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Grammar, Typography and Believability

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Many people have many things to say on BlogCritics. I’d like to believe that all of the things said have merit, and I’m certain that all of the people saying them would like to have their opinions heard (or in this case, read). I for one find it much easier to read what people say, and to believe it, when they both write their words in real English and articulate them properly.

There is a time for profanity, there is a situation for grammatical inexactitude, there is a time for spouting off about nothing, there is a place for ranting and raving. Most certainly all of those times and situations can be found on BlogCritics. I have found myself guilty of hitting the Post button before proofreading my comment for typographical accuracy on more than one occasion. I have also hit the Post button without pausing to consider whether or not my comment adds anything to the conversation, or whether I’m simply using BlogCritics as a venue for writer’s diarrhea, rather than as a venue in which to truly articulate my thoughts.

Having spent some time perusing the site, and adding commentary where I thought it appropriate over the past month or so, I have a bit to say about the goings-on here. Several of BlogCritics’ most frequent participants have a solid grasp of the nuances of the English language, compose well and thoughtfully, and articulate their thoughts and feelings in a logical manner. Some other BlogCritics participants, unfortunately, do not.

I must admit, I’m a bit of a stickler for proper grammar. My wife and I prompt our two young children to correct themselves when they say things like “me and Fred are going out to play.” I point out the typographical errors on menus in French and Italian restaurants, much to the chagrin of the wait staff. And it really bugs me when generally well-spoken people at work say in staff meetings “if you have any questions, talk to Barney or I.”

I find BlogCritics participants to be more credible, and I’m more likely to read through their entire post or comment, if they compose using proper rules of English grammar and syntax. Even if I disagree with the poster’s opinion, I am more likely to read through a properly composed train of thought than a poorly written one filled with typographical errors. I’m not talking about the occasional fumblefinger – everyone needs spell check to point out their typing flaws, but about the pidgin English written by a portion of the BlogCritics user base. I am not complaining about certain users’ lack of punctuation, grammar, and proper syntax – they can write what they like. I am simply stating that if a user doesn’t use the fundamental rules of English sentence structure, I am less likely to pay heed to what that person is writing.

Having participated with some vigor in the discussion following the post The Top 100 Guitarists According to Rolling Stone, I find comments like “given what i’ve heard about his shows (LOUD!), maybe he just got tired of the squall and decided to be a little more introspective for a while (or at least quieter)” to be much more readable and believable than ones like “k, what about zakk wylde??? umm slash???? cummon manm listen to thier stuff, slash could kick the ass off teh white stripes, i think the editors were, high, might as well got snoop dog to write the damn list”.

Maybe it’s just me, or perhaps I’m old fashioned. But I find a well-written sentence more appealing than one written in an undecipherable non-English.

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About Taloran

  • mike

    i resent thise, i write real good and my speling is grate and i dont like the insinuazons that i’m sort of an ignorynosorous. The new Metallica is great, anyone who doesn’t like it is gay, sid vicious was the gretest guitarist excpet for hendricks.

  • Taloran: I condemn your Illiteraphobia and Believabilitism. You’re either a right-wing fascist who watches Fox News or a left-wing communist who watches CNN.

  • You seem a bit of a grammar elitist. There are worse things.

    However, I point out spelling and grammar errors al the time and I have to agree with your overall point.

  • Eric Olsen

    Tal, very important points well presented. I am a little more flexible perhaps in that liberties can be interesting and amusing. But, the time is never right for poor spelling, and as you mention, it gives the reader an excuse to tune you out.

    As some of you know, I do edit for spelling and basic punctuation, not because I want to, but because it must be done.

    I encourage us all to write freely and expressively and don’t be afraid to take liberties, but, as I believe Mac Diva said, you have to know the rules in order to break them in a creative manner.

    Be yourselves, have fun, but edit well for the benefit of your readers and your own ideas.

  • Taloran

    Chris, I’d say your comments are a bit extreme, but you’re certainly welcome to your opinion.

    Mike, I really don’t know what to say about your post, except that perhaps you might benefit from nite skule.

  • Taloran

    And Chris – which particular part of my post indicates that I am either a fascist or communist? I’ve looked through it, and see nothing therein that indicates a political leaning.

  • Tal – I was kidding. I agree completely with what you wrote, but some people might resent your belief in standards…

  • Taloran

    One group that certainly resents my belief in standards is the public school system in my community. The elementary schools have gone to a system of number grades instead of letter grades. Children in classes at their grade level can only get a 3, while children who get bumped up to a higher level in a particular subject can obtain a 4. 4 corresponds roughly to an A, while 3 corresponds to a B. The reasoning behind it is that children who can only obtain a B or lower feel bad when their peers get A’s, so they’ve cut out the A.

    I went down and ripped on the school administration about this – my wife insists on straight A’s for both of our kids, and I feel they’re getting gypped by not being able to obtain that mark in classes in which they’re not “flexed up.” As you might discern, I’m extremely popular with the school administration. They just love it when I stop by for a little chat.

  • I can deal with spelling issues. I’d rather someone get whatever is in their head out – if that means a few spelling errors here and there, so be it. Self-editing is prett difficult – you brain is just sure what you wrote is perfect, so you rarely catch all the errors. So I can accept spelling errors, as long as what the person had to say was intelligent and thoughtful.

    What I really, really want is for people to punctuate with some semblance of intelligence. I understand that commas screw many people up, me included at times. But I’ve seen a number of posts on BC where the writers apparently didn’t understand how to use periods and so just didn’t use them at all. That makes for fun reading. Had I seen that kind of writing the first time I found BC, I’d think the site was full of a bunch of damned morons. Thankfully, I didn’t, and it’s not.

  • Taloran

    As I said in my post, Tom, “I’m not talking about the occasional fumblefinger.” What I meant to discuss is the complete lack of proper punctuation and syntax and the total disregard for correct spelling practiced by a significant portion of the members of the BlogCritics kummyoonitee.

    We all (well, perhaps not all, but a large portion of us) write some things hastily on BlogCritics, and would not have turned some of our posts and comments in to our high school or college English teachers for grading. But I wonder if some of the BC participants have ever turned anything in to an English teacher. And if they have, why did those teachers not get those people some extra help?

  • Eric Olsen

    I would also differentiate between posts and comments – comments are certainly more informal.

    What I really ask of writers is that they SIMPLY READ OVER THEIR OWN WORK ONCE IT IS PUBLISHED. I get the sense that some people don’t read their own work once it is up because there is no way they would miss obvious coding errors (those damned “A’s”), crazy spacing problems, complete lack of paragraphing, obvious spelling and punctuation errors.

    Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  • Taloran

    To clarify, most of the folks who remain on the leader board more than briefly actually do understand the language in which they write. My rant is more about the occasional poster.

  • Eric Olsen

    And – he hastens to add – the overall level of writing here is quite excellent. Perhaps I have come to take that for granted.

  • Taloran

    Eric –
    It makes it a bit difficult when you compose a post in Word, and save it in draft form with no glaring errors, then publish it and it’s chock full of those A-thingies. I had to spend quite some time on this post immediately after publishing to cut out the A characters, or risk appearing more buffoonlike than usual.

  • Taloran

    If that’s possible…

  • Eric Olsen

    Tal, perhaps I haven’t made this suggestion in a while: you can disable “smart quotes” in Word and then they will plague you no more. This is information that longs to be free, dance on the wind, I say!

  • Taloran

    Hmmm… I’ll try that with my next post, Eric. However, I tend to comment a lot more than I post, so it may be a while.

  • Or don’t use Word. Don’t you have notepad or something (or Simpletext if you’re lucky enough to own a Mac 🙂 )? Or an HTML editor where you can type?

    It’s not just smart quotes that Word crunches.

    I actually am quite stirred when someone cares about this type of thing. So, thanks.

  • Taloran

    I’m glad that I raised the point, Temple. And it pleases me that some other people seem to care as well.

    Yeah, I have Notepad, and I use an HTML editor for a living… maybe that’s why I like to compose in Word – I don’t really want to look at any HTML that I don’t have to.

    But I guess I’ll have to start with my next post, whenever that might be.

  • (this sounds kinda “outta left field” but if you use Word and Dreamweaver MX, you might want to pay attention)

    Does anyone who uses Word to type their posts up then HTMLize it from Word? I ask because I deal with this everyday in my “real” job and have developed some unique methods of utilizing Macromedia Dreamweaver MX’s Find And Replace feature that I could send to anyone who needs it. This cleans all the BS Office code out that just clutters up things and adds lots of weight to files. Pretty neat stuff – if anyone wants it, email me and the snippets are yours.

  • mike

    The coding errors, a la the infamous A, haven’t been showing up in the preview before posting. Is it my version of Word (pretty old)?

  • the proofreading thing can be pretty danged annoying.

    i write stuff out by hand, editing as i go.

    then it gets typed in, previewed on the screen for anything i might have missed.

    then i print it out for one last read-through…

    …and still stuff gets missed. the problem is that after you’ve read the thing 3 or 4 times you ten to be reciting it from your head instead of the paper.

  • Eric Olsen

    Everyone makes mistakes, including me, I think the key is to read it over once it’s up on the site. I almost always catch things I missed earlier when it’s up there in stark black and white.

  • mike

    The best thing is to print out the post and read it; reading on the computer screen is unnatural and different from how the brain reads; this is partly why e-mails, etc. are so sloppy.