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English today isn't evolving, it's being abused

To the editor: Ammon Shea's case about the ever-changing English language is a little overused; who has not heard it several times before? ("Is English getting dissed?," Op-Ed, July 26)

I do hear the point; however, there is a different problem confronting us today rather than change: lack of effort. Mistakes and lack of knowledge are excusable (OK? Never!), but many people don't even try to use anything approaching good form or correct grammar.

And while change has indeed always affected the English language, it seems that digital communication has given rise to abuses on a scale never before seen.

Joseph McCarthy, Calabasas


To the editor: Shea overlooks this: The fact that the language changes over time is not an excuse for sloppy writing.

Clarity and precision in journalism are more important now than ever. Yet we regularly encounter reporters who think that "cohort" is a synonym for "colleague" or "accomplice." A cohort is a unit of Roman soldiers, or by extension a set of individuals being considered in an experiment or study.

Soldiers en masse can be referred to as "troops," but to say that "five troops have been killed" is absurd. "Manse" is not a literary word for "mansion"; it is a house occupied by a minister. "Anniversary" obviously contains the Latin stems for "year" and "turn," so "six-month anniversary" is nonsense.

"Comprise" does not mean the same as "compose." And the list goes on.

Let those of us who champion good communication skills remain steadfast in our resolve.

Rory Johnston, Hollywood


To the editor: I read Shea's article and have a slight quibble.

I don't disagree with Shea. I think English is a living language and is always changing.

What I find funny is that the examples he uses are all from newspapers. I remember one of the first things my high school English teacher stating was that the last place to learn good grammar is from a newspaper.

Bob Zaja, Riverside

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