A Writer’s Musings

Changes In The English Language

As a writer, you become acutely aware of every little nuance in the English language. You can spot an error at 500 paces and certain things start to annoy you. Periodically, you notice a change in the English language. You’re not sure who made the change or why, but you either accept it or add it to your growing list of annoyances. Here are a few of the latest changes that have more than a few writers with their pens in a knot.

Last Name Only
Writers are now expected to refer to people by their last name only, after originally referring to them by their first and last names. Instead of writing “?Mr. Smith’, we now have to write “?Smith’. Referring to people by their last name has always seemed disrespectful to me and I know I would be insulted if some referred to me as “Myslawchuk”. The only time people are referred to by their last names, I thought, were recruits in the army by their drill sergeants. That’s probably from where the disrespect originates.

Down to One Space
It’s probably just a conspiracy, not that I’m going insane, but I think the publishers and software companies got together one day, probably at Starbucks, and decided to ditch one of the two spaces used in between sentences. I heard that using one space is easier for doing layouts in Quark or PageMaker. And I notice that when I leave two spaces between sentences when typing an e-mail, they magically turn into one space after either saving or sending the e-mail. So now that things have been made easier for the publishers and the software makers by squishing everything together, can anyone actually read printed material that is squished together? What happened to all those studies that told us which font and pitch people found most comfortable reading, including the two spaces between sentences? As a person who is still considered young and has healthy eyes, I find it difficult to read with one less space between sentences. How do older people or people who do not have healthy eyes read the new print?

No More Mr. Hyphen
So everything my teacher taught me in grade 3 was for not? Do you know how long it takes a teacher to teach an 8-year-old child (most of whom have Mexican jumping beans in their pants, like I did!) to know where to put the hyphen in a word? And now, poof, they’re gone, just like that? “?Semiprecious’ is not a word but “?semi-precious’ is. When the hyphen has been removed from a word that is supposed to have a hyphen, it ruins the reading experience by stopping the reader dead in their tracks. The brain tries to pronounce the word without the hyphen, until it realizes the hyphen is just missing, and then the brain re-pronounces the word and picks up reading where it left off. When I read material that contains several words that I know should be hyphenated and they are not, it frustrates me to the point where I stop reading the material. Considering most people don’t read material in it’s entirety anymore (they prefer to scan the page for the information they are looking for, a bad habit they picked up from surfing the Internet), you would think publishers would avoid doing things to the English language that would make a reader stop reading.

As a writer, I like to think I have an open mind and I’m all in favour of the evolution of our language. But I don’t believe these changes are evolutionary. If changes are to be made to the English language, it would be nice to know what they are, the reason for the change, and a chance to disagree with the change. It would also make editing less of a challenge as well!

Diane is a full-time, freelance writer. She specializes in writing technical articles for the oil and gas industry, but also writes feature length magazine articles of all genres, including Calgary-based magazines. She is working towards a Bachelor of General Studies degree.

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