Quoting Illiterates (Update)

An email has flooded in about my previous post confirming that I was being too harsh. My correspondent points out that the mother was illiterate, she was just using “txtspk” which, whilst not being a dialect that many people enjoy reading, is still becoming an acceptable language amongst the young.

I don’t agree with this for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I accept that txtspk is a very common language amongst the young. But I think that an important part of being literate is knowing the appropriate language to use in different circumstances. And, in my opinion, using txtspk when talking about her son like that is inappropriate. To me it shows a lack of respect. I accept that not everyone will agree with me.

But secondly, let’s look more closely at what she wrote. The quotation I used was “RIP my lil angel mummy knows your still here love u always and foreva”. Some of those errors (“lil”, “u”, and maybe even “foreva”) are clearly txtspk so we’ll ignore them. But “your” isn’t txtspk (that would be “ur”, as I understand it) and it’s not good English. She means to say “you’re”. Mixing up homonyms like “you’re” and “your” is what marks her out as illiterate.

Maybe she isn’t illiterate. Maybe she’s just sloppy. But when all you know about someone is their writing, then you’ll obviously judge their level of literacy by what they have written. To me, it’s important that my writing gives as good an impression of me as possible. It seems that other people aren’t as bothered about first impressions as I am.

By the way, I enjoy getting feedback on my blog in any form. But the best way is to add a comment. That way all of the conversation takes place in public.



The BBC has a worrying report on levels of literacy in the UK

Bedtime stories are proving a struggle for many parents who are not confident readers, says a survey from adult learning agency Learndirect.

More than 10% of the 1,000 parents asked had struggled to understand some words in the stories they had read to their five to 10-year-old children.

One in ten parents if having trouble reading stories aimed at five to ten-year-olds. Not reading a broadsheet newspaper or government forms (both of which would be worrying but not entirely surprising) but reading children’s stories.

The survey comes from Learn Direct who obviously have an agenda here as they sell adult literacy courses. But if you think about the people who you come into contact with in your day to day life then you’ll know that they’re really aren’t exaggerating the problem.

Depressingly they also say

Even more parents – a third – struggled with their children’s maths homework.

The last two paragraphs in the BBC report sum up the report’s findings and, handily, demonstrate the problem

The report said that five million adults lacked functional literacy and more than 17 million had difficulties with numbers.

More than one in six youngsters left school unable to read, write or add up properly, said the report.

It’s not exactly illiterate, but it could have been phrased a lot more elegantly.


Double Negatives

If there’s one time in your life when it pays to be very careful about what you’re saying, then it’s when you’re answering questions about crimes that you have been accused of. You know, there’s that whole “anything you say will be taken down and can be used in evidence against you” thing going on.

So it’s depressing to read what Yasemin Vatansever (one of the girls who has been caught smuggling drugs out of Ghana) has to say for herself. At the end of a barely literate phone conversation, the BBC quotes her as saying:

We don’t know nothing about this drugs and stuff.

Which, when you think about it, is about as good a confession as you can hope for.


Agents Can’t Read

Not that anyone is going to be surprised by this, but it seems that a number of recruitment agents have problems with basic reading skills.

This morning I got three emails from agents containing details of potential jobs. In two of the three cases they were actually quite good matches for my skills. But, of course, I’ve just started a three month contract at the BBC and I’m not looking for work right now.

To make life easier for agents (and, in theory, myself) I maintain a web page which has up to date information about my current availability and the list of skills that I’m interested in using. The theory is that an agent will have the address of that page in their database and they’ll check it before contacting me about work. That way they don’t waste their time contacting me unnecessarily and I don’t waste my time replying to their email.

So I wrote back to all three of them pointing out that I wasn’t available and giving them the address of this useful page. I’ve just heard back from one of them who said:

Thank you for getting back to me. Anything changes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Well no. Did you even read my email? The point is supposed to be that I don’t need to get in touch with you when my circumstances change. When my circumstances change I’ll update the web site and the next time I come up in the results of one of your searches you’ll check the page and see that I’m now looking for work.


I swear that one day I’m going to snap and spew so much bile about recruitment agents all over this blog that none of them will ever deal with me again. Hopefully I can hold off from doing that until I’m rich enough to never have to work again :-)

Update: Just got a reply from one of the other agents. As I mentioned above, my email to them pointed them at a web page where they can always get my latest CV. This new reply simply said:

Please send word doc cv Thanks

My web page does has the CV in a number of formats. Including a Word document.