I have been bashing my head against metaphorical walls what seems like every day lately. Why, you ask? Because I can’t believe the absolute rot that is passing for “professional” writing.
Now, I’m not talking about personal blogs or websites. I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect anyone else to be either. Your blog is your playground. Mis-spell your little heart out.
This rant is about professional websites and blogs. The spelling and grammar mistakes aren’t the common ones that pop up and may almost be understandable. We are talking egregious errors like not capitalizing the names of places, books, movies, and even people. Not bothering to do something simple like match a multiple noun with the correct kind of verb. For instance, BLOGS DO something. A singular BLOG DOES nothing. See what I did there? Then there’s spelling that blew my mind — on top of the increasingly common problems with there/their/they’re and the like. It seems like people don’t even run a simple spell check anymore! WTF?
The biggest source of my ire was the sources of these errors. The one that stands out the most is the New York Times online. THE NEW. YORK. TIMES. And the Washington Post. And the Wall Street Journal. I realize print journalism is dying, but don’t they still have editors at national news organizations? Don’t they have even the slimmest of journalistic standards? I work in freelance internet content creation, and I’ve learned to expect the lowest common denominator reading that stuff. I do my best to make sure my articles have proper style — it seems the professional thing to do, even if I do make less money because I take my full time to complete articles. I’d rather take my time, run grammar and spelling checks, and then let it sit for a while before coming back and reading it several more times just to make sure.
When it comes to fiction, at least one more set of eyes (besides my own) reads my pieces before they get to the editor. Then the editor does her thing, and we could pass it back and forth four or five times before it’s polished. A lot of times, I don’t want to read a story again, EVER, by the time it’s published. Seriously — I’ve scoured the thing no less than a dozen times, gone over it with a fine-toothed comb, to the point that it doesn’t feel like a story anymore. It feels like a bunch of words mushed together.
But I do the work. That’s part of the job. I don’t want someone ripped out of my writing because of some ridiculous grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistake. There are a million other things that could go wrong with a piece of writing: someone might not like the story itself, or my writing style, of the way I put together information in an article, etc, etc, ad nauseam. There are always rewrites possible before publishing, when it comes to freelance work, but many clients don’t want to bother. With fiction readers, you only get one chance to put your work in front of a reader. If you blow it, you’re done. The client won’t hire you again, and the reader will never pick up another one of your books.
I swear, I dread reading the news online or self-published fiction. People — get a first reader! Run a spell check, at least! Argh! I realize I have weaknesses, and I’m actually considering taking a class in proper writing style, just to sharpen up. I think everybody else should do the same!