Use of English on PBS (was: Re: PBS responses)

Jane McGary
Wed, 25 Aug 2010 22:35:03 PDT
Lee Poulsen wrote,

>And even though I'd much prefer good English from native English 
>speakers (because it makes me wonder about how well English is being 
>taught or not being taught to our children as they grow up in places 
>like the U.S. or the U.K. or Australia-and it's easier to read and 
>understand!), I would still rather hear from them no matter what. I 
>would hate it if someone felt like they ought not participate on PBS 
>because they are poor spellers or are self-conscious about their grammar.

I agree with this completely, and I've been editing in English (and 
sometimes other languages) for more than 40 years, with an academic 
background in both conventional English language and literature, and 
in linguistics. I often suspect that people who have a lot of good 
information about plants hesitate to write about what they know 
because they're anxious about their language skills. No one should 
worry about this in the context of an e-mail forum; and if you know 
plenty but can't write, and would like to contribute to a print 
publication, they all have editors. Editors are not your high school 
English teacher: we share your goal of communicating and want to help 
you, not criticize you. Furthermore, spelling has nothing to do with 
intelligence in the broader sense. And as for "grammar," if the 
people you are communicating with can understand it (and not say "you 
can't say that" -- the linguist's asterisked example), it is 
grammatical enough.

English is the de facto language of world communication at this time 
(which makes me feel rather guilty), and one of the reasons is that 
it's remarkably easy to understand the language as produced by a 
minimally competent speaker or writer. There are both sociolinguistic 
and structural reasons for this.

So please write to us, in English or some other language whose 
writing system our computers can render, and we will be happy to hear from you.

Jane McGary

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