THIS WEEK IN LITERARY HISTORY

Thomas Hardy gets wasted, sells his wife and child, and thinks, "This is an awesome idea for a novel."

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January 2011
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“10 Writing Mistakes Smart Bloggers Make,” or Why Writing As We Know It Is Dead

speakers cornerPerchance, as many things are of this Internet thing, last week I alighted upon the “10 Writing Mistakes Smart Bloggers Make.” It made me think of two things: a graduate school classmate with the writing skills of a concussed ferret, and the end of writing as we know it.

First, the fellow scribe. Among the many lowlights of my graduate program in creative writing was the first fiction workshop. It was a complete catastrophe, as I was the only first-year student and perhaps the only student who wasn’t partially or completely insane.

The first inkling of trouble was “Jennifer.” In the very first class, she presented a novel excerpt about a farm family growing up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and I can objectively say that the result was appalling. Not simply the plot, characterizations, or even the writing itself, but the grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Here’s an action-packed sample:

She said You want to see a man? Ill show you aman.”

We walkd to the creek which I new from swimming in first grad. “Yousee that overthere Thats Fred. He aint got no close on Hes a man”

I said I dont know what your talking about”, but I kept watching

At first, I wanted to give Jennifer the benefit of the doubt and thought she was trying some Joycean experiment with form. When I asked about it in workshop—”Is there any reason there’s a lot of punctuation missing?” was how I put it—she simply said no thats a roughdraft and sorry if theres mistakes”.

I don’t know what was more appalling: Jennifer’s apparently inability to spell or use proper punctuation, or the fact the rest of the class didn’t think it was a big deal.

copyediting

Pitt of anachronisms

When I protested that the least a writer should do was turn in a manuscript relatively free of errors one might associate more with a second-grader than a 26-year-0ld graduate student, I was hooted down (though it was a learning experience. So to speak).

So when I saw “10 Writing Mistakes Smart Bloggers Make,” I could only think of Jennifer. That, and the end of civilization.

For these “mistakes” are not those of logic, style, length, design, or any other intellectual or aesthetic considerations, but largely of basic grammar:

  1. Confusing You’re and Your
  2. Using could of and would of
  3. Abusing the word ‘literally’
  4. Confusing their, they’re and there
  5. Confusing affect and effect
  6. Apostrophes
  7. Confusing to and too
  8. Confusing lose and loose
  9. Abusing “unique”
  10. Text speak (“LOL,” “OMG,” etc.)

Your literally making me piss my pants, because I could of known their effecting blog’s effectiveness too loose the most unique badness of writing. STFU.

Oh, I’ve been guilty of all of these errors save for the last, but not out of ignorance. (Mostly because I was too lazy to check my work). What makes me believe that the end of civilization is nigh is that we even need a list like this in the first place. If “smart” bloggers need to be told that there’s a difference between “their” and “there,” it’s just a matter of time before the video gamers, illiterates, brain-dead jocks and the Jennifers of this earth simply swoop in and take over.

Epic Fail(ure)

A failure within an epic fail(ure)

The fact is that soon, not only will “smart” people routinely make these mistakes, but nobody’s going to correct them. Improper usage will be considered correct.

And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it except whine. Which I am known to do on occasion, and do quite well. Literally.

5 comments to “10 Writing Mistakes Smart Bloggers Make,” or Why Writing As We Know It Is Dead

  • Neil

    LOL!

    I think readers are also too shy about bringing up errors. I know I love it when a reader emails me with a spelling or grammar error. We all write these posts fairly quickly, so there will be mistakes. Mentioning an error is not an insult but a compliment.

  • J

    I cannot DEAL with the whole “your” and “you’re” mishap. LEARN THIS SIMPLE RULE, PEOPLE. I try to always triple check even my blog posts…because what if one day a famous producer stumbles upon it and then reads a shitload of typos and gets disgusted?

    One just can’t have that happen.

  • When my daughter wrote a paper in second grade filled with misspellings I told her I would help her correct them. She said her teacher didn’t care about spelling or grammar — that they were not important. I thought she misunderstood so the next day I spoke with Mrs. Baelen.

    “Oh no, we don’t wish to damage their self-esteem by pointing out their errors. We want them to enjoy writing for the sake of writing.”

    I argued that self-esteem comes naturally when you master a task. She disagreed, saying that what my daughter needed was “unconditional approval”.

    Third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade — the same stupid school of thought. Although I did try to stress the importance of proper grammar at home, the school won out. My daughter is now 28 and her writing is hit and miss.

    She became an engineer.

  • Neil: Thats ROLF to you, bub. I never thought that having errors pointed out was complimentary, but it does show that the people are reading closely, and that they give a damn.

    J: We’ve lost the war on that one, my dear. Don’t fight it. Your going to loose.

    Jane: This one really pissed me off. It sounds like an excuse for incompetent teaching. Writing with mistakes increases self esteem? What next? Cutting your fingers off because you didn’t learn how to use a knife, because that wasn’t important? Hrrumpph.

  • Hey! Their are plenty of engineers who can right just fine.

    Great post to see upon my return to the blogging world. I remember asking a high school classmate whose English assignment was riddled with spelling errors, “Doesn’t your teacher care?”

    “No, of course not! It’s a poem!”

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