Plagiarism & other new standards

September 9, 2010

A recent New York Times article about plagiarism gave plenty of evidence that today’s students don’t seem to understand that using someone else’s words is an ethical infraction.

It makes the point that such digital age factors as Wikipedia, file-sharing and sampling blur the boundaries of authorship. Kids today just don’t understand the concept. And that’s not the only problem with writing today.

I’ve written before about my dismay that what’s being published online is often terrible writing: poor grammar, weak structure –it’s just plain bad.

And I’m not talking about blogs. “Content providers” published by big-city newspapers often demonstrate that there are no meaningful standards today.

The thing is, these writers have no clue that their writing is so bad. No one’s told them, and after all, they’re being “published” so isn’t that an endorsement of its quality?

No. It’s not.

But haven’t they received the imprimatur of a major newspaper?

No. They’re being used for free content.

Now, you’d think the quality of their writing might work against them when applying for a job.

It doesn’t seem to. Because often the hiring managers know even less about good writing.

Besides plagiarism, there’s a general looseness and laxity to writing today that I find distressing. I’m all for creativity, but that’s not what’s going on here. What’s going on is that standards are disappearing.

Horrible grammar is becoming the new standard. For example, the use of the word “myself”. How many times have we heard “Jim and myself went to the fishing hole?”

Uh huh. You went there because you’re unemployed and you’re unemployed because you can’t speak the language correctly.

Oh, how I wish that were true. But it isn’t. Because lots of people talk like that. It’s the new standard.

Personal pronouns seem to be a real stumbling block. How about “him and I?” Or
“He took my sister and I to the store.”

Like fingernails on the chalkboard.

A old friend who’s spent his career in marketing sent me that same NY Times article last month, pointing out that what’s “junk” to one person is “excellence” to another and “everyone is supposed to accept that and respect it.” He wasn’t happy about that and neither am I.

Discipline’s a good thing in writing. So are grammatical standards. Hate to see them go away. Really.

2 comments on “Plagiarism & other new standards
  1. Anonymous says:

    Hallelujah sister! I cringe every morning when I read the paper. My personal favorite – the dangling participle. It’s dangling everywhere and not in a good way. We know that speed counts, but so does grammar and structure. I have found myself wondering if it is my age, but no. Excellent writing, grammar, structure, spelling stand the test of time. — MKR

  2. Of COURSE you would respond to this, my writing twin! And you’re even stricter than I am about standards. Miss you, MKR!

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