Does It Really Matter?
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After we moved to San Marcos so I could attend graduate school, my wife and I visited several local churches with hopes of finding a church home. On one of these visits at a local church, we were browsing in the foyer before the meeting started, and I found a pamphlet about the church. When I read it, I was shocked by what I found. This professionally printed pamphlet, which was carefully placed in a position where it was virtually the first thing visitors would see after walking through the front door, was written very poorly. Every third or fourth word was misspelled or the wrong word, and there were obvious subject-verb agreement errors, punctuation and capitalization errors, and other errors. This pamphlet was apparently intended to introduce the church to visitors, and, as such, represented the church to the outside world. I found myself questioning how much the members of this church really cared about the image they projected to the world when they apparently did not care enough to have a simple pamphlet professionally proofread before sending it to the printer. In fairness, I must ask myself: “Am I overly sensitive to imperfections in written English because of my English language education? Am I being too picky? Does it really matter?”
One of the requirements of one of my graduate-level rhetoric and composition seminar classes was to write “reading responses” to assigned readings, and to post them on TRACS, an interactive Internet website so the entire class would be able to read them. Upon reading the responses written by some of my classmates, all of whom were graduate students in the English department, I was appalled by what I read. Some of the responses contained errors such as misspelled words, wrong words, comma splices, sentence fragments, end-of-sentence prepositions, and capitalization and punctuation errors. Does it really matter? Does using Standard English, which includes correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, and usage really matter, or are these concepts irrelevant in the twenty-first century because the English language has evolved into an informal language in which these conventions, which are now regarded seriously only by white people in academia, are archaic and no longer necessary? I hope to address these and other questions in this treatise: my Master’s thesis.