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bigstockphoto_Dear_John_621861For several weeks each year, I work for a company that buys used textbooks. I must evaluate the condition of each book and frequently find papers tucked inside its pages. Based on the assignments that slip into my lap (as well as the nearly-new condition of the English literature and composition books that I buy) I’ve come to the conclusion that few students actually read.

As a result, they often have hilarious notions of how the written language represents what they hear.

One young man wrote an essay on being charged with a “mister meaner.” Another blamed “inclimate weather” for moving to Florida from a northern state.

The professor must have requested a personal evaluation, because I read a student’s admission of “half hazard work” and his belief that he wasn’t smart enough to go to an “Ivory League school.”

Relationships also appear to be popular essay subjects: A young woman resented being “taken for granite” by her boyfriend. Another student (possibly her boyfriend?) wrote of his policy of keeping relationships “strictly plutonic.”

I hear many of my young customers express relief at being finished with English classes. But as I purchase their books, I confess that I worry about the future of written language.

Will novels like “Fifty Shades of Grey” get these kids reading again?

Or will success elude them in their “doggy-dog world?”