The past few weeks during Blogchat, a Sunday night live chat about blogging held over Twitter, the subject of grammar has come up. Mostly, it appears to be a sidebar discussion as a bigger one is going on.
But the prevailing mood for far too many bloggers seems to be that it’s just not worth the effort.
If you’re a longtime reader of mine, you can imagine how poorly this goes over with me. In fact, I added this to the discussion:
It seems that there are people who, given the choice between being “passionate” about a subject and being grammatically correct, will unapologetically go with passion.
But they should apologize. Because there’s no valid reason that they can’t be both at the same time.
Most of the people I’ve had one-on-one chats with seem to get, even if they don’t imply at first that they do, the importance of sound writing as a platform for sharing ideas.
But what I gather from what is being said by others is that they think that being passionate means something just a few marks away from some wild stream-of-consciousness rant, good sentence structure — and even spelling — be damned.
And spelling is the least excusable mistake these days: most blog platforms either have a built-in spell-check function or can handle one of several spell-check plugins that will help those who have a hard time with such things. Those little red squiggly lines that appear under words mean something. There will always be cases in which homonyms, such as there and their, will get by a spell check program, since both are spelled correctly. But typos are almost always catchable, and these days, they’re almost always pointed out to you by the software itself.
Yes, that means a little extra work before you click publish. Cry me a river. If you’re trying to be a blogger, especially a professional blogger who dreams of leaving your traditional cubicle for a real job in social media, language ought to be your best friend.
(Can you tell I’m passionate about this? Even without a parade of sloppy, poorly-crafted sentences? Just checking.)
I am a professional writer and was long before I started this blog.
I don’t say that in a bragging way; I’m very fortunate to have made a living, in large part, on writing. I honestly don’t know how to write without concern for grammar or spelling. That’s not to say that I’m perfect, and it’s not even to say that I don’t break occasional grammatical conventions that might cause a turn-of-the-century schoolmarm to grab her knuckle-smacking ruler. Sometimes I don’t use complete sentences. Like this.
But that’s not necessarily ungrammatical: it’s a conversational style that we all use from time to time in everyday speech. And at the very least, it’s easy to understand.
And that’s my biggest problem with people who seem to want to abandon all rules of good writing. They seem to not care so much about trying to forge some new way of communication, but rather just want to get a free pass to put little to no effort in what they’re doing.
The professional writer in me doesn’t know how to do that. And I’m honestly not jealous of people who do. I wouldn’t want to be able to sit down at the computer and put no effort into being understood just so I can hammer out some “passionate” rant.
Let’s face it, no matter how passionate I am, if I make my readers stumble through writing that is difficult to understand, so that they get distracted from my point because of the way I use words (or the way I don’t use them), then I have failed as a communicator.
It’s really as simple as that.
Sure, if you scour all eight years of this blog, you’ll find spelling errors. You’ll find grammatical errors. You will probably find sentences that don’t make sense. And if you do, feel free to point them out — in a nice way, of course — and I’ll fix them. I’ll let you in on a little secret: any time I write about a grammar issue, I will often check my blog to see whether I’ve committed the same one: occasionally, I’ll find my own example, and I’ll fix it, even if it’s from six years ago.
To not care about such things is, in my opinion, an example of failing to show my readers the respect you deserve. If you’re coming here to spend time reading what I write, I have an obligation to not waste your time with drivel into which I’ve put no real effort.
Let me be clear on what I’m not saying: I’m not going to vow never to return to a blog with an occasional typo. I’m not going to boycott a blogger who sometimes strays outside the realm of good grammar.
But a blog with writing so convoluted that it takes twice the effort to even comprehend isn’t one I’d care to waste my time on with any regularity. And see, there’s the real difference: if anyone has the right to be lazy in the writer-reader relationship, it’s the reader, not the person who puts down the words for him.
Then there’s this, the really ironic thing about this argument: for at least a handful of those who condemn the so-called “grammar nazis,” their websites, errors and all, also double as promotional vehicles for their professional writing-based services.
This means they’re trying to use bad writing, for which they’re unwilling to apologize, to promote their writing ability.
If that makes sense to you, I wish you’d explain it to me.