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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:12 pm 
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Punkers, I need your help on this.

On an application (for a post-doctoral education program), a candidate writes a personal statement using all lowercase "i"s. Such as "When i went to the store, i bought bread." The candidate was born in a non-English speaking country. Is this an example of just being lazy, writing at the last minute, and not capitalizing the "i"s like often happens when chatting or posting online? Alternatively, is this an example of someone who struggles with the English language and should just be given a break? Please advise.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:22 pm 
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does this person capitalize other proper nouns? if it's the case with every single "i," i doubt that it's just a case of being lazy or rushed; if this person knew that the pronoun should have been capitalized, i imagine he or she would have managed to make it happen at least once.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:40 pm 
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The only time the "i" is capitalized is when it is at the beginning of a sentence. There is a school name, but it is abbreviated in all caps (usually this should be written out the first time). Additionally, the city name is abbreviated (ex: LA, NYC) instead of written out. There are some proper nouns that are capitalized that don't need to be and are not capitalized at other points in the same essay - for these particular nouns it is not that unusual to have them capitalized, it was probably just to make them stand out, even though it is incorrect. There are a couple minor typos. Aside from these issues, the actual writing is at a very high level.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:59 pm 
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rules about capitalization vary from one language to another, so it could easily be a matter of trying to do what's "proper" in the more familiar language. if i'm remembering correctly, "i" is never capitalized in spanish. and i guess if you learn english in a program that emphasizes conversation over writing, those parts of written english that you can't hear when you're speaking might not be highlighted, or maybe they wouldn't even come up. i mean, it matters more if this candidate would be in a program that involves a lot of formal writing, or if he or she would be instructing other students in any sort of writing.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:35 pm 
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As far as I know, English is the only (one of the few?) language where the first person singular pronoun is systematically capitalized. But as an ESL student, you learn that very, very early on. If the rest of the writing is of high standard, I would judge the candidate as you would judge a native speaker with an equivalent command of the language. If their grasp of English is good, it's sloppy work not to capitalize and abbreviate properly. If their grasp of English is poor, it's sloppy work not to have an important application proof-read by a native speaker.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:33 am 
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I remember the first time I had to write something formal in English, and my mind went blank and I thought that we were doing it wrong in school by capitalizig all the "I"s. So I wrote the whole essays with small "i"s, and it was an honest mind blank mistake.
If the rest of the essay is good, I'd give him a chance.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:12 am 
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aelle wrote:
As far as I know, English is the only (one of the few?) language where the first person singular pronoun is systematically capitalized. But as an ESL student, you learn that very, very early on. If the rest of the writing is of high standard, I would judge the candidate as you would judge a native speaker with an equivalent command of the language. If their grasp of English is good, it's sloppy work not to capitalize and abbreviate properly. If their grasp of English is poor, it's sloppy work not to have an important application proof-read by a native speaker.

I agree with these both entirely.
If the person is applying for a post-doc program, they've likely had to include some sort of English test (TOEFL) and had to put in significant amounts of time studying.... anyone who's studied English learned "I" in the first or second lesson (I'd be more lenient about capitalizing nationalities or days of the week, but even the most basic learner knows "I"), and it's simply just sloppy and shows lack of dedication.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:56 am 
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Anek wrote:
If the rest of the essay is good, I'd give him a chance.

I concur.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:59 pm 
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vijita wrote:
Anek wrote:
If the rest of the essay is good, I'd give him a chance.

I concur.

Yeah, me too, especially since you say the writing is at a high level it's just grammatical stuff that's giving you pause.

I do think it's a good idea native speakers could proofread application stuff for others but I'm not sure it's always possible--they may not be in touch with such a person who's available...I mean, I dunno this guy's situation so just sayin' while I think it's a good idea, I wouldn't necessarily assume such help is always available to a person.

I mean, some of the non-native English-speaking residents and fellows at the teaching hospital where I work couldn't produce a grammatically correct email to save their lives and meanwhile, they're splitting atoms in their labs and working on curing cancer and devising new innovative medical procedures and stuff...

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:29 am 
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Thanks for all the input. It looks like he is not going to get an interview anyway, for other reasons, so I guess it doesn't matter what I thought. My husband is a non-native speaker and he has me proofread his stuff. But yeah, not everyone has that opportunity. However, re-reading the piece, it really looks more like not being careful than anything else. I wouldn't have known he was a non-native speaker by reading the essay. I only knew (or think I know) because of the country of birth which is on the application. But yeah, other faculty have vetoed his application for unrelated reasons, so I won't have to worry about making the appropriate call or not.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 6:54 am 
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To be fair, native speakers should have someone proof their resumes/applications and such as well- it just seems so odd- as even a spellcheck would catch that.
I'm glad you didn't have to decide, in any case.

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