Posted by Katie Sheridan
One night, I lounged on my couch and watched “That 70’s Show” on Nickelodeon. Since it was later in the evening, the programming had changed over to Nick at Night… Or more accurately, Nick @ Nite. As I attempted to focus on the show’s plot, I was distracted by words flickering at the bottom corner of my screen. I surrendered to my curiosity and found the words to be a promo for Nick’s upcoming premiere of the television show “Friends.” The promo would pose questions to the viewer in an attempt to stir up nostalgia for the show.
One of the questions faded in, asking, “Do you remember Ross’ sound?” and then faded back out.
I blinked. Was there a punctuation error in that small sentence? I waited for the promo to cycle through its questions and return to the quote of interest.
“Do you remember Ross’ sound?” I reviewed my English lessons and was certain that names ending in “s” still require ‘s when they are possessive. But maybe I was wrong. I snatched my computer and started researching. The website I found reported that including the “s” after the apostrophe for a name like Charles or Ross is not a universal rule. It stated that the key is to be consistent about one’s use of either an apostrophe or ‘s. Nick @ Nite had broken their consistency when they wrote “…Ross’s New Girlfriend” as one of the clips on the website.
I have always been interested in grammar, spelling and punctuation, and I’ve also always been good at using them correctly. When I was younger, I didn’t understand how other people could misspell words so often or disregard proper punctuation. But with so much distortion of language rules in our society, I realized the frustration of people without knacks for usage.
We see so much media writing during our daily lives that it can outweigh our education. Though there are many responsible media outlets that are meticulous about language rules, there are numerous media producers that aren’t as vigilant. Commercial writing can take more forms than educational writing can, especially when considering what the average person sees and reads each day. From books to television promos, the average person doesn’t stand a chance against the confusion of our language.
Many people learn about the rules of English when they are young, but rarely do people concern themselves strictly with these rules later in life. Many people forget the rules. And media like the Nick @ Nite promo or even the programming title of Nick @ Nite can cause their viewers to unconsciously lose their knowledge of language usage. Continuously seeing these little mistakes and inconsistencies makes grasping and retaining the elements of English that much harder.
There are so many misspellings in the commercial arena. Everyone is trying to be unique by spelling their product in an unconventional way. It gets to be too much. English is hard enough as is.
I think it is the media’s responsibility to deliver quality language to their audiences. That means not only double-checking but triple-checking for error, especially in short writing like promos. The media owes it to the audience that supports their business to help readers in their education instead of confusing them. Is innovative spelling affecting us? Are the mentioned punctuation errors too minute to affect viewers? Is it silly to worry about the media’s influence on our education and knowledge? Am I underestimating the common man’s daily interaction with education versus media or his ability to retain linguistic knowledge? Is it important for viewers, consumers and the average person to retain knowledge of English rules?