What are the primary argument/claims which David Wertheimer makes in the article “99.9% of Proper Grammar is Obsolete” from Digital Web Magazine?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Starting with the title, we can tell that David Wertheimer's article entitled "99.9% of Proper Grammar is Obsolete" published in Digital Web Magazine is a parody. A parody, of course, is a kind of satire, and in this case, Wertheimer is actually making a case that, despite the rules that not everyone understands and which most do not follow, having some universal grammatical standards does matter.

In the first line of the piece he refers to adhering to proper grammar as a "disease," and we later learn that by "proper grammar" he means every aspect of conventional writing, including such basics as sentence structure, periods, and capitalization as well as subject-verb agreement and the more elusive dangling modifiers. He proceeds to make his case that adhering to the outdated and overrated grammar rules is ridiculous and backward-thinking; not only that, most people cannot understand anything that is written using proper grammar.

Obviously, grammatical expertise wastes time and money. Neither commodity has been a necessity; civilizations have existed for centuries without formal sentence structure. Besides, these practices fail to solve a problem: Lots of people can't read at a collegiate level. Users are still locked out.

It is in everyone's best interest, therefore,  just to continue the trends of shortening, abbreviating, and eliminating as much language as possible.

In his section entitled "Forward Thinking," Wertheimer argues several things. First, writing in a grammatically correct manner is a waste of everyone's time and effort. Second, writing in this manner is not practical given today's modern methods of communication, such as AOL messaging and LiveJournal. [This article was written in 2002, and of course this case would be even stronger today, given texting, tweeting and other such communication tools.] In short, he is arguing that in the world of Internet communication, grammatically correct writing takes too long to read and write and should therefore be considered obsolete.

In the next section, "The Disease," the author argues that speed and efficiency matter more than grammar. Online readers are not any more impressed with correct (and therefore overblown) writing than they are with more direct (and therefore abbreviated and incorrect) writing. He satirically makes the case that if online readers and writers come to accept a kind of shorthand, there is no longer a need for complete sentences or even complete words. He claims that

Hi gl / ty gl2u2 / nr / gg

is much more effective communication than what it means: 

"Hello and good luck, my new friend." "Thank you, and good luck to you, too." "Nice roll." "Good game."

The internet, he claims, is becoming the place where "young Web-savvy kids and geriatric surfers" are already developing an abbreviated and ungrammatical language for use on the Internet, so the rest of the world should make the same adjustment.

The final section of the article is entitled "The Cure" and outlines ten principles which should be adhered to in order to streamline language and therefore decimate the riles of grammar. These principles will increase communication effectiveness and include eliminating periods, capitalization, and apostrophes; developing important standard abbreviations (though the example he gives is ridiculously unimportant); encourage alternate spellings (just because it is "kewl")--and "all without sacrificing beauty, performance, or sophistication," of course. 

Further Reading: