Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wut duz this say bout me?

Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl) doesn't say as many silly things as some of the other language commentators who focus on usage rather than actual language systems. But anyone who gives a lot of advice on any topic will eventually offer up a gem.

From Jan Rosen's story about peevology (she doesn't use that term) a line from Fogarty.

'If I were hiring someone for a job and knew they were on Twitter, I'd go on there and look,' she says. 'I don't think anything gives you a sense of a persona like a Twitter stream. They're so short and off-guard ... you learn about a person's attention to detail and about their opinions and daily habits.'

Such faith in such little data.

I'm not saying that employers don't do this. I'm not saying that people don't make up their mind based on something as silly as Twitter. And I'm not saying that it's wise not to care.

I'm just saying that people who think such quick and lite posts say a lot about the writer are wrong.

That's right. I wrote <lite>. And I meant it.

Perhaps that ellipsis in the quotation is important. Maybe her claim is more nuanced and reasonable than this. I'll just pick on the idea as I found it. I'm not going to make up my mind about Fogarty on so little evidence.

via John McIntyre


  1. She was joined - in the article at any rate - by someone who actually said she found grammar errors to be worse then hate.


  2. The quip about the job search and twitter was prolly stupid. But I found the description by Rosen of what Fogerty's doing -- helping people improve their image, in a way -- to be helpful.

    Fogerty says,

    "Right or wrong, a lot of people will see you type 'thru' instead of 'through' and instantly dismiss any opinion you try to put out there."

    Doesn't "right or wrong" there get Fogerty off the hook a bit? Wishy: you type "thru" on your blog, and I take you perfectly seriously. But do it on your CV when you send me an application in three years and I'll probably toss it in the heap -- and not necessarily because I think you don't know how to spell thru/through, but because you certainly do... and in that light, in the context of an official job application, it becomes a somewhat juvenile stunt.

    Or... doesn't it?

    No wait: I'm the one doing the hiring here. I don't need to ask you're opinion. You're going in the heap (theoretically) because I set the rules for grammar when it comes to the job applications I'm reading. It's precisely like wearing flip-flops to a job interview. You can do it, and "ontotheologically" or whatever, it's not intrinsically "wrong"... but I mean, c'mon, this is the world we live in.

    At what am i getting here? Help me out.

  3. In that last sentence of my penultimate paragraph I meant to type, "its not intrinsically."

    Okay, Mignon?

    I've already got a job. :)

  4. but remember that in my post i say that people make up their minds based on silly things. that's true. and it's the world we live in.

    but just because people use it as evidence doesn't make it good evidence. if you want to hire someone to write standard and formal email and twitters then yes -- it's pretty good evidence of how they'd do.

    but if you want to hire someone to do anything else...

    arnold zwicky uses no caps in any personal email he sends out -- even when it's a serious email about a linguistic issue. but if you need to hire a linguist who has a good command of the language and who can write well and who does some very careful and extremely particular work, you can't do much better than zwicky.

    and you also meant to write "your opinion."

    but i don't think anything at all different about you or you're argument cuz of that.

  5. No -- I really meant to write "you're" opinion, to upset Mignon Fogerty.

    I don't know who zwicky is (though I like his name better than mignon's) -- but I know my brother refuses to capitalize anything in electronic communications. And he's awesome.

    I wonder if zwicky capitalized anything on his CV during the job interview process...

    (Really, I wonder. I'm not trying to make a case for anything here...)

  6. i'm sure i overstated the example using zwicky. it's really only the small handful of emails that he has sent when answering a question that i have as evidence. that and i think he mentioned it in a post or two.

    the point is -- expedience has it's place. and when appropriate it says nothing about intelligence or diligence. and on something like twitter expedience is absolutely appropriate.

  7. I just wish people would grasp the concept of register. I don't twitter, but if I did I would probably conform to the genre instead of twittering formally - which would be weird.


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