That may sound like older generation ranting about how text-speak isn’t real words or established authors grumbling about the lack of craft in flash famous young adult or fan fiction novels but there is something far deeper at stake than simple grousing about ‘younger folk these days’. We think in language thus, the quality of our thoughts depends on the quality of our language. If ‘we think, therefore we are’ then how we think has immense power over how we live.
The job interview, the entrance exam, the first date, getting the exact items you want from a drive-through can either go well or poorly depending on our skill with language. Verbal, non-verbal, written, it all counts. Some people have a natural talent for language, some don’t. Either way our aptitude with language of any form, as with all skills, requires training and practice.
But our skill only gets us so far unless the quality of our language is equally sound. While there is definite truth in the adage about the craftsman who blames their tools there is also a solid truth in ‘a craftsman is only as good as their tools’. Even a master carpenter will only be able to achieve so much with only a sharpened rock and a mallet. Skill alone is not enough, we need to put just as much effort into the quality of our ‘tools’.
From our pre-industrial history where reading and writing were the privilege of the few in power and the global literacy rate was barely over 10% to our current global rate of around 86% education and technology have brought access and training in language to more and more people.
The struggle over the quality of our language, however, has only truly started to reveal its consequences in our modern ‘comment section’ driven world where achieving a reaction has become more important than conveying an actual message. How long do most comment threads actually remain on topic before devolving into posturing, ‘telephone tough guy’ threats, and name calling? No one is willing to write or read enough characters to engage in any actual debate so where does the exchange of ideas occur?