Thursday, 8 May 2014

Writing - The Most Important Thing to Remember When Blogging

It occurred to me this week that I've been posting here, fairly frequently, for nearly seven years. That's quite a long time, yo! I've written almost 1,000 blog posts here, and many others elsewhere as a guest. Sometimes I get paid, even. 

A Love Letter to my Grandmother -
Nice handwriting and correct grammar!
In 2007, Blogging was just becoming a 'Thing'. I mean, obviously people had been keeping journals for ever (I have kept a million diaries, journals, sketchpads and poetry notebooks in my life) and computer-savvy peeps had been writing weblogs ever since the late 1990s (Wow, that sounds like a long time ago). But in 2007, blogs were GOOD. Great writers wrote from their hearts, and communities formed where advice and joys and rants were shared. Lives were saved on the internet, people spoke up, gays came out, mums found other mums who said that of course, cake for supper was ok. Friends were found.  

And then, Blogging became a money-making thing. So now everyone can, allegedly, earn $67,743 per week doing it. And they don't even need to know the difference between their, they're and their. As long as they can google 'six ways to cut a pineapple' and re-write it in their own words, they can be a PROFESSIONAL BLOGGER. There are millions - brazillions! - of professional bloggers out there. And they are all full of advice. One expert left a comment on one of my posts recently, advising everyone to buy his ebook. Unfortunately, he couldn't spell you're (twice). I deleted his sales pitch. 

And THAT brings me to the purpose of this rant. In the old days (circa 2007) it was writers doing the writing. Good grammar was expected. Proper spelling was normal. Now the writers are people looking for a fast dollar. This week I read one article which was quite good until it advised readers to 'air on the side of caution' (On the Huffington Post, no less - it has since been corrected). This is not a mistake that would be picked up by spell check. And it sounds right, if you say it aloud. Maybe the person who wrote it was just having an off day. Maybe the editor of the site missed the mistake. But I doubt it. Writers who do not read frequently make mistakes like this, where they are used to hearing things said but have never seen the words in print. 

Of course, to 'err on the side of caution' means to make the possible error of being overly cautious rather than taking a definite risk. I have no idea what 'air on the side of caution' could mean - something about putting one's duvet out in the sun carefully? 

Writers, it is absolutely important that you read good books. If you were not a child who constantly had their nose in a book, you can still read now. In fact, young adult fiction by wonderful writers like Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman will teach you proper use of words and they are highly entertaining. 

You should also buy and read from cover to cover, a book on grammar. Pay attention to the chapters on APOSTROPHES, since you cannot hear their usage in conversation. I love the quaint and old-fashioned Student's Companion, which lists all sorts of metaphors and sayings.

Not love letters, but just as heartfelt... 
Correct spelling and grammar are not just important for blogging. Anyone who has a job profile online or comments as a professional needs to know how to write. It might sound old-fashioned and nerdy, but when I browse through LinkedIn, I immediately discount anyone who can't be bothered to proof read what they have written. Yes, people make silly mistakes and type quickly, but if you are trying to make a good professional impression DO NOT USE AN APOSTROPHE TO MAKE A PLURAL. Believe me, I am not the only nerd out there who is judging you by your online appearance.

I have several friends for whom English is a second language, and they know how to use apostrophes. If they are not sure, they look it up. So no excuses.

The English language is evolving all the time. This is okay - I am happy to appreciate new words (Hang on while I take a selfie...) But grammatical rules are there for a reason. I don't think we're going to drop apostrophes any time soon, and definitely will definitely NEVER be spelled with an 'a'.

Do you think your writing is perfect? I bet it isn't. I am a confirmed bookworm and word nerd since birth, and I make alot (which is not a word) of mistakes. If I'm not sure about something, I look it up in the dictionary. You may be surprised at how many mistakes you are making. If you are not sure about your writing, err on the side of caution. You will not regret it.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

The lack of good writing in publications is shocking, but unsurprising as people seem to feel computers do an adequate job of grammar and spell-checking. And good editing is under-appreciated.

Nan Sheppard said...

Counting on a computer to spell check is a big mistake!