ESPN, Social Media, and the Fight for the English Language


Pretty Please, Hire a Proofreader

It’s not exactly news that social media has changed the way we use words. We type quickly and tersely, often eliminating all but the most necessary information. But are grammar and spelling a thing of the past? Far from it!  

As cell phones have evolved, so have our standards for textual communication. When text messaging first grew in popularity, character limits and numeric keypads were restrictive, and “textspeak” was all the rage. Parents were flabbergasted (and terrified) by their children’s nearly unintelligible messages, TV commercials jumped on the bandwagon, and people everywhere were declaring the impending death of the English language. However, as full keyboards and touch screens became the norm, textspeak, for the most part, went the way of the flip phone. English, as a language, is evolving, and textspeak holdovers definitely remain. But now that it’s just as easy to type out full words and sentences, none but the most common abbreviations have survived.

Today, grammar is seeing a renaissance. The internet is filled with Oxford Comma apologists, self-proclaimed Grammar Nazis, and people making a difference—one Wikipedia edit at a time. Sure the YouTube comments section is its own special hell, but, in general, people expect a certain standard to be upheld. This is especially true when it comes to businesses.

This brings me to my point, and, more specifically, my current beef with ESPN.

I get it. When you’re the largest sports media corporation in the world, it’s easy to let some errors slip by. But when you’re the largest sports media corporation in the world, you have the resources and staff to ensure that no errors slip by—especially in the form of updates that go out to the (literal) tens of millions of people who have downloaded your iPhone application. To be clear, I’m not complaining about misplaced commas or questionable compound modifiers. I’m not complaining about abbreviations or sentence fragments. We all understand how strict character limits can be, especially when you’re trying to get information out in a timely manner.

I’m talking about careless errors.

Misspelling a player’s name is NEVER acceptable. It takes seconds to Google and verify the spelling. However, you might be willing to excuse a misspelling in a complicated or uncommon name. Ndamukong? Sure. Keuchel? Yup. One might even forgive a misspelling due to unfamiliarity. But when you completely misidentify a starting NFL quarterback? That’s a problem.

Even in the case of a midseason call-up for the Seattle Mariners, this is still unacceptable.

OK, fine; names are hard. How about not taking the time to simply re-read a sentence before sending it out to thousands of people’s phones? That’s carelessness.

People expect a certain level of coherence. You can complain all you want about the destruction of the English language or the problems created by texting abbreviations, but your average Joe’s grammar skills are not the problem. Our media culture—from books and newspapers to TV broadcasts and app notifications—has always represented professionalism, especially with regard to writing.

If the largest sports media corporation in the world cannot be bothered to proofread the information it broadcasts, it’s a pretty sad statement on our standards as a society. Sure, you can claim that digital communication is ephemeral and print is dead, but that is a lazy argument for lazy people.

The bottom line: If you wouldn’t let it go to press, don’t press send.

Olivia is a Stanford University student and staunch defender of the Oxford Comma. She has served as a copy editor for the Los Angeles Zoo, the Stanford Daily, and Bleacher Report. She recently completed a communications internship with The Huntington Library. Olivia is currently interning with Stanford Athletics Marketing and the San Francisco 49ers, as well as writing for the sports section of the Stanford Daily.