Month: August 2012

He Wrote/She Wrote: People Track This Stuff?

No Comments

A study released yesterday purports to find importance in the frequency of the he pronoun versus the she pronoun in American English, the obvious implication being the prevalence of male-focused sexism in writing throughout the ages.

According to this study, the ratio of male to female pronouns (he, she plus variations) stood at 3.5:1 in 1950, the larger number representing male usage, of course, which then swelled to 4.5:1 through the mid-1960s, when the sexual revolution set us all free.

The ratio now stands at 2:1 or less (that being the perhaps-outdated 2005 standard).

Now this is all well and good, but I think what it mainly shows is writers' ignorance of the beauty of using the plural form. They contains both he's and she's, and no one can ascertain the ratio — nor would anyone want to do so.

I cast my vote for plural pronouns — and nouns — when writing generically. The ratio, if there is one, will always be 1:1 when using the plural.

Categories: Grammar Notes

Are You Dumber Than a Sixth Grader?

No Comments

To answer the question posed in my headline, it would take quite a bit of immersion in texting to plunge below sixth-grade standards, er. reality.

And this is no LOL matter.

A Pennsylvania State University study tested students aged 8 to 12 on their grammar and then surveyed them on their texting habits via cell phones and other devices. No surprise here, but grammar skills deteriorated with text usage among those who responded to the survey.

The study was conducted by the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University and published in New Media & Society.

"They may use a homophone, such as 'gr8' for great, or an initial, like, 'LOL' for laugh out loud," said Drew Cingel, a former undergraduate student in communications at Penn State and currently a doctoral candidate in media at Northwestern University who was involved in the study.

"An example of an omission that tweens use when texting is spelling the word would, w-u-d."

The use of these shortcuts may hinder a child's ability to switch between techspeak and the normal rules of grammar, Cingel said in a Penn State release.

Now, wud you believe that?

Categories: Grammar Notes