Voices of youf

Someone close to Detroit’s mayor (Christine Beatty?) should tell him that the word “truth” doesn’t end in an “F” — and that’s the troof.

Neither does youth, with, teeth, death, health, wealth, booth or any of the other mispronounced words so commonly heard from those either without the education to know the difference or the interest in showing that they do.

I know, I know, vernacular allows for all kinds of mangling. But just as President George W. Bush, leader of the free world, contributes to his image as a confused boob by saying “nucular” when talking about what are either frightening or controversial issues dealing with nuclear science or weaponry, Kwame is surely leaving traces of backwardness in boardrooms and public appearances.

A small thing? Maybe. But with Detroit on blocks and all its wheels stolen, every move, every public and private contact by the city’s chief exec has to put the best possible face on the city to attract the assistance it desperately needs.

I’ve been thinking about this since reading a piece in The New York Times last month, headlined “What Corporate America Cannot Build: A Sentence.”

In opening his story, writer Sam Dillon tells of an e-mail received by R. Craig Hogan, head of the online Business Writing Center.

It read: I need help. I am writing a essay on writing I work for this company and my boss wants me to help improve the workers writing skills can yall help me with some information thank you.

Dillon cites a recent survey by the National Commission on Writing that found a third of blue-chip companies’ employees write badly, and that $3.1 billion a year is spent trying to remedy that.

Here’s another e-mail example quoted by Dillon:

I updated the Status report for the four discrepancies Lennie forward us via e-mail (they in Barry file) … However after verifying controls on JBL – JBL has the indicator as B ???? – I wanted to make sure with the recent changes – I processed today – before Murray make the changes again on the mainframe to ‘C’.

It was written by a California systems analyst to her boss.

So, you might ask, what do techies need basic writing skills for, anyway? Well, if you can confidently decipher what the previous message meant, I suppose you could argue that they don’t. But you can’t figure it out, and neither can I.

It’s simple: While we live in the electronic age, we still need words to get our message out. E-mail has become so standard for personal and business communication that the spoken word is heard less and less often between people. But one way or another, we have to use language.

Ask any editor about the quality of letters, writing samples and e-mail inquiries today, and you just may detect a tear forming in the corner of his or her jaundiced eye. Somebody’s letting kids out of high school without the ability to string words into even a short, clear sentence. They, somehow, are admitted to colleges and universities, many of which give them only a bit more training before turning them loose on unsuspecting but increasingly weary and wary prospective employers.

As a city and a nation, our standards suck — to use the vernacular. Even if we don’t approve of the shortcomings betrayed by everyone from our leaders on down to the kid applying for his first real job, we let them slide with a shrug of helplessness.

Please yall kin yall git wid it get wif me keep me real when I wrong and hep me when i right. i preciate it. Word.

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