Your Poorly Written Communication is Not Cute

Capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and spelling — it’s pretty basic stuff.

I’m trying to determine whether some of the people who contact me via blog comments and email are illiterate or trying to be cute.

I’m a writer. I’ve been writing for a living since 1990. No, I don’t have a degree in English. And no, I know my grammar isn’t perfect.

I learned to read and write with everyone else in school back in the 1960s-1970s. We were taught to write using good grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. If we got it wrong — and yes, there is a difference between right and wrong for these things — we were penalized with bad grades. That became motivation for getting it right. Some of us learned better than others, but we all learned the basics.

Apparently, this is not the case these days. Take, for example, the email message I blogged about back in September, “News Flash: I am NOT a Helicopter Cost Consultant.” I quoted the full text of the email message I received:

as of this date if i were to buy a used R22 with approx a 1000 hrs on it how much would the total operating costs be per hour if i were to fly 100 hours a year including reserve money for future overhaul

Note the lack of proper capitalization (well, he got R22 right) and punctuation. The whole thing is a run-on sentence fragment.

Yes, I understood what he was looking for. And yes, I know that mutual understanding is the goal of communication.

But seriously: this email message leaves me wondering if this guy was asleep through elementary school or simply doesn’t care enough about the recipient of his messages to bother making recognizable sentences.

I got another one today, this time in comments:

i think it hard to become a pilot if it in book to study…………….

Ironically, this was posted on a blog post titled, “So You Want to Be a Helicopter Pilot, Part 6: Study Hard.” Was this supposed to be a joke? I didn’t find it funny in the least. And because it added nothing of value to this blog, I trashed it.

So I’m left wondering whether these people are:

  • Stupid. They just didn’t learn the basics in school.
  • Too stupid to care. They think it doesn’t matter.
  • Trying to be cute. They think that lack of capitalization and punctuation is unique and different.

As a writer, this failure to even try to write in decent English (or the language of your choice) pisses me off to no end.

I’m just wondering how these people survive in today’s economy and job market. I know that if someone contacted me looking for a job and couldn’t be bothered to communicate with something resembling good English, I wouldn’t bother to read past the first sentence fragment.

9 thoughts on “Your Poorly Written Communication is Not Cute

  1. I think the poorly written post was from a foreign writer who was struggling with English as a third language. Imagine trying to fly with that person as a training pilot on a busy fire with an interpreter and then…welcome to my world. :))

    • You might be right on the shorter of the two examples, but I’m pretty sure the first one was from someone here in the good old USofA with a pretty American-sounding name. I tossed the message, so I can’t be sure. The sentence structure is there, but the punctuation and capitalization is completely missing. I had a friend who used to email me with that kind of writing — he knew better but was trying to be cute.

      I always wondered how you handled working with crewmembers who didn’t speak English that well. That sounds like a scary world, considering the kind of work you do. No room for error — or miscommunication.

  2. Well written… I do not belong to an english speaking country. I have realized the importance of well written english when i am to submit my research article in an international science journal.

  3. I too get irritated by dumb people who don’t know the differences between “your” and “you’re” or “to” and “too”. The most often heard verbal offense is when someone says, “I could care less” when they really mean “I could NOT care less”. I can’t restrain myself from correcting them and can only smile when I’m given that “what?” kind of look.

    • As a writer, mistakes like that really get under my skin. Some mistakes are okay, but when a person clearly can’t communicate in writing, it’s a real turn-off to me.

  4. OMG – I just quit my job because of this very reason. My Team Leader had the worst communication skills I’ve ever come across. No grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, no joining words in sentences. She thinks her style is ‘complex’ when in fact it’s extremely low level!

What do you think?