[thelist] Question...

Stanley Coen stanleycoen at lycos.com
Wed Jul 2 11:50:15 CDT 2003

Ryan - I was going to write yet another note to gently prod you toward addressing your grammar and spelling, but now I see that this is a deeper issue. I cannot let the assertion go unanswered that those of us who would be inclined to take you to task over such issues are motivated by ego, and I also cannot ignore the implication that to engage in proper spelling and grammar is nothing more than slavish adherence to norms.

Language is a tool, and like any tool, it has its proper use. Its proper use depends upon context and purpose. In a business context, this means clear communication. If you share the desire to communicate clearly, then you don't attempt to undermine the context and purpose with creativity - in this sphere, making up words undermines the context and purpose. In your emails, you turn what should be relatively simple points into an exercise in deciphering. If your goal in posting to this list is to learn, isn't that goal better served by making yourself as clear as possible so that the largest number of people are inclined to respond with helpful advice? By obscuring your communication with spelling errors, shoddy grammar and made-up words, most people dismiss you as not worth the effort. You may consider this to be unjust in principle, indicative of small-mindedness, more evidence that people are sheep, and so forth. Feel free. But it is what it is, and you're only hurting yourse

There are many other contexts in which creativity with language is not only accepted and tolerated, but also encouraged and celebrated. Poetry is such a context, and according to your site, it is one in which you're engaged. Isn't that a sufficient outlet? The fact that a context exists in which a greater dose of "breaking the rules" is considered valid doesn't mean that every other context should be viewed the same way.

And here's another facet. At the risk of offending you, it is the mark of immaturity to suggest that rules, in general, inhibit creativity. In fact, the opposite is true. The trick to creativity is coming up with the novel approach or idea within boundaries or constraints. The most creative code was written a while ago when there were very, very severe restrictions on speed and memory. The most boring music is that which is totally free from the constraint of notes - it has its place, but it's not particularly creative. It's notable only in that it broke free of constraints and as a result, it is very shallow. The work of physicists would be very uninteresting indeed if not for the laws of nature. Even mathematicians, when working in very theoretical modes, impose rules themselves where there were none before, because that is the only way to do useful work. Free-form is kid stuff.

Finally, and this is the practical point and perhaps the only one you'll find convincing, most people will never consider hiring you if you have poor language skills. It's as simple as that. They won't appreciate how brilliant you are or how much vision you've got and cut you slack for it. They'll assume that, at best, you're very sloppy, and that you will be sloppy with the code, layout and design they would be paying you for. Unless you have a long line of clients waiting who not only want artsy sites that break the rules, but share your approach to language, you are going to have a very tough time unless you change your philosophy.

After all, everyone, including you, has to eat (unless you've found a creative, visionary way around that rule too).

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