After a few thousand reps of reading college students' writing, I developed muscles I didn't know I had. One skill, long since lost, was the ability to guess students' native tongue through the types of errors they made in English. I surely wish I still had this skill in the Internet age. It would make crafting insults on reddit much easier.
An easier-to-acquire skill was the ability to spot readers. Their syntax and vocabulary are more sophisticated, and they are far better able to articulate a thought without relying on lingual flotsam. The reverse is also true. Non-readers do not have a similar mental database of phrasing upon which they can call. They rely on flotsam. The exact same flotsam. Every one of them.
"I'm sorry, but [declarative statement]," they will write.
This is, of course, not an argument. It's an assertion buttressed with condescension. But Todds do not accept this. They think they just slammed the door on any conceivable opposition. Didn't you see the "I'm sorry?!" Game over! For good measure, they sprinkle insults and glitter like very, just, and worst throughout their assertions. Then they wrap it all up with an exclamation mark or a question tag.
I'm sorry, but the illiterates who do this are retarded! They're just very, very stupid, all right?
These students, sadly, were the crux of my job. I was supposed to teach them to think critically, to argue from evidence, to tailor their rhetoric to their audience. Honestly, I don't know that I succeeded even once. It's like trying to bail out the ocean with a colander. A few kids learned to appease me, but I could feel their eyes rolling. They thought I just didn't get it, and, well, the feeling was more than mutual.
Which brings us to Trump. He is the most spectacular example of this that I have ever seen. Using my lens, look at his tweets, especially six months or more ago, when he wasn't as vetted. His brutally unsophisticated syntax and vocabulary are decidedly those of a non-reader. He famously asserts without attempting to marshal evidence. Any reference to opposition contains an insult ("low ratings CNN," "lightweight Don Lemon," etc.) And oh, those verys, exclamation marks, and tag questions. Their sheer density depresses me.
At 70, he is the most unteachable freshman English student I have ever seen.