We at Red Paper Clip hear it all the time: “I’d love to start blogging, but I’ve just never been that good at grammar, and I don’t want to look like an idiot.”
And such fears aren’t unfounded. There’s no shortage of Grammar Police patrolling the Internet, ready to chase down any opportunity to show off just how much they know.
Now, I’m no Fowler or Grammar Girl, but I suppose one could call me a grammarian of sorts. When I worked at MacEwan, I had to teach grammar, among other things, and nothing gets your grammar butt in gear faster than having to explain errors and teach new skills (as opposed to just making corrections as a copyeditor would).
I get the whole Grammar Police thing. I really do. I’ve been known to post the odd “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling” article on Facebook or to lean over and share a giggle with Idris as we pass a billboard with a non-deliberate error. Sometimes, laughter is the only way to scratch the brain itch that comes with seeing a misspelled word, misused term, or misplaced comma.
But I am sick to death of seeing the posturing that critics use to elevate themselves while hurting and belittling the writer. I’m talking about people who comment on Facebook walls or novice bloggers’ entries just to show the writers how little they know and how unworthy they are of posting on the Internet. I’m talking about people who go into the Remedy Café bathroom with a pen just to correct people’s graffiti and make them feel awful for having dared wield a Sharpie without having perfect command of the English language.
I’m talking about people who probably aren’t even good writers themselves.
You see, teaching grammar forced me to strengthen my own technical knowledge of writing, but it also taught me to appreciate what people are up against when it comes to developing writing skills (which is another blog post altogether!). It taught me that people should never be afraid to express their amazing ideas and use writing to engage people because they still struggle with to, two, and too.
It taught me that good grammar doesn’t always equal good writing.
Here are my reasons for thinking it’s time for everyone to put down their red pens and lighten up on each other:
1). We All Make Mistakes
Sure, you may make fewer mistakes than the average person, but you still make them. We all do, no matter how knowledgeable or experienced we are as writers or how good we are at editing our own work.
And frankly, there’s nothing funnier to an actual writer than seeing self-professed grammar nerds picking on others while using less-than-perfect grammar, punctuation and syntax themselves.
2). There Never Really Was a Golden Age of Writing
Well, at least not in the sense that the majority of people never struggled from time to time with mechanics. Before curricula moved away from strict grammar instruction in favour of less-formal writing instruction, students did learn how to parse sentences in grade school, but studies have shown that the link between that specific kind of formal grammar instruction and consistent application of these rules is highly debatable. (Note: I’m not saying all forms of grammar instruction are ineffective!) True, most written communication had fewer errors, but also keep in mind that CEOs and managers had secretaries and assistants who handled many of these pieces.
3). Good Grammar Is Not Synonymous With Good Writing
The two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but having flawless blog pieces hardly guarantees you followers. If you fancy yourself a grammarian, take a few minutes to scan a few blogs from the first ten of the Top 100 Blogs. I’m willing to bet you’ll find more than a mere handful of errors. Readership in the blogging realm has far more to do with your ability to engage readers with relevant content than it does with flawlessness.
So, if your fear of blogging (or any other form of writing) stems from your concern that the self-appointed Grammar Police are going ticket you for every error in grammar or punctuation, remember that most real writers don’t behave that way. Why? Because they’re too busy working on their own stuff to troll others’ work for errors, and they’re thanking their lucky stars for the editors and copyeditors that have their back for anything formally published.
And if your fear of writing for your business comes from not knowing what to write or having to add yet another item to the task list, contact us to see how we can help.