The Death of Writing – and Why We Must Bring it Back to Life

I plop down on my couch after a long day of classes. I unlock my iPhone, open the News app, and start perusing the latest fashion and beauty articles. Finding one about Amazon’s most popular beauty products, I click on the story and scroll through the curated list until I come to a reasonably priced sunscreen, then click on the link. (It might be only March, but it’s never too early to be shopping for Memorial Day Weekend pool parties, am I right?) I immediately go straight for the reviews. One of them reads, “I do like this sunscreen a lot even though it contains a lot alcohol. I do not oppose to alcohol, and I am totally okay with alcohol in skincare product. But this one, i think, really has a lot alcohol lol. When I put it on my arm, I can smell it. However, at the same time, there is also a very nice citron scent, which i like a lot.”

What you have just read is a typical Amazon review. You might ask, What’s the big deal? This is nothing but a typical product review in which the reviewer is expressing her opinion on a popular, affordable sunscreen. Unfortunately, however, this review is only one of many examples of the glaring reality that the quality of writing is declining. This diminished quality of writing, for which we can thank the Internet, is tragic because it reflects carelessness and therefore can potentially affect one’s career prospects.

At first glance, you might think that there is nothing to worry about. “I have not seen a decline in writing skills among my students,” says Professor Lisa Page, Director of Creative Writing at the George Washington University. And according to an ABC News article by Joanna Stern, social media actually improves student writing in the sense that when people feel that they have an audience, they are motivated to write better.

While English 10 Honors teacher Madelyn Stephens agrees with this sentiment, she adds that it does not involve the same mentality and purpose. “When people have an authentic audience, they tend to excel because they want people to see how intelligent they are,” she elaborates. “Unfortunately it is now more socially [acceptable] to not spell things correctly.” Senior Victoria Centineo agrees. “I think social media has a large impact on the literacy skills and writing skills of this generation,” she says. “Yes, we may be reading more than ever, with the conglomeration of tweets, texts, and Facebook posts, but to what end? The posts or messages are often written with incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation.”

Unfortunately, careers will see the impact of the declining quality of writing. “If you are writing an e-mail to someone who might potentially hire you and you can’t identify grammatical mistakes, you’re not even [going to] get a response,” Ms. Stephens notes. Centineo adds, “It is much easier to write a tweet than it is to write a resumé for a job interview, so I think individuals are going to struggle in that category.” Librarian Kim Reakes Smith also adds that the freedom the Internet provides causes individuals to lose the ability to communicate clearly and concisely. “[Many fields] require strong communication skills,” she points out, and if an individual is unable to communicate effectively in writing, such as in collaborative projects, performance will be negatively impacted.

Despite all this, there is still hope. While there are many reasons the Internet has degraded the quality of writing, anyone can play up the skills the Internet has been able to foster in our generation. “Writers… are more open to a variety of word choice,” says freshman Emma Fugate. “In regards to fluency and voice, there has been an increase in improvement,” says Ms. Reakes Smith. “People are less hesitant to express themselves in media posts.”

This is a huge benefit because it allows us to be more open-minded and creative. “I think the Internet has improved quality of writing because I have friends who have blogs, and it’s really empowering because they are able to express themselves freely,“ says sophmore Arden Marini. ”I think there is much personal and intellectual growth that happens between high school and the end of college,” says Dr. Jane Osgood, who teaches IB English and World Religions.

So, in short, we as students are not doomed. (Which is great, because I shamelessly overuse “LOL” in my texts and emails to friends, and that is a privilege I would hate to relinquish.) If we know how to use the Internet’s vast variety of resources well, and continue to express ourselves, but with grace and professionalism, the skill of writing well will live on. It’s all about having a growth mindset. Dr. Osgood sums it up best: “It really stirs from the heart, in the development of confidence as a reader, and the development of confidence as a writer.”