Yes, our language skills are declining, and, no, the process is not "reversible," as George Orwell posited in his 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language."
One hundred percent of readers who responded to my last column agree: We're going downhill, and there's no reversing the trend.
One reader wrote: "Our CEO sent an e-mail to our shop workers this morning about 'union due's.' Ugh. A local radio station posted something about 'you and I' over the weekend. It's rampant.
"I am appalled at the lack of knowledge. Didn't these people take English in school? You're, your; they're, there, their — it drives me crazy.
"Oh, and then there are the companies who advertise taco's and those who call their company Certified Pro's. I don't think it's reversible. The offenders don't care enough."
Maynard wrote: "Two years ago my wife and I attended a high school graduation in Phoenix, Arizona. The featured speaker was a prominent businessman. After a lengthy litany of [his] accomplishments, he began his speech; 'Me and my wife …'! At that point I lost all interest in what he had to say."
Maynard also wrote that someone told him, "Me and him are going on a ski trip to Colorado."
"I shudder when I hear poor grammar being used," Maynard wrote. "Is it that people don't care anymore, or is it becoming the norm to use such poor grammar?"
Jean wrote: "Me so glad you tackled the I and me problem. Here's a further thought: People say, 'A gift to you and I' or 'It's for you and I to use.' Would they say, 'A gift to I?' or 'for I to use'?
"I think I know the source: When they were kids, they said, 'Me and her is going to the movies,' at which point somebody corrected them and made them say, 'She and I.' They learned that me is an incorrect word and must be replaced with I in all cases. You and me know better, right?"
Jean also blames lack of correct pronoun case on teachers "who aren't correcting this usage and are probably saying it themselves."
David, a teacher, has a different take. "Perhaps another variable in play," he wrote, "is about 15 years or so ago many businesses adopted a casual dress code. If you recall, this quickly led to blue jeans and other forms of less-than-casual, i.e., sloppy, attire. Maybe our language usage has followed the lax standards of dress. Possible, I suppose; a psychologist could help us on that one."
David believes that the downward trend in language skills "was gradual for about 10 years or so" but "it is accelerating over the past couple of years." It pains him "because poor language skills are everywhere now."
Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.wilbers.com.