A colleague on Facebook posted a graphic the other day. As we all know, graphics on Facebook fall into one of several categories: they’re funny, they’re sappy, or they’re of cats in peculiar poses with pigeon-English captions (“kitteh can has cheezburger”).
The fourth category is thought-provoking. The graphic my friend posted belongs here, sort of. It’s titled “Grammar Matters,” and it displays the most popular searches that start with “how can u” (“how can u get herpes” tops the list, followed by numerous other diseases transmitted by the most intimate of contact). This is compared to the most common searches starting with “how can an individual.” Results include “how can an individual impact the course of history,” “how can an individual make a difference” and “how can an individual affect society.”
The inference is that those who use the grammatically proper “an individual” in place of the shorthand non-word “u” have higher aspirations. Or at the very least, their worldly learning is not limited to safe bedroom practices.
Since I don’t believe anything I read online, I tried out this experiment on my own. I got similar results. Then I tried something else. I began a search with “how can we.”
Want to guess the top four results? I got “how can we stop global warming,” “how can we help the environment,” “how can we save water” and “how can we stop bullying.”
I’m not dismissing the importance of grammar. Of course grammar matters. I make a living based on this credo, so you won’t get any argument from me. (Case in point: I hate that many, many question marks are missing in the aforementioned Google searches.)
However, I think this little demonstration proves that inclusiveness also matters. Just by substituting the word “we” in place of “I,” by thinking of us all as a single force working together, our focus changes from personal hygiene to saving the world.
The two are not mutually exclusive. I recommend you strive for both wherever possible.