Sunday, April 17, 2011

In need of a good editor

I'm going to have a short rant. And if I offend anyone, I'm sorry. But I'm feeling in need of a pressure valve this morning.

There are an awful lot of bloggers who want to be writers. Some of them have even set themselves up as sources of advice to other potential writers. Some are published, some are hopeful, but the thing that many of them have in common is their apparent inability to use English correctly. Their posts are frequently full of errors.

I'm not talking about an occasional typo. I'm not talking about the UK/US variations in spelling. I'm talking about using incorrect vocabulary (malapropism), apostrophes in plurals, confusion of homophones (their, there, they're etc), the kind of mistake that should have been corrected at school.

I understand that not everyone was lucky enough to have an education as good as the one that I had. I appreciate that some people have battled with learning difficulties.

But surely, if you want to be a writer you should make an effort to improve your basic skills, shouldn't you?

You wouldn't set yourself up as a carpenter if you couldn't saw a straight line. Why on earth would you think you can be a writer if you can't follow some simple grammar rules?


snafu said...

The problem with ignorance is that you are not aware of what you don't know.

Sandra Davies said...

I have to say I'd be right up there beside you, holding the other end of the banner ... but snafu has a point, although I think I'd argue that you would know if your grammar was bad by the time you'd submitted a few pieces wouldn't you? And then do something about it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Morning AJ .. I know the difference - fortunately for now I'm not aspiring to be a writer .. but I sometimes hit the publish comment button and yikes .. there's a their instead of a there .. or more likely a your instead of a you're .. why I have no idea .. apostrophes make me apoplectic too .. but in the scheme of things - hopefully writers should improve their skills .. as you say why wouldn't they. They'll pay because their work will need more editing etc ..

and we're all dashing to comment .. I try and ignore the 'incorrects'!

Cheers - you're right .. but ... each to his own .. Hilary

MorningAJ said...

The thing is - the ignorance argument doesn't work as long as people are reading. (And I'm not talking about reading the internet!) They must see correct words when they read but they still get it wrong when they write.

And I'm not really talking about a hastily written comment either. I'm talking about the plethora of bloggers who have set themselves up to advise others about how to write - and STILL get it wrong!

snafu said...

Please accept this comment as a point of view, not a winge. Learning from what you read depends on how well you can read. I am badly dyslexic and read by recognising word shapes because I cannot sort out the individual letters, so I find it difficult to learn structure from what I read. I was considered illiterate when I was at school because dyslexia was not recognised when I was a child and I did not go to a good school so I was written off. That school did not teach grammar to my stream. Fortunately on leaving I took up a technical apprenticeship where I discovered that I could read electronic schematic symbols with little trouble and learned electronics relatively easily. Much later I became a technical writer and produced a number of publications, but only with careful proof reading courtesy of my work colleagues, and a word processor to keep my spelling in line. I am not dumb, I understand computer systems and electronics systems in depth down to a fundamental level and I have written successful training courses on these subjects. I have taught electronics and ICT for a living and occasionally do guest lectures on radio astronomy and optical astronomy now that I am retired, but I cannot spell well and have never understood the illogical rules of English grammar. Boolean algebra and stellar physics are easy compared to that.

MorningAJ said...

Oh I'm not having a go at anyone who has that kind of hurdle to overcome and I'm sorry if you thought I was. I understand that people can have genuine problems with reading because of conditions like dyslexia (and might I add I would never have known that you were - even though I have worked with people with dyslexia in the past and know the kind of results it can produce.)

The thing is - you're not setting yourself up as some kind of writing guru. Your blog isn't claiming to offer advice to writers.

I wrote this post after reading THREE different sources of writing 'advice' that had glaring, basic errors.

Personally I'm number blind. I can't tell the difference between any of the 'curly' numbers. You say three, I think five and probably write 8. So I wouldn't run a blog that claims to teach accounting because I know that I'm not up to it.

snafu said...

I understand you are not getting at me, sorry if I seemed angry it was not intended as a rebuke. I do agree that standards in English are falling and anyone who claims to be an expert in anything should be an expert.
You know about the Dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac? He lies awake all night, wondering if there is a Dog.

MorningAJ said...

I think I was married to him! ;)

Ellie said...

This is why I would never set myself up as an editor or adviser. If asked, I will happily comment on plot lines, characterisation, and plot structure. But when it comes to grammar, puncutation, and spelling, I always advise seeking out a professional.

I work hard to ensure my writing and posts have no errors but occasionally one will sneak in. I never paid attention at school and now I suffer the consequences. My Elements of Style is never far from my reach.

Ellie Garratt

MorningAJ said...

Interesting. I've not done Elements of Style. I always have Usage and Abusage close by my elbow!