You might want to hold onto your drink while reading James Courter’s WSJ editorial on poor college-freshman writing. In the column, Mr. Courter weaves in examples of depressing student errors (e.g. “poultry excuse” and “halfhazard work”) that he attributes to those students infrequently seeing the words they want to say in print. While Mr. Courter’s piece focuses on freshman writing, I’ve seen the same errors with seniors’ papers.
I’m far from a grammar snob; I also do not claim to be a perfect writer. In fact, I’ve even been taken to task in comments sections when I’ve failed to follow the elements of style while critiquing the state of student writing. Yet, this issue is beyond split infinitives and parallel construction. Many American-born students turn in work at the level of a beginning ESL student.
But, what is the root of this problem? Electronic communication? Poor teachers? Grade inflation? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.