- On the one hand, you have your die hard grammar Nazis that can't stop themselves from ripping someone's week a new Saturday if they misspell something, misplace a comma, or accidentally type "their" when they really mean "they're". They're sickened by anyone who would dare swear in their written communications, dammit. Don't even get me started on how they feel about slang.
- On the other, you have the type of people that leave me wondering how they even managed to pass fifth grade. You know the ones. They communicate in text speak and misspell words on purpose pretty much all the time, even in so-called professional communications. They think they're making themselves look cool, cute, or unique when really they're just making themselves look stupid.
Then there are those of us who not only know the ins and outs of proper English, but also know how and when it's appropriate to mix things up a bit. You know... normal people. People who understand the following concepts.
Language is a living, breathing thing.
Yes, there are rules to language and everyone really ought to know the basics. However, it's important to understand that that English language doesn't exist in a vacuum. It really is a living, evolving thing. It's influenced by pop culture, different subsections of society, and many other fantastic things. Like it or not, people do bend the rules of word use. It's their way of taking something we all share and making it their own.
That said, there are a million different ways to express yourself with language that wouldn't be considered textbook "good English". Swearing can be a perfectly legitimate way to really add emphasis to what you're saying, especially when talking about feelings. Well-timed slang or off-color expressions can be fantastically funny when used in the right context. This is something that is especially important to understand if you're a creative writer who'd like to master a really simple way to give your characters some individuality.
A person occasionally using popular expressions like "amazeballs" or maybe having a bit of a potty mouth shouldn't add up to their automatically being written off as stupid or taken to be someone who doesn't take words seriously enough. If you did that, you'd have to condemn some of modern literature's most noteworthy authors.
There's cool and edgy... and then there's confusing.
Of course, this isn't to say it isn't possible to completely overdo things. We've all had the experience of trying to decipher something someone wrote or texted that is so "individualized" we can't even read it. We all also know "that guy" that drops an f-bomb pretty much every other word. Then we're outside the realm of simply being expressive and into a land of confusion where we can barely understand what's being said.
The whole point of language is supposed to be to communicate. If you're having a hard time getting your point across because of the way you express yourself, it might be time to tone it down. It's not cute, or edgy, or cool. It's just confusing. It's also making you look like an idiot. Fuck is a great word. Really, I assure you that I'm a big fan. But there are other words out there that are really pretty cool, too. Why not keep things interesting and mix it up a little bit?
There's also a time and a place.
Another thing I wish more people understood is that there really is a time and a place for casual English. And guess what. It's not when you're writing a professional e-mail, writing a college paper, applying for a job, or anything else along those lines. And yes, people really do this.
I've actually received so-called professional e-mail from potential clients before that was full of text speak -- "u" instead of "you", "ur" instead of "you're", et cetera. There wasn't any shortage of confusing run-on sentences and really obvious misspellings either. Needless to say, this hardly got me excited about working for these people. Now... they may well have been serious about wanting to hire me for projects, but do you know what happened? I ignored the messages. I mean... literally ignored. These people didn't even get a curt "no, thank you" in response.
Other people's mileage may vary, but I legitimately didn't think someone who couldn't be bothered to type out y-o-u in a professional e-mail warranted the time and energy it would take me to send a response. I most certainly wasn't interested in working with someone like that and it's because of the impression they made. If they're that lax about writing e-mail to people they might potentially be working with at some point, then what else will they not take seriously? It could be consistency, promptness in communication, and reliability when it comes to actually paying me for my services.
Now it's perfectly possible that I was wrong about those people. However, that is nevertheless the impression they made on me. Don't let it happen to you. Show potential employers (and employees) that you take them, yourself, and what you're doing seriously and devote the time necessary to write out a courteous, professional message instead. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece of modern English or anything, but it does need to be legible and reasonably free of errors. Really, it's not that hard and it really does make a difference.