Can grammar survive in the age of the iPhone?

Ricky Oh’s lament over the abandonment of correct spelling and grammar (Letters, DW 14 August) reminded me of the time when I taught at a design school at an East Midlands university.

Apostrophes are just one of my many hobby horses, suffering as I do from that rare 20th century complaint – typographers’ neurosis. Attempting to wrap a boring subject in some humour and fun, I invented the ‘Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Apostrophes’, to hammer home their importance to a group of first-year students. Simple stuff that really should not need covering at degree level.

The students complained that I had insulted them by reminding them of what they had been taught in school. Having got that off their chests they carried on making the same, obvious mistakes, over and over again for the next three years. I didn’t dare point it out to them again and I expect they are still making those mistakes.

Today my iPhone will not let me key the word ‘its’ without suggesting that it should be ‘it’s’. I am beginning to believe that we are fighting a losing battle. Defaults on most programs lead us up the garden path in a well-meaning attempt to help us. Restaurant critic AA Gill has commented that, as a dyslexic, he cannot tell which of the suggested words are correct when he spell-checks his work and so he relies on a sub editor to knock his pieces into grammatical shape.

Detail it may be, but it is important detail, central to the meaning of the words that go with all those pretty pictures.

And if there are typos in this letter, blame Steve Jobs and his crowd at Apple because I sent this from my word-changing, life-changing iPhone. I have read and re-read it, but I am convinced that something unexpected will happen to the words when I press the Send button.

Just who is guarding the grammar guards, now that we no longer rely on grown-ups to key the words that get printed?

Brian Minards, Director, Ideas Group, via iPhone



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