Joyce Bupp, farm wife

Remember all that time we spent in school studying grammar, punctuation and spelling?

Remember trying to recall how to spell words with combinations of “ei” or “ie,” or “eu” or “ue,” and which words use each combination of letters?

Remember trying to lock into your brain when to use “their” or “there,” or “bear” or “bare?” And, what about knowing when it’s correct to use “what” or “which,” as in “what kind” or “which kind?”

With the exception of those working with the printed word, grammar, punctuation and spelling may eventually fade into obscurity, like cars with wind-down windows, wattage-based light bulbs or “sad” irons (those heavy, heavy irons used by our great-grandmas), now more popular as pricey door stops.

That’s because we’ve learned to “text” and email, both of which often entail the extensive use of shortcuts for language and tiny picture emoticons to denote feelings. And, well, just forget you ever learned anything about punctuation.

And that’s why texts are so popular, with their shortcuts and abbreviations, like OMG or LOL. It’s also the very best way to contact anyone under age 30 — and, sometimes, many of us who are considerably past that age.

Frequently, I’ll send this text out to our grandson, Caleb, somewhere in the fields, equipment shop or on another farm: “Will u b here for lunch.” I don’t use punctuation or capital letters. Shortly afterwords, I get back a “yes” or a “no” (no punctuation, no capital letters).

Okay, so none of that would have gotten us good grades on English tests from perfectionist teachers of grammar, punctuation and spelling. In fact, we’d have gotten papers back ornately decorated with red-pencil critiques, along with at least a big, fat D grade, or worse.

In the interest of time, emailing and texting have won hands-down over postal mail, a key reason for why the U.S. Postal Service is struggling. (Maybe if it would greatly “up” the rates on all that junk advertising mail we continue to get, it might help eliminate the unwanted mailbox clutter and boost its budget numbers.)

But, sometimes, our electronics — phone texting especially — get too smart for our own good. This is never more so than when our digital assistants take it into their own bit-brains to “fix” what we’ve keyed into a text or an email. I’m talking “auto-correct” here, which could more appropriately be relabeled “auto-aggravation.”

They may be considered “smart” phones, but sometimes their corrections are just ridiculous and make zero sense. And, having to re-do messages that auto-correct “fixes” takes way more time than sending the original message one keyed onto the screen. So much for time-saving devices.

Some time ago, and I can’t begin to remember why, I attempted to send off a text including the phrase “shades of pinks.” It was auto-corrected to “shades of punks.” What kind of grammar correction is that?

Even worse was the instance when, while including the name of a business from which we periodically get equipment service and parts, my “smart” phone changed the company’s name to “Boogers.” Boy, was I glad to catch that one before it landed in the recipient’s incoming texts.

Just last week, I texted a dear friend with regard to her son’s serious health situation, adding “prayers continuing.” My smartphone changed it to “prayers containing.” Say what? And in a message she sent back sometime later, her comment of “I’m sure” got smartphone-fixed to “I’m stew.”

With electronics intent on developing their own sort of language to replace ours, it seems best to adapt long-held advice from the carpentry (and maybe sewing) business to our electronic messaging practices.

It would go like this: “Write message. Reread twice (at least). Send once.”Then we can avoid having to stumble through confusing and embarrassing corrections to what you really wanted to say.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.


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