Designers should ignore the rules of grammar at their peril – but the next generation of designers seem determined to do just that.

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Initially, I decided to write this column single-mindedly supporting the art of spelling and grammar – something that seems to elude graphics and arts students the world over. Yet, hunting around for a few pithy opening quotes, many of the great and good seem quite relaxed about the whole concept of art and good copy. 
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Mark Twain, for instance, famously wrote: “I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.” George Eliot, in Middlemarch, was equally scathing: “Correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays.”
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Quite. Yet for all the huff and puff about letting people get creative with spelling and ignoring correct English usage, designers who sidestep the conventions of grammar are in for a rough time. 
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Admittedly, grammar is a tough discipline – as the American essayist E B Write once wrote: “English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgement, and education – sometimes it’s sheer luck, like getting across the street.”
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I’ll admit to not having paid too much attention to grammar at school myself – rules governing i before e (except after c) proved too random in the real world, and when I split infinitives, I intend for them to stay split. Sometimes, this means I write something that could have come from the pen of Yoda, but the rules of grammar are vital to digital design in all its forms.
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The abrasive relationship between grammar and graphics resurfaced for me as I leafed through the hundreds of student work submissions that arrive for publication in Digit. 
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Too often, aspiring designers rank copy and spelling on a par with picking up discarded gum and eating it – you’d only do it if you really had to. The result is that some excellent pieces of work – with lavish attention to visual detail and astounding layers of depth – are rendered useless because of poor spelling. 
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With typography entwined with creative output, young designers seem to focus more on the interplay of letter shapes than the actual structure of the words and phrases themselves. In one swoop, the professional sheen is tarnished, and their project consigned to the bottom of the heap.
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Which is a damn shame – but does it really matter? Maybe we should let go the rigid rules and regulations that bind us to words, and encourage language and its use to evolve. 
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Schools and universities are increasingly pressured by a bored industry to reward students who create unique, rule-breaking work. Professional designers certainly shy away from the bland, conformist work of their peers – and are often hailed as visionaries for their insight.
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And, with the new generation of designers wooed on txt messages and email slang (such as ‘pwned’ for ‘owned’, and 111!11!! instead of the humble exclamation mark), language is changing more rapidly than ever before.
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Personally, I’m in two minds. Correct usage not only ensures that you get your message across (we actually do communicate with words), but shows an attention to detail that will serve you in your professional life. Yet, maybe a little rule breaking is in order. You choose!!11!!1111ONE.
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