Advice To Potential College Freshmen

By way of Facebook comes this advice for potential college freshman from Cal Techgirl.

Dear Prospective Freshmen, You are trying to get into a major 4-year university. You do yourself no favors by 1) acting like you're my friend (e.g. "Hey" is not an appropriate subject line for a 1st email) or 2) using text speak. We use grammar and spacing here in the big kids' sandbox.

A number of comments from some of her friends expanded a bit on this, most of with which I agreed. Names have been modified to protect the innocent from egregious retaliation.

BJW- Good luck with that one. Having taught a few high schoolers in the finer arts of English Literature, Grammar and Composition, I can tell you I fought the tough fight, but I fear I lost most days.

I once tried to convince my students to not use any "be" verbs in a particular assignment. They ignored me. I rewrote each of their papers, and I used 2 "be" verbs in two of them, and none in the others. They could not believe that I did it. One student claimed that I changed the meaning of what she had written. I sat down with her and went line by line. Then, she said, "but it doesn't sound like me." (Imagine the whine in her voice.) She did not amuse me. (I now teach only my children - homeschool. They don't like my "no be verbs" rules, either.)

Cal Techgirl- That's hard. But important for what we teach in terms of professional scientific writing. Most of them just don't get it.


I think the other problem is that these kids just don't read as much as we did. You learn language by seeing it and hearing it.

CS- We just hired a girl with a bachelor's degree. Every e-mail she writes starts with “Hey”, even to the Assistant Vice President of our department. ACK!

BJW- Our society has devolved to such a casual state! Can we blame Mark Zuckerberg?

I have seen this problem at work, where the writing skills of the engineers, technicians, and software coders leave much to be desired, particularly among the younger employees. It's one reason why I spend an inordinate amount of time rewriting procedures, design specifications, and product proposals. It's also the main reason I read anything BeezleBub writes for school as he has a tendency to use texting shorthand – mostly leaving out “unnecessary” words – which makes reading his writing assignments painful at times. At least he hasn't been using texting abbreviations...or at least not yet.