Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar: Are They Really Important?
Last week I was contacted by BBC Wiltshire; they wanted me to comment on a story from the BBC about spelling mistakes. I think they liked my response, which was mild outrage at the thought we should let such things slide.
I’ve written before about this sort of thing. I received a fair amount of stick from people saying “what if you’re dyslexic” or “what if you really struggle with grammar?”
My answer to both of those is: try harder. Not just if you’re dyslexic; not just if you struggle with grammar. I think we should all try harder. Since when did we ever say to people, “oh, you find it hard? Don’t bother then!” Yes, sometimes life is too short to keep up the ukelele practise when you’ve worn your finger pads down to blood and still can’t do the theme from Deliverance – but I would argue that a grasp of the English language is not a frivolous passtime.
The odd typo or rogue apostrophe here and there is bound to happen, especially when we’re posting from phones and tablets more and more. My Instagram account is nothing but testament to my fat fingers/smashed phone screen!
There is a difference though, between the occasional mistake and lazy lack of attention to detail.
These days, word processors and blogging platforms alike have spell check. If you’re using Google Chrome, it usually underlines in red any dodgy spellings. It bothers me when I see self-published work that has poor spellings and grammar – both in books and online. If someone is going to enough effort to produce writing, on whatever topic, why would they not proof read it, check for typos, double check for mistakes? If someone has the ability to come up with great content but is not 100% sure they can write it well, why not ask someone else to proof read it for them?
I used to work in pensions; we often had to send out complicated letters explaining tax codes and how tax was worked out. The girl who sat next to me understood the taxation process better than most of us, but she was borderline dyslexic. She knew that if she just wrote a letter and sent it out, she would look unprofessional and it would undermine her explanation of the process – so she always had someone else proof-read her letters before sending them.
I was very lucky with my education. I was encouraged to read books from a young age. I went to a Montessori nursery, and when I went to first school, it was a village school with only 30 pupils over four year groups. There were only two teachers, and both paid a lot of attention to detail. When I was in Class 2 (years 3 and 4), I remember having whole lessons devoted to when to use – and when not to use – apostrophes. The teacher would point out our mistakes, and took the time to show us where we were going wrong.That’s not to say my writing is perfect; I am still learning. But my education gave me a good start.
For me, this blog is not just about documenting my life with S; it’s about practising my writing skills, improving the way I write. I understand that others may not hold that view… but it surprises me that people would not be interested in the sort of first impression their writing gives.
Poor spelling and grammar doesn’t just wash over me; I notice it, and it undermines the authority of the person doing the writing. I find it hard to respect someone who willingly publishes work with poor spelling, apostrophes all over the place, poorly constructed sentences. Not because I am prejudiced against people who find such things hard; because I am prejudiced against people who don’t recognise there is an issue or attempt to mitigate their difficulty by having their work checked and amended accordingly.
I'm with you 100% on this, Vicky. While the ability to tell a good story is paramount in writing, good grammar and punctuation are also vital. We put a lot of effort into writing with passion and in an interesting way, but poor grammar undermines a writer's credibility and can switch readers off. (I'm a busy person, as are we all, and I read a lot of different blogs - I don't need many reasons to stop reading a post and move on to another one. Why give me one?) Trying to read a post with poor grammar can be like trying to complete an unfamiliar journey where half the road signs are missing or pointing in the wrong direction. As you say, no one expects perfect grammar - God knows mine isn't. But I reckon you can boil 80% of errors down to the same handful of basic errors - not running spell-check, misuse of apostrophes and so on - which are so easily eliminated. For me, the ability to self-edit effectively is one of the most undersold skills in a writer's toolkit. Tim recently posted...Silent Sunday 9/11/14
Leigh - Headspace Perspective
I agree. We can all make typos and errors but when a piece of written work - whether it's a blog post or anything else - is littered with errors it is very off putting and can undermine the credibility of even the best ideas. Writing is about the beauty of the written word, and it is worth investing a bit of time to understand the basics of grammar and punctuation to help things flow more effectively - or, if you're able, getting someone to proof read for you. I work in PR: in my team we always proof read each others' work, and we write professionally - a second pair of eyes can often be invaluable for anyone to pick up an error, or something that doesn't quite make sense xx Leigh - Headspace Perspective recently posted...Why I would like an SD card in my brain
Hannah Budding Smiles
I couldn't agree more Vicky. I have been known to scribble out misplaced apostrophes and add missing ones on posters, I'm a rebel like that!xx Hannah Budding Smiles recently posted...Toby's Weaning Stories - Weeks Four and Five
Rachel @ Parenthood Highs and Lows
I totally agree with this. The odd mistake that slips through is forgivable, but when it is consistently awful - no! There is a shop near us that has spelt 'cigarettes' as 'ciggarettes' on their printed window sign. I have been known to walk much further to the next shop because I cannot bear to go in there because of the mistake! Rachel @ Parenthood Highs and Lows recently posted...Project 365 – Week One