It’s only words and words are all I have

Last Sunday, I was enjoying a rare moment of relaxation reading the newspaper whilst listening to the radio.  There is something about both the written and spoken word which is quite special and should be savoured.  It was therefore unnerving to read Jeremy Clarkson’s piece (‘Pah to apostrophes!’) that day on why we should not get all worked up about grammar and that we should get rid of the alphabet altogether.

Yes, of course, he was being provocative although he did have an interesting argument in that we instinctively understand what people mean to say even if there are erroneous apostrophes or we get an abbrvtd txt mssg.  Furthermore, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

This may work for the written word, but not for the spoken one.  Radio listeners love engaging, interesting speech and newspaper readers love engaging, interesting articles.  It may not be surprising that listeners to speech radio are far more likely than the population as a whole to also read newspapers.  BBC Radio 5 live and talkSPORT listeners are both twice as likely to read a daily newspaper compared to other listeners.  Analysis of NRS data also shows that there are relationships between Guardian readers and BBC Radio 3 & 4 listeners, and between the Telegraph and Classic FM, for example.  Interestingly, listeners to Absolute Radio also have an affinity with all daily newspapers.

So, words should be treasured, whether in newspapers or on the radio, but of course, language is dynamic and evolving.  We speed things up because we live in a much faster-paced world where we try and communicate in 140 characters or less.  Actually, that should say fewer, but do we care?  You knew what I meant.

John Carroll is Senior Director in Ipsos MediaCT  (@MediaCarroll)