I have discovered the third rail of blogging.
- Last week I wrote Get over yourself. Stop being perfect. Write. Which drew an observation from TMIFred, “But I get beat up about my grammer and spelling;}”
- About six months ago, one of my 9 Ways to Improve Your Writing was “Don’t worry about grammar so much.” And some commenters beat me up for it.
- In the same space, Melanie Brooks writes a list of Most Often Misspelled Words and draws 22 comments (at the time of this writing).
People are invested in their ability to write within the rules of correct grammar and spelling. When someone falls short of their standards, they need to show their displeasure. And pity the fool who tries to give the offenders a free pass.
I should explain that I’m not advocating linguistic anarchy. This isn’t an excuse to abandon all rules. There is a local blogger (who does NOT go by the handle @TMIFred) who can’t spell the basics. A lot of it is misplaced apostrophes. And the content is awful. This blogger needs to work on writing.
What about my “Don’t worry, be crappy” advice? Well that’s not what I said. Here’s the problem.
Non-writers are intimidated by words. One of the factors is that they fear the judgment of their mistakes. Some of those “mistakes” are open to interpretation. (How many of you think it’s a sin to start a sentence with “But”?) To avoid mistakes, they don’t write.
So my advice is to write anyway. Concentrate on getting useful content in front of audiences.
But you need some basic levels of literacy to make sure your ideas are understood and respected. You cannot escape the fact that what you write is just as important as what you wear when creating a professional image.
If your writing is a distraction from what you are trying to accomplish, get help improving it. Don’t stop writing though.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to:
- Basic spelling: Even a good wordsmith such as Melanie has problems spelling some words correctly. But pay attention to your spellcheck. Write your trouble words on stickies and attach to your monitor.
- Apostrophes: Learn the difference between its and it’s. Make sure you get those commonly misused words right because spellcheck won’t flag them.
- How your words sound: Read your writing out loud. Your ear will pick up on awkward sentence construction and missing words.
- What writers write: Pay attention to the word choices made by other writers. You will learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
I’m sure other writers will object to what is missing from this list. That’s why the blogging gods invented comments. But I hope this helps you improve your words.