We have been discussing improving our writing and editing quite a bit of late in an effort to make Blogcritics a bit more uniform and easier to read. I am very gratified that so many of us are interested in improving our written communications – that is kind of what it’s all about over the Internet at this point.
Our own Allan Karl has recommended Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style as a must-have for all writers, and Wired Style for those with an interest in tech.
I don’t have the Wired book, but I have been using various editions of Strunk and White since high school back in the 19th century and they have never steered me wrong. If you’re going to write, you might as well know the rules, so then if you break them, at least it will be by choice.
Honestly, this was an administrative post geared toward our writers, but that isn’t fair to our readers and I have been upbraided accordingly. Thanks Ewan.
Here are our biggest problems and irregularities:
“it’s=conjunction of “it is”
please absorb the distinction
We use American punctuation standards – put your commas and periods INSIDE your quotation marks, ie.:
“The dog sniffed my butt,” said the little boy.
“This album sucks.”
“This is standard shit,” so get it right.
A large swath of the Internet uses the British method of putting the quotation marks OUTSIDE the comma and the period. I think this is for two reasons: people are British or read a lot of British publications (duh), or, more common in the U.S. is the tech influence of using punctuation like commas and periods to separate elements of code, which would naturally spill over into everyday writing. But it’s wrong, said the imperious non-techie.
Here is how we recommend doing titles:
albums, movies, books titles, TV shows – italics.
“songs, chapter titles, episode titles” – quotation marks.
For publication titles just captalize, no need for punctuation – NY Times.
Spelling: always a problem, I personally still use a dictionary and don’t bother with spell check, because spell check doesn’t help with names, or words it doesn’t know; but spell check is far better than nothing and will at least catch typos.
Paragraphs: use short ones. Long paragraphs just don’t work on the computer screen: the eye glazes, loses track, loses interest. Chop it up into short paragraphs, separated by line spaces. Your readers will thank you, and even read you.
For all writers everywhere, but especially on the Internet, here is my number one recommendation: READ YOUR WORK ONCE IT IS PUBLISHED, then go back in and edit accordingly. For some reason, things you miss when your work is still on the input screen become very noticeable once they are published for all the world to see.
Even on my MSNBC.com stories – which I pore over like medieval monk before I turn then in – I usually find one error once the story is actually up in broad daylight on the site. I hope that helps.