Dumbing Down

So I was going to write about profanity in the workplace as a sign of holiday stress, or death and dying, or some other upbeat subject, but I just checked my work email and saw this message to everyone in the office from the admin who organized the holiday dreidel hunt:

“The last one was found in HR who have 3 employees on top of a 3 whole punch.”

There are many things wrong with that sentence, but the lasting impact is visual: picturing three employees on top of a 3-hole punch. Some things just can’t be unseen.

This brings to mind “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss. Okay, so we are all punctuationally challenged at times, but what’s happening these days goes way beyond that. It’s not just that people can’t articulate clearly, it’s that they don’t care.

It’s possible for intelligent people to communicate sloppily. But I think it’s also true that low standards in the latter can dumb down the former. Call it a lack of critical thinking. You settle for sloppy writing and sloppy thinking naturally follows. The standard defense: “You know what I meant!”

Self-editing (or in the case of writer’s block, self-censoring) can be taken to extremes. The mind loops, indefinitely deferring the decision to act. That’s bad, too. I spend a lot of time there. But it’s better than the opposite. Because even if you’re paralyzed by the challenge of saying exactly the right thing, you can still appreciate good writing. You value people who think before they speak.

For example, you won’t vote for Trump.

Eschew sloppy writing. The nation you save may be your own.



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