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Erin Binnie 9/20/13 ENGL1111 Mussleman Working with Wallace Draft 1 Documentation style: Word count:

The usage of Standard Written English

In his writing Authority and American usage David Foster Wallace proposes the idea that Standard Written English is the form of English that needs to be used in a standardized way in classrooms, and furthermore in a professional setting. I believe that he is not wrong, however, with more technology available than ever before we must adapt our thinking a little to adjust to this. It is important to not be the old man angrily stuck in the past, but to keep up with the evolving world. Especially because all this new technology really, truly has an effect on our language. Knowing how to assess a situation is an important skill, and regarding writing, it is incredibly vital. In writing one needs to know how to examine a situation and decide upon which type of language to use. For there is no need to always be formal, and writing does not always need to be in Standard written English. Likewise, there are situations where informal writing is inappropriate. Different types of language used in different situations work well for different mediums. Even in a semi-formal writing situation, where one might think to use Standard Written English, it is all right to use a slightly different form. Wallace himself did this when writing Authority and American usage. It wasnt for a class or in a school situation, so he didnt need quite Standard Written English, but it also was Harpers Magazine, which is a highly intellectual

magazine, and needed a higher-level sort of prose. What he did was adapt his own version of formal writing, which was better to fit his purpose, which included throwing in his own versions of words. He demonstrated how language could be adapted for a better-desired affect. Texting is one of the technologies that has changed English, or rather, produced its own form of written English. It is controversial because many people think that the language used for texting has deteriorated peoples ability to write formally, including choppy language, awful grammar and bad structure. However, it is not used as a medium for Standard Written English, or any formal version of written English. Texting is meant to be fast and efficient, to quickly get the message out. It would be impractical to worry about correct language, and even grammar and spelling, because all that matters when sending the text is that the information is delivered quickly. Thats it. In fact, as John McWhorter pointed out in his TED talk, it is incredibly convenient and useful in that now we can write the way we talk (Fisher). This is something very new because writing has always been pretty formal, and this now lets us have a way to write as if we were speaking. The way we speak doesnt sound at all like Standard Written English, yet it isnt considered terrible English. So with the idea that texting is merely a text version of speech, it really isnt terrible English at all. Wallace wrote this when there wasnt a lot of technology around that involved the rapid spread of textual information. Of course there was email, but email in itself is still quite a formal medium for writing. It is used in the workplace, for school, and generally formal situations, which requires a more formal tone. So he wouldnt recognize the usefulness of deviating from Standard Written English for these technologies. The mediums of texting, tweeting, tumbling, even snapchatting would be completely foreign to him. I think that if he wrote his review with the knowledge of these mediums, that he would be more accepting to other forms of language.

After all, he only really specified that his strong feelings towards Standard Written English were aimed towards work and school. Places that it seems necessary for formal tones. All across the globe people speak different forms of English. They are all different, yet none of them are deemed wrong. Thats because they are different version of spoken English, and spoken English is much more diverse and unstandardized, because it existed for so long before writing was even invented. I have family in Alabama and they have quite a lot of phrases that arent by standard rule correct grammar. However, it is part of their culture, and their regional dialect dictates that this is something acceptable to use, and it is part of their culture. For example they use the word Coke to apply to all sodas, not just coke itself. The phrase fixing to, or more accurately pronounced at fixin to, is a grammatically strange phrase. It means doing something, or about to do something, so they say phrases like Im fixin to go to the pool. This really makes no sense, but because it is standard language for them, it isnt deemed unworthy of their speech. Spoken language has a lot more leniency with what can be said, and Im glad this idea is slowly being introduced into writing. Writing so far is so very formal, and its great that through technology like texting that a more informal, speech-like version of writing is up and coming. With all that said, I do think Wallace was correct in suggesting that Standard Written English is a necessity for everyone to use at school, and likewise places like work and formal places deemed necessary. It isnt required all the time, yet when the occasion calls for it, one must be able to know how to write in this formal English manner. People have to know how to write this way, because the professional world wont take any sloppy sounding language, and it wont be taken seriously. In order to succeed in the professional world, one needs to be taught how to write this way, which is in school. The best way to teach it is to standardize it in school,

and have students always write in this form, so that there is no mistake about when and where to write in this manner. If a student were writing an essay on an important subject matter, like a court case, it would be ridiculous for them to write in in a casual tone as if they were speaking to a friend. Any argument or opinion they would put into the paper would sound unaccountable, as they would sound like they didnt take the issue seriously, and in return they would sound as if they were taking the situation as a joke. Any time someone would write like this in a professional situation would be rude to whomever they were writing to, as well as whatever the subject matter that they would be writing about. In conclusion, there isnt a clear yes and no when regarding the issue of Standard Written English versus more informal versions of English. It is definitely acceptable to use other versions, as long as one knows when you them, and when they need to use Standard Written English. Both are perfectly acceptable, but know the boundaries of acceptable language.

Works Cited Fisher, Ken. "LOL, Texting, and Txt-speak: Linguistic Miracles." Ars Technica. 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.