OCTOBER 31, 2011 12:41PM

Writing's Last Gleaming…

Rate: 9 Flag


If you want further proof of the intellectual decline of the American Empire, look no further than this flyer we received Friday advertizing a community charity event for the St. Jude's Research Hospital.

Please let me say immediately, however, that this post is not criticizing the advertised event, nor the philanthropic activities of the local chapter of the Tri Delta Sorority. Neither of these things are the issue. The issue is how a flyer for such an important event could have been sent out with errors in everything from the grammar to the formatting. You can see it for yourself just below, though you shouldn't have to read more than the first paragraph.

Figure 1
Perhaps the saddest part is that we can not only assume that the sorority had their finest writer prepare the flyer text, but that the result was considered not only adequate, but quite possibly exceptional. If this is the best one student can do, what does that say about the rest of the university?

More generally, how can we expect our young graduates to become productive members of society if they don't even know how to format a letter properly, let alone how to write one? Leaving aside the myriad of grammatical errors, the writing style is awkward ("The ladies of Delta Delta Delta proudly benefit St. Jude every year with full efforts."), bizarrely pretentious ("The Texas A&M chapter is truly passionate about their philanthropy, and works year round perfecting each event in order to increase their earnings each year."), and just bad ("Texas A&M Tri Delta takes pride in game day for St. Jude."). Could this lack of writing skills be a factor in the difficulties so many of them have in finding jobs after they graduate?

Here at the Kanuk household, we are truly passionate about our son's writing, and "work year round perfecting his skills to increase each of his grades each year."  I can't even write that with a straight face.

Actually, we plan to make certain that our son grows up with excellent writing skills. Or that at least he'll know how to use apostrophes and avoid unintentional alliteration. Understanding the difference between an object and a subject in a sentence probably isn't setting the bar too high, either.

Here's the front of the flyer for those interested:

Figure 2


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That does read a bit like it was first written in Chinese and then translated to English by a dock worker in Ningbo.
"Each chapter admires the Texas A&M chapter nationally."

It seems the Texas A&M chapter is begging for more Aggie jokes.
I see this kind of stuff all the time when I teach. In fact, this is not too bad compared to most stuff I'm expected to mark. I've also seen it at the graduate school level, and my husband sees it even in some of his PhD students. Last week I rented a DVD about the failings of the media and there were TWO improper uses of grammar on the cover. We're fighting a losing battle. One more story...a statue with a memorial plaque was unveiled recently. The plaque contained two spelling mistakes; one was in the person's name. le sigh
I also wish to see the annual tailgate.

Perhaps the writer's day job is composing spam for Open Salon -- "We have shoes, you will beautiful, and our price is very." etc.

In my observation, it takes years to be able to learn how to write well. The training starts in grade school and must continue through high school. If a student comes to college unable to write well, I don't think there's much that can be done. Perhaps the student can learn the correct usage of apostrophes and so on, but his presentation of ideas will probably never be what it should be.

I'm not a very good writer, but I did get a couple of backhanded compliments from one of my college professors. He said that I wrote so clearly that he could instantly tell where I had gone wrong. And on one of my papers he remarked "I can see that you know how to shoot the arrow; now please try to hit the target."

As I told my wife, this seems to have been written by a robot using Google to search for key words, such as the word “philanthropy” for example.


Yeah, I understand your viewpoint. I would not be surprised to see this kind of text in a term paper, but as an official money raising activity, this is inexcusable. Me too, I have seen botched English with product labels (see Newsbreak: SFC discovers a third gender!) or other official documents, although I see it more often with the French translation than with the English version. Ouch… the person or family must have been quite upset to see the name misspelled like that.
Mishima: I think your writing is excellent. I agree that if a student arrives at the university with grossly inadequate writing skills, it's already too late. For me, if I need to correct a paper written by a native English speaker (which happens very often), we have a problem. I learned how to read and write in English (at an acceptable level) in undergrad.
It's terrible, isn't it? I used to cover school board meetings from time to time. One night, I took a report from a self-styled "educationist" and copy edited it while the trustees were droning on and on about nothing. At the end of the meeting, I handed the amended report to the direction of education with the comment that someone needed to be "remediated". He didn't get it.
Speaking of which, that should be "director" of education. But at least I knew it was wrong.
Boanerges Redux: I also find it very interesting that the director didn't click in. You're right: at least you knew you made a mistake. All the errors in the letter above are caused by the lack of knowledge, which is very troublesome. Thanks for sharing your story.
Okay, I only read the first paragraph, and "whom cured" convinced me.
Myriad: For some, it may better than using "that" to refer to people. ;-) The word "whom" appears quite often in the text.
Or translated by Google Translate. Yes, Kanuk, those Chinese copywriters will let us down every time. That's why we shouldn't have offshored volunteerism so blithely.

The ability to write well may not set one free, but it will help to free one's thoughts. Good post, on bad grammar what is written for a good cause.

(Now, are there any typos here??)
"we can not only assume that the sorority had their finest writer prepare the flyer text".

We can assume no such thing, tho we can probably assume this was written by someone who thinks she's the finest writer among the Tri-Delts. Her future no doubt depends on her facile charms, and not on any endeavor that will put her education and intellect to the test. In other words her future is in politics.

Swami Tom sees her married-off soon to a future knuckle-dragging Texas Congressman, perhaps the son of Louie Gomert. You know, former Judge Louie. Only in Texas, where Bush the Lesser wasn't dumb enough to truly represent the citizens, so they had to elect Rick Perry.

I'm reminded of an old story told on the Aggies, a story that most likely originated in Austin. It seems the A&M campus was suffering from a severe rat infestation. Male students armed themselves with baseball bats and marched off to battle the enemy. Several thousand rats were dispatched, and several hundred Aggies returned home with war brides.
Steve: Thanks for your "well-written" comment. ;-)

Tom: Even if this was not written by their best writer, this person should have passed it around in order to get feedback. I don't think this was done. Don't get me started with Rick Perry... ;-) He's not as well liked as people outside outside Texas think. Thanks for sharing your old story. Never heard of this one.