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Ellen Alperstein

Maybe it's the mistake-creep so evident in my daily newspaper, with its eviscerated copy desk and corps of writers obliged to tweet and blog and file web, early and 1stLD write-thru versions of the same story accompanied by charticles. Which isn't even a word. LOL!

Maybe it's the glut of broadcast e-mails that don't know a compliment from a complement, whose subjects lack verbs, whose contractions lack apostrophes, whose argot, like, you know, dates from the Adolescent Mall Period.

Maybe it's the proliferation of text messages, Facebook posts, web forums and e-mail emoticonography by peeps for whom typing is interstitial activity until geeks 4.whatever figure out how to enable us to employ instant ESP.

Whatever the reason, we just don't know how to write anymore. Or, worse, we jst dnt wnt 2.

I still recall the feel of the fat green pencil and the pulpy aroma of the red Big Chief tablet that were the earliest tools of my trade. This makes me wonder if new writers and readers will ever be able to smell the rose that is the difference between "that" and "which." As if.

But, lookie here, you don't have to be an early adopter of language purity to become hooked on diction. Anyone can become bff w/ the capricious employment of punctuation, the militant inconsistency of commas. Although some of you n00bs might be intimidated by word nerds who reject the use of "host" as a verb, you, too, can play. Resist accepting that newspapers DKDC that "irony" is not a synonym for "coincidence," that "lag behind" is redundant (is it anatomically possible to lag ahead?).

You don't need to RTFM to wrestle the tyranny of syntax into submission, just channel the Queen's Englishman Winston Churchill, who stood firm: "Ending a sentenC w/ a preposition is somit up w/ which III nt put." Testimony to the brevity of his wit are the 74 characters to spare.

Communicators, resist the pressure to choose between style and substance! Civilized societies aren't just about content, they're about how the 411 is delivered. Build your immunity to the media epidemic that confuses "since" with "because," and indulges in shocking superlative abuse, and, OMG, isn't the gulf oil spill the most sad environmental disaster ever?

Language is dynamic and evolutionary and this is good, a sign of a vibrant culture. Sometimes, you just have to make up stuff when the 500,000 words friended by the English language (not counting scientific terms, which are way too HUB) just aren't sufficient to express utter snizzlefloos at what has happened to a society that used to revere graceful epistolary expression.

I try to read my newspaper and e-mail in a more generous spirit than their cr8ors deserve, but I still can't help wanting people who expect language to convey their true intent to cultivate their garden. E-cards are cute, Evite saves $ by going e-postal and Facebook is scary good at rendering the private public with the digital half life of plutonium. But they're all outreach at arm's length, and if they reflect craft it's a by-product of efficiency and packaging. I miss the quotidian effort simply to communicate well, you know? I'm just sayin'...

Ellen Alperstein is a writer in Santa Monica.

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