boring e-mails: theoretical question

Dennis Baron debaron at NTX1.CSO.UIUC.EDU
Wed Jun 2 15:08:26 UTC 1999

so long as on this topic: I have been thinking--okay, alleging-- for several
years that increased concern for correctness in email and newsgroup postings
was a sign of creeping genre formation (part of the coalescence of rules and
conventions), gentrification of a previously wilder form of communication,
fueled by an influx of new users intent on doing things right, and showing
off when they catch someone else doing things wrong, not to mention the
advent of wysiwig and spell checkers on email programs, phenomena I lump
together as part of the "decline"  or civilizing of the electronic frontier.

but I actually don't know if this concern for proper spelling, grammar,
usage, is in fact increasing or just noticeable to me because I've trained
myself to notice these things (in that vein, I've begun noticing that
contemporary novelists have begun having narrators comment on the
correctness of the language of characters in their fiction--showing a
conservative streak). I have attestations from early inhouse email users
(ie, before email went on the internet) that correctness was always already
an issue in the late 70s / early 80s.

any comments? am i out of my mind here, making up things that aren't there?
you can tell it's summer and i'm avoiding administrative work.

Dennis Baron, Head                               debaron at
Department of English                         phone: 217-333-2390
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.                                      fax:217-333-4321
Urbana, Illinois 61801

-----Original Message-----
From: Barnhart [mailto:ADS-L at HIGHLANDS.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 1999 9:16 PM
Subject: boring e-mails

Why do some folks think it so important to show up the other fellow
when he or she in haste slips in a misspelling?  I wonder if it's one
way of saying I'm smarter than you.  Is this not supposed to be a
learned group, theoretically above that sort of thing?  MY SUGGESTION
is that if so moved to e-mail someone about an error in spelling do it
quietly and directly without embarrassing anyone.  You just might get
more good will that way.

Sorry, but I just had to get this off my mind.

David K. Barnhart
barnhart at

More information about the Ads-l mailing list