Friday, November 25, 2011...11:10 pm

Teenage burglar no more illiterate than journalism undergraduates shock…

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Seeking a suitable put-down for the teenage burglar who wrote “a disgraceful letter” to his victims as part of a so-called restorative justice programme, today’s Metro contemptuously brands it “an illiterate note”. I mean, what more can you expect from some hoodie scum who breaks in to people’s houses and then calls them thick?

I have bad news. His letter is not that illiterate.

In fact, his writing has many qualities I wouldn’t mind seeing in my journalism undergraduates.

Dear victim

I dont no why Iam writing a letter to you! I have been forced to write this letter by ISSp. To be honest I’m not bothered or sorry about the fact that I burgled your house. Basicly it was your fault anyways. I’m going to run you through the dumb mistakes you made. Firstly you didn’t draw your curtains which most people now to do before they go to sleep. Secondly your dumb you live in Stainburns a high risk burglary area and your thick enough to leave your downstairs kitchen window open. I wouldnt do that in a million years. But anyways I dont feel sorry for you and Im not going to show any sympathy or remores.

Yours sincerly

  • It’s clear – he makes his point directly and forcefully. You know what he’s getting at and the argument is sustained throughout.
  • It’s well-constructed – the points are logical and well-made (if reprehensible)
  • The sentences are short and to the point – just like journalism should be.
  • It’s colourful and has personality. Though not, to be honest, one I would actually want to meet.
  • There are two correct apostrophes and a capital letter used for the first-person singular.

Yes – plenty of spelling and grammar errors. But compare this to actual undergraduate journalism writing. Written by students who have A-Levels, and expect to get a degree in a language-based subject. Decent young men and women who, almost certainly, would not break in to your house if you left the kitchen window open (or at least would feel bad about doing so).

Here’s an extract considering the cultural and gender implications of eating certain kinds of confectionery:

Why is a piece of candy, or in the Queens English, a lolly-pop, considered to be a feminine treat?

For some reason, society and culture has persuaded our views towards certain items being considered more manly than others…

The pertcular Lolly that I chose was a drumstick. A chewy, suckulent and tasty option. But to a large chunk of the british population, having a stick hanging out of your mouth whilst shaking a cosmopolitian is rather homosexual.

It is unfair that men should have to refrain from eating certain things inorder to protect their image. They taste good, so eat them. Britain, sort yourselfs out and realise that this is the 21st Century!

Admirable sentiments – but plenty of the kind of spelling and grammar errors that would get the Daily Mail in a twist.

As for a recent assignment that sent students out into the streets of Middle England to film vox pops of local attitudes to Poppy Day – I have never seen so many variant spellings: “Rememberance day”; “Remberance day”; “Remeberance Sunday” – they’re all there.

So if you’re looking for an easy target for your righteous disapproval of the underclass, steer clear of educational attainment.

The depressing truth is that the level of grammar and spelling achieved by our young criminal is about par for the course for school leavers these days…

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