I had a professor in college who was fond of saying, among other things, that you can't have two things without having three things -- this wasn't what he was getting at but the situation we are in with all of these online forums is that there is written English, there is spoken English, and now there is online typing.
Online typing. Is it talking? Is it letter- writing? Assuming you are at a comment board to have a real conversation: how much will you rely on tone and context, and how much work will you do to get your point across? How much work will you expect the other participants to do in attempting to understand you?
As to the origins of this blog, I was glad to see comments from people who care about clear communication achieved through careful and disciplined writing.
Comment boards are fun and interesting - informal, lively and immediate, much like speech. On the good side, we ditch the preoccupation with physical presentation and the need to leave the house or actually talk to people. On the bad side, we lose all the non-verbal clues and other meta-data that is inherent in speech. The passionate comments about language and usage in the middle of a non-language-oriented blog suggested to me that there are plenty of people who want to retain (at least when helpful) the rules and conventions of written English even in this digital context.
So, a few tentative conclusions about the goals here:
- This is not about bossing people around and feeling like awesome smarty-pantses.
- This is not about asking each other whether we have any Grey Poupon.
- This is about enjoying our language in written form, online or offline, and deepening our own understanding of it.
- This is about continuing discussions and gathering information that will help people of good will communicate more effectively.