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The media, especially television, has taken considerable flack over the years for the destruction of America's youth. Television, we are told, has contributed to the moral and intellectual breakdown of society as a whole. Just ask any English teacher in any school in the country. Children can't spell and have a poor grasp of correct grammar because of television (and other media).

There has been some help through the years. Manufacturers have incorporated spell-checking functionality into character generators. When word processing programs such as Microsoft Word are used to create CGs, there are both spell checkers and grammar checkers available. The problem is that there is a button called "Ignore" in both spelling and grammar checkers. If you didn't think that there was something wrong with the title of this month's column, you weren't alone. Microsoft Word said that there were no spelling errors. But there was a grammar error with Its. Its is commonly confused with It's and, in the above case, should be It's, but my editors at DigitalTV and I decided not to change it.

How about these sentences:

*The Air Force arsenal in Operation Infinite Justice consists of F-16's and F-18's.
*New York: Hi 80's, Lo 60's.
*Low 80's, partly cloudy, light wind.
*Prizes include: T.V.'s.

A Question Of Style

The problem, technically, is that 's means that something is possessive, not that it is plural (Let's forget that hi is really high and lo is really low). However, certain media outlets have decided that their style is to be technically incorrect, making them the scourge of English teachers nationwide. Who are these heathens of the airwaves who should know better? CNN, Fox News Channel, and ESPN. But they are in good company. The New York Times also puts an 's after temperatures÷it's the paper's "style."

Digital technology has made the creation of graphics and CGs easier than ever before, but technology is not a substitute for someone who knows how to read and write English. Who proofreads your CGs for your station's programs? Is your style to ignore what is considered correct usage? I'm sure that there are copies (plural) of both The Elements Of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook And Libel Manual somewhere in your news department.

Style aside, bad spelling and grammar is just wrong÷with it's being the most often misused word (it means it is as in "it's a wonderful day," not as in "the VCR and its applications."

Why You Should Care

While a few letters in your public inspection file regarding the operation of your station and your lack of spelling and grammar skills is nothing more than embarrassing, a newspaper article in your local paper is a bit more serious. Add to that a PTA or teachers' (plural possessive) association boycott and advertisers might start to take notice. And when advertisers hear the word "boycott," they get very nervous.

Imagine if a national teachers' organization held a press conference bashing CNN's bad use of grammar and the only response from CNN was "it's our style."

For years, parents and teachers have claimed that television was rotting the minds of children÷looks like they're right. Why should a child use correct grammar if CNN doesn't have to?