Grammatical Subscendence

First, there was a new trend on Facebook of people writing in all lower case letters; both memes and comments. Then, my students started submitting assignments with sentences beginning with lower case letters. Finally, I received an official email from a student asking for a special favor in all lower case letters including even the first person pronoun. The whole process seemed to take about a month.

After Googling, I find that it is supposed to be a widespread belief among young people, most severe among teenagers, that using proper punctuation and upper case letters when appropriate is grossly offensive and smacks of persnickety elitism and “distancing;” erecting a barrier between you and the other person. “Hey, no fair. Me no do proper grammar. My grammar died. Me think you think you big man. Me show you!” Both starting and ending conversations is supposed to be problematic, so putting a period at the end of the sentence is seen as indicating a dreaded terminus to the conversation and thus, rude. The logical implications of banning both starting and ending conversations should be noted.

My actual letter to my students:

Dear Class,

I am starting to see students fail to capitalize the first letter of every sentence. This is something that six-year-olds know how to do. It makes you seem illiterate. Thanks to Google, I know that writing in all lower-case letters has become fashionable among teenagers, in particular, when they text. When it bleeds over into formal academic writing by students, you are in serious trouble. Being able to follow the basic conventions of writing is a prerequisite for employment in any job not involving manual labor. There is no point in getting an academic degree and then revealing, seemingly, that you have regressed to preschool levels in your writing abilities. As a consequence, I have started deducting points for failing to capitalize. The more you practice a punctuation free, lower-case-only writing style, the more you will ingrain it in yourself and the harder it will be to avoid even in instances where it is particularly important to do so. God forbid you do this for job applications. If your friends think it is elitist and unfriendly to use good grammar and proper punctuation, too bad for them.


Richard Cocks

19 thoughts on “Grammatical Subscendence

  1. Some youth itch to tempt fate by running parkour. The poseur as egghead gets his adrenaline fix by imitating E. E. Cummings, who was a total bore. Alas and alack, these young whippersnappers!

    Why don’t you, when next you give a lecture, omit every fourth word you speak? Then give them a pop quiz at the end of class and flunk ’em all. Analogize this their anti-capitalist punctuation — that might learn ’em. But then again they sound like a bunch of dim wicks, might be inflammable. Flunk ’em!

    I recall an RTE radio news program in which it was announced that the Irish school systems would give partial credit for this answer to the question: “What’s the most famous line from Julius Caesar?”


    In the greatest literary nation in the English-speaking world!

  2. A young (26) friend who is a Texas A&M graduate is managerof a Chik-fil-A and thus of many young people. When he puts a period at the end of a sentence they believe he must be angry and is yelling at them. Conventions are self-fulfilling, but rapid changes privilege people who care about fashion changes since last Tuesday. Most calls to eliminate “privilege” are, in fact, calls to install a new one, usually one that requires social awareness rather than intellectual awareness. The cool kids are always trying to get one-up on those who don’t know what movie is the important one this month, which privileges their social habits over sterner stuff.

  3. I love your letter, but I would have added one more sentence at the end: “Every civilization necessarily has a few losers, but you don’t have to be one of them.” Social pressure can work both ways; no reason why their peers ought to have a monopoly on that. Perhaps you thought of that too but were nobler than I.

  4. Leave out the business about jobs and resumes. The purpose of college is to maintain western civilization, it is not so you can get a job. Betting the farm on a college education is a poor gamble. Western civilization is the sum total of all the rules we have for dealing with each other including communicating via the written word. Some people get persnickety about punctuation and grammar, but the best test is whether you have communicated your thoughts. Poor grammar, poor penmanship, poor spelling and poor formatting label you as a troglodyte and therefor someone to be ignored rather than listened to.

    • I agree. Colleges have officially abandoned transmitting Western Civ to the next generation. Students at Berkeley and Stanford protested successfully to have Western Civ courses removed, at first only as compulsory. SUNY systemwide has removed them period. Your last two sentences seem to contradict each other. I agree with the last sentence.

      • Yes, people are contradictory creatures. Proper grammar and punctuation does not ensure that your message will survive – it could still be incomprehensible. But proper form means it will not be dismissed out of hand.

  5. As a writer and editor, I thank you for this, and remind everyone that negating the grammar of language use is only part of the ongoing effort to negate the grammar/logos of the cosmos itself, which is Christ.

  6. Pingback: Sunday Morning Coffee 03/27/2022 – A Mari Usque Ad Mare


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