A decline in accuracy-standards combined with free-source Web has crippled us all.
“Time to eat, kids, or Time to eat kids.” The simple lack of a comma can turn your mother’s invitation to dinner from a pleasant family moment into a gruesome bloodbath straight out of the Walking Dead. The lack of concern for grammar and accuracy on the web has created a media nightmare filled with a country of pointing fingers. To publish any content on the web, you need a website, an internet connection, and a web server host. No license, credentials, or fact verification are required.
Perhaps there should be a mandate for credentials or a license for access to print anything on the web. Doctors need a license to practice medicine for our safety. Why not writers too? That’s not going to happen. “Free speech is our inalienable right!” Yet, scams lurk everywhere, and we know it. Why then do we fall prey to simple misinformation and hold on to it like it is gospel? Why can’t we ask for help even if it restricts us a tiny bit?
Print Doesn’t = Truth
Cutting corners and lazy writing business practices have created a false sense of expertise. “The very act of printing something gives it the aura of authenticity, … And so, accuracy must be sought and protected,” (“Check it Out.” Editor’s Workshop, October 1992, p12). Too often people charged with communicating ideas in print forgo the skilled expertise of editors. While writing software has made leaps and bounds in grammar checks, no computer can sense tone, intent, plagiarism, false information, generalizations, sarcasm, bias, and low blows. What’s worse, when an editor gives feedback, some people get bent out of shape and completely ignore their edits.
Even editors need a second set of eyes. What swirls in a writer’s head often leaves gaps needing to be bridged. If a person is trying to communicate information—no matter the setting (business, education, medical, political, media)—there is no point to the content if the reader doesn’t understand it. For example, Educators love their rubrics. They send them home to inform parents and students of the requirements for classes and projects, but they neglect to translate the terminology. An editor in one swoop could eliminate mountains of frustration. Is it a wonder parents hate helping their kids with their homework? New math is for the birds!
We The People Demand Accuracy!
Somewhere between the end of Walter Cronkite’s career in 1981 and today, people forgot what unbiased reporting looked, sounded, and felt like. Facts were reported with no tone. Information presented was checked, double-checked, and publicly corrected if wrong. We as readers have been trained and lulled into assuming accuracy. For three decades the nation’s people have been sitting in a pot of water and the temperature has been gradually increasing. The water’s boiling now, and all we seem to do is point fingers. This won’t get us out of the pot. So, what do we do?
Call Conan the Grammarian
If you’re reading the news,
And you feel confused,
Who you gonna call?
Conan the Grammarian!
If there’s something off
And it doesn’t sound right
Who you gonna call?
Conan the Grammarian!
If only Conan the Grammarian could literally swoop in and save us all from poorly written content and misinformation. Alas, we must all assume accountability and responsibility for checking what we read and write. We must rise and demand a higher bar of content from ourselves and others. America, it’s time we start asking ourselves of content the following questions.
- Who wrote it?
- Are they qualified to share it?
- Where are their sources?
- Check and double check. If there are no sources, chuck it! That’s “fake news.”
I won’t lie, responsibly writing and reading takes extra effort. Yes, you heard me right. Readers have a responsibility too. When writing first drafts should never see be on the web! There are always rereads, corrections, and verification. The goal moving forward for us all should be—NO, IT MUST BE—clear communication. We must put away our egos, our laziness, and demand accuracy. If only there was an omnipresent Conan the Grammarian to monitor the web and the cloud. (Although he is real, and you can check him out on Twitter @ConanTheGrammarian, he is regrettably not omnipresent nor omniscient). Take it from good ole’ Wyatt Earp, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything!” America, we got this. Demand Accuracy, lest we boil to death or slip into anarchy allowing, “Time to eat kids.”