wotz da big deal cuz u kno wot i mean

Tomorrow is National Grammar Day in the United States.

I thought I would share some real examples of email communications that I have received over the last 12 months from first year college students.

Please know my intention is not to poke fun at my former students. I respect them and see so much growth during the course of one semester. But I am ashamed of our nation’s education system because I receive communications from students that are peppered with errors like this all of the time. It’s time to pay attention to our children. If we don’t teach our kids to be solid writers, if we don’t give them the skills they need to read and write masterfully, they aren’t going to be competitive in this world which is becoming increasingly reliant on professional international communications.

7 Things That Can Interrupt Solid Grammar

1: Illness

2: Desperation.

3: Pushing SEND too quickly.

4: Contraception.

5: Music.

6: Missing the bus.

7: TMI

Which one is your favorite? Do you think this is funny or sad? Do me a favor, will ya? Show me your grammar skills. Pick one of these messages and fix everything that’s wrong with it. Make it pretty. Please?

72 thoughts on “wotz da big deal cuz u kno wot i mean

    1. Really, you find it makes you laugh? When I taught ninth grade (15 years ago), these kinds of errors would have made me cry. My students weren’t making these kinds of errors.

      I’m convinced texting is interfering with their brains.

      1. If I don’t laugh, I will cry! I completely agree – texting has a lot to do with it. Also, many of my students rush and don’t proofread anything. The worst is when we have worked on pre-writing and drafting, yet the final paper is still atrocious. 🙁

        1. I don’t think students understand that REVISE means see with new eyes.

          I had a teacher who made us write a two page paper, then condense it to a one page paper, then to a paragraph, then to a single sentence.

          That exercise made me think about how important it is to get students away from their original drafts and really REWRITE. Otherwise, they just cling to their original (atrocious) drafts.

          We don’t want them to just correct tiny things; we want them to see their topics with new eyes.

          But yes, we’d also like them to hit spell check and grammar check. Pretty please?

      2. This. Oh God, this. Many of my college classmates have JUST graduated from high school and they can barely spell. It’s worrying. And scary and yes, I blame texting.

        These kids can fire off a text message in a nano-second but don’t take the time to spell check their work And then they get upset and indignant when they fail assignments.

        Last semester, I stupidly offered to proof-read essays. Never again.
        When THREE classmates failed our first essay, guess who they blamed? Yep. Me. Not themselves, the ones who left an essay worth 30% until the night before and got ALL of their information from the mighty Google (Library, they said? What?).

        They blamed ME for not catching enough of their errors. Catch that? Not catching ENOUGH of their mistakes to earn a passing grade.

        Sad, sad, sad.

        This semester, I gently redirect my classmates to the Resource Centre, where paid professionals can tell them that they suck. I’m done.

        1. Exactly. I’m actually glad you wrote this. I was starting to think this is strictly an American thing. Leanne had me thinking I wanted to move to Canada immediately.

          Which I’m not against. Especially with smart folks like you over there. 😉

          But yeah. Let those people fail on their own.

  1. Saying this is funny is an understatement! I loved it.

    “Hello, I embarrassingly have a UTI” And SO?!? LOL What is this? Confession time?

  2. I wonder how many mistakes stem from automatic spell corrector on smart phones… Yesterday I sent, er—GOT, a text wishing me a happy Thigh Day. Speaking of which, I vote for #3. 😉

    1. August, was it your birthday? Or were you doing something for your thighs? I simply must know! I can’t help you with #3. I can only say this: that student didn’t make it through the semester.

      I think it is because she got “citied” a lot.

    1. Believe it or not, I actually knew what this person was getting at. is a plagiarism detection program that I was using. Students had to submit their papers and receive a written report and print it out for the following class. If parts of their paper are plagiarized, they show up in red and indicate where the source material came from.

      The student was telling me that was indicating she got her information from four different sources.

      Which basically meant this person had plagiarized.


      Not the sharpest tool in shed. 😉

  3. I’m not sure which I like better, siting a reference or having citited. . . .

    You’ve hit one of my hot buttons here, Renee. I’ve thought for years it was a shame what poor grammar instruction our kids receive. Actually, this has been going on so long, I’m almost surprised someone your age knows or cares about it. Keep hammering on it.

  4. I’m with Paige! I teach junior high school English, and I try to teach them grammar. They come in at the beginning of the year swearing they’ve never heard of an adjective. Can we turn grammar into a video game? Preferably one with guns and/or cars.

    1. Okay, I’m getting serious here because I have 7th grader. They teach grammar and then they stop teaching grammar. They teach it, and then they stop. The attitude is very much: “You should have learned this is 4th grade!” Bottom line, they aren’t ready for these abstract concepts until later. But by then, teachers want them to write longer essays. And they are awful to read. So everyone has to slow down.

      We need to reinforce parts of speech EVERY year. We have to make sure they know how to use their commas EVERY year. We need to make sure they know hos to use punctuation and capitalization EVERY year.

      Problem is, now we have all this standardized testing, so there is isn’t a lot of time to do all this stuff. Teachers are cutting what I would argue is necessary in order to prepare students for tests. And THAT is a travesty.

      I give my college students online quizzes from Diana Hacker. I tell them to pretend they are really slow video games — with words. Maybe you are onto something. Maybe we could have them shoot the sentence fragment. Or blow up the run on sentence. Do you think we could develop an app for that?

  5. Those are a little depressing! I can’t believe what people think they can send these days. My “favorite?” The birth control one – seriously – WTH is she thinking sending such TMI to her teacher!?

    1. THANK YOU!

      And I didn’t mean to shout, but seriously! Do you catch the excuse making? I have to tell you. I would never have dreamed of skipping a class in college unless I was deathly ill.

      I honestly think I missed ONE class in four years. Maybe two.

      Missing the 10:30 bus? How about getting there earlier! Missing because you NEED to get new contraception? Whaaaat? Missing because “I am not a morning person”? Whaaat?

      What have we done to our children?

    1. Honestly, I think we are there. Grammar is to civilized society as frogs are to the environment. When frogs start growing five legs, we’ve know we’ve got problems. When the grammar starts falling apart…

      Just sayin’.

      You are preachin’ to the choir.

      But how to change this? How?

    1. I love that you are still in touch with your former teacher. I am still in touch with a few of my former students. Some of them comment here from time to time, which I especially love.

      And I especially love when they use their best grammar. 😉

      It’s nice to meet you! I’ll have to get over and check out your place!

  6. Hilarious!

    Suddenly, I am very relieved I teach at a private school that has a select intake (i.e. admissions test). Wowzers, Renzay. Tell me these are rare.

    I went through my emails and here are my last 2 from students (I deleted the paragraph breaks but they were there).

    (1) Hello everyone. I am sending this e-mail in regard to a virus e-mail which says to click a link to read the message. It is a virus which will send the e-mail to everyone in your contacts list. Please do not open it and delete it immediately.Thank you all for your attention and I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this might have caused.

    (2)Hi Ms.Shirtliffe, If it is not your turn to write the personal response for your book club, what happens if you can’t reply to a forum post because there is no new response? That might not make any sense.. what I mean is that since I have been away for every book club meeting, I never know when someone in our group posts the response for that meeting. I’ve been checking moodle quite often and there is still no response, therefore I cannot reply. Will I lose marks by lateness if I haven’t posted anything as a reply? (Because I can’t!)

    The first one is a 9th grader, the second one an 8th grader.

    Thanks for reminding me of reality. I’m in a bit of a bubble. 🙂

    1. Leanne:

      Alas, this is not as uncommon as I would like. That said, I teach at a community college, which is the great melting pot. It is the place where students who haven’t excelled have a chance to try to figure things out.

      They do grow.

      But I remember teaching in a private school setting.

      You are in a fabulous bubble.

      I wish more Americans could afford to live in that bubble.

  7. Aw hun, I see how this could be seen as funny, but it made me sad and sick. With some of the above entries, I don’t even know where to start. It’s as if they require remedial work. Sigh. Good on you for the work you do.

    1. Hi Sydney.

      Honestly, we all make mistakes from time to time.

      But so few people seem to proofread at all. So if you promise that you are going to start to pay even a little more attention to the way you communicate with other people — in essays and via email…

      Le sigh.

      Well, I’m feeling better about the future. 🙂

  8. I’m not a teacher. I am a reader. When I was still able to work I saw a lot of stuff. We had people writing reports. They’d get to me, and I’d have to rewrite them.

    It wasn’t just the younger people. Some of these people were my age (I’m 55).

    Are things worse? I don’t know. I do know that a majority of the population has issues with grammar.

    Now I’m going to toss some gasoline on the fire. One of my interests is the history of language. Did you know that after the Norman Conquest that written English was replaced by written French?

    For three hundred years English wasn’t used. When the English crown abandoned the use of French after loosing the continental territories, and began using English as the everyday language of the court, the language had changed. Grammar which had been relatively stable for several hundred years (from the Anglo Saxon invasion until the Norman invasion) suddenly shifted dramatically.

    Grammar is a living thing. It changes. Go read Tom Sawyer, and compare it to Harry Potter.

    The problem is making sure that what you write is readable.


    1. I know. I know.

      But this evolution feels like a devolution.

      And everyone has to agree with the shift.

      I’m not averse to the wonderful fluidity of language. As a writer, I embrace it! It allows me to create new words all the time. But when I’m feeling teacher-ishy (see, I just made up a word), I kind of want to bite off my toes when I see this stuff in my students’ writing. Because they are not being careful. This are not intentional errors. There was no Conquest.

      Unless you are implying that all is lost…

      1. Not implying all is lost, I’m just wearing my futurist hat, and coming up with weird answers. Have you read Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter? I’m half way through it, and it is giving me ideas.

        Yes, I know. That’s dangerous.

        I’m putting bits and pieces of that book together with Swarm Theory, Disruptive Technologies, Six Degrees of Separation, The Small Earth Theory, and my feeling as a Futurist is that a confluence of factors is driving rapid evolutionary change in English Grammar.

        Evolution isn’t neat. Never has been, never will be. At one time there were ten species of Homo Sapiens in existence at the same time. Now there is only one, Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The others died out.

        So what you are seeing could be considered evolutionary explorations which could be dead ends, like Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis (though technically Neanderthals didn’t die out, Europeans have a good bit of Neaderthal DNA, and I could be mistaken for one in a dark alley).

        The most important things are:

        1) Is the person is able to communicate?
        2) Can they translate speech to text?
        3) When they translate text to speech are they able to retain the same meaning?

        All of your examples were able to communicate. A couple of them were less than clear, but they did manage to communicate their problems. In couple of cases, well, TMI.

        I wonder if you took some really bad email messages, and asked your class to critique them? It might get them looking at their own writing. I know that I wasn’t aware of how bad my own grammar was until I started reading my own stuff. If you don’t realize there is a problem, you can’t work to fix it.


        1. “I wonder if you took some really bad email messages, and asked your class to critique them? It might get them looking at their own writing. I know that I wasn’t aware of how bad my own grammar was until I started reading my own stuff.”

          I am addressing this part of your post because I’m tired. I have done this, and my students responded favorably to the exercise. I never used current ones. I have so many emails like these, there is no shortage. Like I said, they do improve over the course of the semester, but this kind of correspondence is below what I would consider a 7th grade level. And all I can say is it goes deeper than this. These are simply emails. I need students to read complex texts and synthesize the material to create thesis statements. Can they do that? Um, no.

          1. These are simply emails. I need students to read complex texts and synthesize the material to create thesis statements. Can they do that? Um, no.

            I couldn’t do that at one point. It takes work. I trained myself. Your students are lucky, they have a dedicated teacher.

            Of course they have to take advantage of the teacher’s skills. There will always be those who give up. I’ve done that too 🙂


  9. The cross between texting and the abbreviations used in computerized communication is really taking a toll on what people think is appropriate. It`s crept from personal communications between friends (luv u, BBL etc…) to the work/college environment and people don`t realize formal communications should be grammatically correct. My theory. As flawed as it might be.

  10. Unfortunately, I can’t blame texting. I’m sure it’s changed how/why some of the grammar is awful, but it is definitely nothing new (maybe easier to do through sending on cell phones though!).

    I’m near 30 and I remember the same thing someone else mentioned above – HS teachers thought students would have learned it earlier but they didn’t and a crash course in pronouns, etc wasn’t going to work. When we had to exchange papers in college and critique/edit them, nobody made any changes on mine but I would mark their paper up completely! I had hoped writing had improved since I graded papers as a TA in HS – no such luck. To this day, I see former classmates post on facebook and cringe and the spelling errors.

    I text with some abbreviations but it’s still predominantly in proper English! I’m sorry. If I were you, I would overfill some e-mail inboxes and kill a lot of red pens. Maybe you should not accept e-mail excuses unless they are in proper English, for starters. They might learn at that point, right?? 🙂

    GOOD LUCK! And thank you to my mom for being the kind of person who would write to our local newspaper when they had grammatical errors.

    1. Katie, I’m 14 years older than you — and those were obviously the years where some major changes were made in terms of education. The emphasis shifted to whole language in those years. Spelling and grammar didn’t matter. It was much more important that you express yourselves. Errors be damned.

      Guess what? Not true.

      *head desk*

      Why do you think your grammar is so solid? Who helped you to understand noun/pronoun agreement? Was it mainly your mother? My son hates when I look at his papers, but I don’t think anyone is teaching him about commas.

      My students don’t like to peer edit, but they get into it as the semester moves along. That said, you are right; they don’t catch 1/8 of the errors I do. I think you and your peers weren’t really taught. You think you were, but you weren’t — an entire generation. And that is sad.

      And you can’t fix what you don’t know.

      1. Between my mom and my love of school/learning, I lucked out. Also, I had a unique experience of attending a one-room school in my elementary years which gave me a very unique education (yes, even at my age!). I think it made a huge difference.

        Peer edits were definitely . . . rarely helpful. As you say, you can’t fix what you don’t know, but you also can’t force someone to fix what they don’t care to fix! I *wish* it was taught much more thoroughly in school, that’s for sure. I was going to be a teacher (English), but decided I couldn’t handle the educational system. It’s a tough job!

  11. I’m laughing and shaking my head, and then laughing some more. You can be sure that I will be monitoring my children’s grammatical progress, oh my yes!

    I had a stint teaching 5th grade (English, Social Studies, the works), and I was already a little horrified with some of the selections. A lot horrified, really. And I had one student argue with me that her incorrect use of “to” was correct. Oy gevalt.

    I’m wowed by the TMI (4&7) and the excuse-making. Someday these people will be employed, and then I’m thinking the “not a morning person” excuse is just not gonna fly.

  12. Looks like a lot of them were sent from a smart phone. Too bad their phone doesn’t have smart grammar. I love how you posted the last one as an example of TMI. I thought a lot of them had TMI. LOL

    Dear Ms. Jacobson,

    You are the most smartest teacher blogger eva. I really lick your clas. Pleez let me keep commening.


  13. This is one of the reasons why I chose to become a math teacher. =)

    Most of the time, the longest sentences I get are “I guessed” or “IDK.” I remember one year teaching my students how to spell “guessed” correctly because I got tired of seeing it butchered.

    You have my utmost respect.

  14. #4) Looks like this could be corrected more than one way. We could go with, “the one I have makes me sick so, therefore, I’ll…” if she wants to convey what will happen next as a result of her illness. We could also go with, “the one I have makes me sick (so therefore, ill)” if she is assuming you don’t know what sick means, and wants to provide more information.

    Perhaps, more importantly, she should consider changing to a college that offers free birth control that is more to her liking. But not Georgetown Law School.

  15. Whereas there were plenty of times I felt I was crappy for cutting class and had problems with my BC pills, I never admitted it to my teacher! My, how you bring out uncensored honesty in your students! However, I would recommend voicemail as an alternative method of communication for all of them.

    1. Wouldn’t that imply that I would have to have follow-up conversations? I’m against that in college. Not because of grammar. Just because… um it’s college. People need to figure things out! Seriously, how many times did you call your professors? 😉

      I’m guessing ZERO!

  16. Another amazing someecard that I can only assume was also created by you 🙂

    These make me feel both sad and amused. I’m tempted to correct them all, but worried I would miss something and you would give me a Fail [At Life]. Number 3 seems to be the worst, but the Bob Marley one makes me sad. It’s so short, and yet…

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