Writing for Gnats

Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Blog, Wishes | 0 comments

Books to be returned / Hash Milhan / Flickr

Books to be returned / Hash Milhan / Flickr

A favourite grumble of mine is the damage that’s being done to the English language. Now, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the acronyms and new words filtering through via texts, etc. What I object to is bad grammar and bite-sized badly-written prose fit for a reader with the attention span of a gnat.

That is until the combination of a recent article in a weekend supplement about retirement villages in the Netherlands, and another in a journal on how on new technologies are influencing the way people are taught, pulled me up short.

The retirement village is a good wheeze. People are encouraged to live with their peers, in surroundings full of objects that are familiar, and to join in with activities that they would have carried out as the norm. Drinking beer/wine, folding laundry, helping with the cooking – you get the picture.

The one on new technologies looks at interfaces such as those on the Wii, where physical gestures are used as a means of control, and its implications for various topics. Think what it could mean for a biology lesson involving dissection. Alternatively, examine how the information people get from technology could depend on their skills in assessing the types different channels have to offer.

Now all this may seem a million miles from my original gripe but bear with me. Because I get the feeling that though I might look down on the gnat this is the direction that I, and countless others, are heading. The brain cells decrease, the attention span falters. And where does this leave us?

Well, I put it to you that technology might have the answer. We are growing increasingly close to our tablets and iPhones. We look to them for reference material, for reading matter – not to mention their original purpose: communication.

So I wonder what research is going on into the type of language (and writing style) that will appeal to those baby boomers of yesteryear? Will it be the staccato of a Tweet or the flowing prose of a Jane Austen?

Those retirement villages in the Netherlands might presuppose the latter, but I wouldn’t mind betting that – a few years down the line – we will become so used to digital communication (even for relaxation purposes) that the former will apply.

I just hope they still know where to put the apostrophe.

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