” and the now-devoid-of-meaning “lol” for “laughing out loud,” as well as simply leaving out vowels or punctuation. “Snding a text 2 some1 like this was ttly ok bc every1 had a flip phone n it was harder 2 type all the letters.”

But according to Pew Research, two-thirds of Americans reported owning a smartphone in 2015. The most popular smartphones, such as the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy lines, now come with a full QWERTY keyboard on the touch screen that easily allows users to type full words and add in punctuation. They also come with autocapitalization, autocorrection and spellcheck turned on. This means that people who send a text from and iPhone that reads “hey bby wassup? u going 2 go out 2nite?” have actively changed their phone’s settings so that they can talk like that.

Grammar is not an arbitrary set of rules imposed on English speakers to give us something to do in third grade or make non-native English speakers feel bad. It simply facilitates sentences to make the meaning clear. Any student who attends the University or Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College or Holy Cross College already knows this, and has already had to demonstrate a thorough understanding of grammar, writing and communication to gain entry into one of these institutions, as well as remain in good academic standing.

So when you send someone “hey gurl, u n you’re friends wanna come over 4 some fun 2nite lol,” you might as well erase that text and say, “Hey, I just want to let you know that I’m someone who thinks trying to write properly is below him. I don’t try my best.”

Or  “I’m the type of guy who can’t make the effort to type out ‘you’ instead of ‘u,’ so you can definitely trust that I won’t make a genuine effort in this friendship.”

Or “I’m the type of girl who choses to do things incorrectly when I know how to do the right thing. I’ll probably keep this attitude when we’re having a fight. Won’t that be fun?”

Or “Hey, I can’t remember the difference between your and you’re. I probably won’t remember your birthday or your favorite food either lol.”

Or “Hey, last semester I spent weeks re-wording my central arguments and checking my punctuation to submit a beautifully-written essay for a professor I really respected. But I definitely don’t respect you. Lol.”

Courtney Phelan is a junior English major living in Le Mans Hall. She can be contacted at [email protected]


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Courtney Phelan

Courtney Phelan is a junior English major living in Le Mans Hall. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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