Saying “like” makes you sound dumb

I saw this on Boing Boing this morning and couldn’t resist posting it. “Like” is a verbal crutch, worse in my opinion, than “um.” Not necessarily real estate related other than the fact that good communication is a prerequisite.


This billboard advises you to stop using the word “like” as punctuation, on behalf of something called the Academy of Linguistic Awareness.

Link, Another Academy of Linguistic Awareness billboard

Courtesy of Boing Boing

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9 Comments

  1. Betty G. June 16, 2006 at 09:44

    Funny. The misspelling of “awar[e]ness” and bad sentence structure are tip-offs that this is, like, a joke. I still agree that misuse of like is like a plague. If you like these kind of linguistic issues, check out “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynn Truss. http://eatsshootsandleaves.com/

  2. Jim Duncan June 16, 2006 at 09:52

    Very true. I read that book last year and found it quite humorous, enlightening and occasionally depressing.

  3. Nate B June 16, 2006 at 12:24

    I would not agree with you guys. My father is a linguist so i get to hear alot of linguistic arguements. It serves a purpouse in the language such as people who say “uh” “and um” or just plain pause alot. It may not be correct according to prescriptivist ideas of the language, but people still understand what you mean which is the primary purpouse of language. Point is, this sounds more like something that would be posted by english teachers and writers, not linguists.

  4. Michael W. Dean June 16, 2006 at 12:29

    I agree with John F, this “academy” probably doesn’t exist. Google the phrase…The only other hit is another billboard on flickr.com, the one with the, like, um, the guy on it.

    I don’t mind “like” as punctuation, and I’m a grammar stickler. I write and proofread for a living. And actually enjoy it. But I agree with several other statements here: that language is fluid, that casual conversation has different rules than formal, that old foggies who had grammar beat into them with a switch have the most problem with this stuff.

    ….And also that because of the Internet, we are now seeing WAY more crappy writing. Some people say that the country is becoming less literate. I don’t think so, I think we’re just seeing more of it. It used to be that most writing we read was written by professionals and edited by professionals. Now most writing we see is written by anybody and edited by nobody.

    My main feeling on writing is if it is clear and conveys something useful. I’d take casual writing (or speech) with good flow and something to say over perfect Queen’s English that reads stilted any day.

    –Michael W. Dean

    “A language is a dialect with an army.”
    –Bill Bryson, in his book “The Mother Tongue”
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0380715430/sr=8-1/qid=1150475339/

    “Rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.”
    – Frank Zappa

  5. Pingback: Semi Truths » Blog Archive » I mean, like, basically

  6. Jim Duncan June 16, 2006 at 12:54

    Thanks for the comments.

    My feeling is that “like” detracts from the fluidity of the speech – both written and verbal. When I hear speakers depending on “like” or “um” I get the feeling that they are either unprepared or nervous (which is ok to a certain extent).

    I strive not to use verbal crutches when I speak – I want listeners to focus on my words and meaning (not that they mean that much) rather than on the unintended pauses. I was an English major and did write weekly editorials in college and couldn’t imagine ever writing “like” in this fashion.

    Much as with anything, there are some rules to the English language and I think that they should be followed. Of course, I also think that my daughter should have to diagram sentences in school.

    The value of the well-articulated thought seems to be deteriorating, much as OMG and LOL are making their way into our (childrens’) vernacular.

  7. TrvlnMn June 16, 2006 at 14:21

    Jim wrote:

    I was an English major and did write weekly editorials in college and couldn’t imagine ever writing “like” in this fashion.

    It’s awful enough to hear it spoken. I can’t begin to imagine actually having to read it (Unless of course it’s part of a character’s dialog in a piece of creative writing). Though I actively try to avoid it, I’m guilty enough of using “Um” and usually then it’s only because I’ve had the mental equivalent of a log jam, trying to process and express thoughts too quickly, where a sudden cessation of speach might cause listeners to wonder if I’d had a small stroke. 🙂

    Michael W. Dean wrote:

    And also that because of the Internet, we are now seeing WAY more crappy writing. Some people say that the country is becoming less literate. I don’t think so, I think we’re just seeing more of it. It used to be that most writing we read was written by professionals and edited by professionals. Now most writing we see is written by anybody and edited by nobody.

    Actually the one invention of the 20th Century most responsible for reducing literacy was the Television, it was the beginning of “passive entertainment” within the home.

    The internet is only responsible in that it highlights the effects of Television on literacy by providing a vehicle where people can communicate instantly in a written format, and unashamedly show off their lazy sloppy writing skills.

  8. Michael W. Dean June 17, 2006 at 01:03

    I like, LOVE TV. But then again, so do most illiterate “writers.”

    Here in Los Angeles you can’t walk into a coffee shop without seeing between five and twenty idiots with laptops writing movies and TV shows that will never be seen.

    I blame the program Final Draft for all the unproduceable scripts. It is the only media production utility that formats crap into something that looks as good as the real thing, at least if you squint while looking at the final output.

    It’s a damn elegant program. It’s the aspirin of software: It only does one thing, and does it very well.

    I have an eco-friendly idea to help deal with the housing crunch in San Francisco: Send all the unproduced scripts written here up to the Bay Area. Use them to produce a landfill jutting out into the Bay, then build on that.

  9. TrvlnMn June 18, 2006 at 16:17

    I enjoy television as well. However the device (not simply the content) is attributed to the decline in literacy rates. It’s passive entertainment and doesn’t require the same engagement that reading or listening to spoken words do. At least that was the point I was attempting to make.

    I used to work as support staff for one of the top 5 talent agencies out there so I’ve seen more than my share of crap screenplays, and a small chunk of those got made.

    Lazy writing occurs in that industry for a number of reasons:

    1) It’s Showbiz, everyone wants to be in it. Statistically speaking you’re going to end up with more than your share of semi-literate’s.

    2) It’s Showbiz, it’s not an industry that values writers. While as a writer you’re still, “above the line” you’re at the bottom of that food chain, and the Director’s gonna get all the credit/kudos anyway.

    3) A good chunk of those people who think they’re going to be in show biz are lazy, they aren’t prepared to give it their best effort, or don’t go into it with a full understanding of what it will demand, and that shows up in their writing. (and then assuming they do give it their best effort a: No one wants to read it, or b: They do read it and decide it’s too derivative.)

    Screenplays are never fun to read, even the well written ones. The analogy I’ve always used is that Writing a screenplay is more like shoeing a horse, whereas writing a novel or short story is more like painting (the classical renaissance type not the modern abstract stuff).