Taylor Mali, poet and all around linguistic genius, once spoke of a problem affecting ‘manly manly students across the Word’, a problem so deeply ingrained in our society that the worst offenders don’t even know that they are taking part. Mali described this in his poem, The The Impotence of Proofreading. However, Mr. Mali, your highness-almighty, through a series of unfortunate and tortuous experiences I have boiled this down even further to one single compromising factor, and I am here today to share this with you.
From a very young age we learn to read, we learn to write, we learn to dot our I’s and we learn to add apostrophe’s to our possessives. Then somewhere along the long twisted road to adulthood, we forget a few of those rules, not really the important ones, but a few nonetheless. That is to say, some rules are less memorable but we can still function as human beings when it comes to communication of the written form.
Fast forward a little while and somewhere around the turn of the Century came Mr. Jobs with his good intentions and Apple wizardry, and as a generation we all lost our fucking (excuse my language) minds. It changed the world, but was it for the better? I have to say, as an IPhone user and winner of my second grade Spelling Bee, I find it a little ironic that the smart phone is the one piece of technology that is making us dumber.
According to a study by the BBC, in a poll of over 2,000 students it was found that over a third could not spell the word ‘definitely’, two-thirds could not spell the word ‘necessary’ and, in an even more alarming statistic, only 9% said that they never use spellcheck to correct such errors for them.
And there it is, those fateful words – spellcheck. The Apple Computers term is ‘auto-correct’, and it’s that handy little popup bubble that manages to edit all of your misspellings before you get a chance to notice you’ve made them. Pre-installed, ready to dull your mind of any prior knowledge of ‘I before E’. Yes auto-correct, I have come to accept, is the most harmful piece of technology currently gracing this planet.
The BBC has even given us all a name, “The Auto-Correct Generation”. Not only is this an outrageously bland and uninventive nickname, it just doesn’t do justice to the creative, inspiring and resourceful minds which should be depictive of those growing up in the tech boom. As the youngest generation we are among the likes of Leila Janah and Jay Kimmelman who with their companies, are working to end third-world poverty. We are among the likes of Jack Andraka, who received the National Jefferson Award at the age of 17 for his work on a potential method for detecting the early stages of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. Yes, there is a boy the age of 15 who is curing cancers, but alas here we are, known as the generation who can’t spell the third-grade level word ‘definitely’.
Ian McNeilly, director of the National Association for the Teaching of English said that the use of auto-correct in phones and computers has become a ‘knee-jerk reaction’,
“if people are blindly writing things and expecting automated programs to address all of their inaccurate spellings, that’s a concern – because they won’t. It’s the linguistic equivalent of indiscriminate sat nav users driving into canals”.
You heard the man.
I’m not going to lie to you all, there was a point in my life where I was an autocorrected zombie too. However, one lazy Sunday afternoon after letting various family and acquaintances in my contact list know I would be ‘coming in for a sex’ instead of a ‘sec’, something clicked in my brain and at that very moment I collectively lost my will to live and battled through the twelve layers of Settings mastery to turn off autocorrect. And it is the best decision I ever made. It sounds pretentious but I refuse, as a human being living on this fine Earth, to leave it to a machine to spell for me.
Autocorrect is the devil, and I am a woman scorned.
However, I still live it hope. I like to think of myself as a reckless optimist, but I do have my limits. Hashtags and memes, not a problem, emoji’s are absolutely fine (the moonface is my favourite), but sometimes even the Oxford Dictionary likes to test the parameters. A quick flick through the modern dictionary will reveal that due to popular usage, words like ‘bruh’ and ‘awesomesauce’ have been added to it’s hallowed pages. Surely we realize there’s a problem with that when Microsoft Word still puts that dreaded little red squiggle under those words (they are sitting there right now as I type just taunting me).
Anyhow, I digress.
Generation Y I am talking to you here. This is do or die now, for the love of all that is good and pure just turn off your autocorrect. Learn to spell words again, learn to finish typing words even. I refuse to believe that such a boundless and innovative group of humans can be defined as the most aggressively inarticulate generation there has ever been. We have the world’s resources at our feet, we can research, we can learn, we can question and we can investigate. So why are we all still stuck here struggling with which witch is which? I’m not saying any of us need to go back to school, or attend a nation-wide spelling bee, but I am saying that in between all the IPhones, IPads, and IPods, I’ve just had enough.