I regularly follow and read postings on more than a dozen blog sites. The point of this blog is to emphasize the use of more precise and correct writing skills. These are skills in which most bloggers have been schooled, so knowledge (of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, etc.) is probably not the issue. On several of the blogs that I follow, however, the application (attention to detail) of this knowledge may be sketchy.
I have a master’s degree in biology, but professionally, I have been a professional aviator (Air Force pilot, Regional Airline, Flight Instructor, Classroom Air Sciences Instructor), a Public Information Officer for a Department of Energy Contractor, a College Instructor (Aviation Sciences), and a proposal writer and technical editor for major defense contractors (20+ years of direct experience). Note: Some of these activities overlapped; otherwise, I would be 110 years old (not quite yet, thank you). Fortunately, I had several strong communications courses as part of my degree program, because, the key thread throughout these professions has been communication!
As an instructor, I was often asked “What is the most important course I should take…” to be a professional pilot, an aeronautical or electrical engineer, or a business manager in a technical enterprise. My answer has always been the same.
I would say, “The most import course you can take is a good communications course where you learn to effectively express your ideas simply and clearly, and do it with proper, correct and accurate word usage and grammar.” This I firmly believe.
For the past two decades, I have worked as a writer and editor for a high-tech research and development enterprise made up of 60% genius-level PhD engineers and scientists. They kept me employed and busy, because they needed someone to describe, in more-or-less every-day language, what they were doing. They could describe their research in very precise technical terms, but many of our government customers wanted to know, in everyday language, what it would do and would it work! Additionally, much of the writing of these scientists’ was littered with typos, spelling errors (spell check is NOT perfect), grammatical errors, and sentences that took minutes to read.
“But, why all the fuss,” some have asked. “My readers know what I am saying.” I contend that they may not. Most readers (even if they can’t write well) recognize flawed writing. To me, it is as if I went into an interview for a professional position with badly scuffed dress shoes and my tie crooked. My resume clearly shows that I am qualified and competent for the job, but my appearance may suggest I do not care about, or worse, do not understand the importance of details. My credibility as a candidate is suspect.
When I read an article and I bump into a grammatical error, typo, misspelling, or misuse of a word, etc., it is like hitting a bump in a road while driving—it distracts me. If I encounter several—I call them “gubbers” (don’t ask me why, I don’t know)—in the course of several paragraphs, I may begin to suspect the accuracy of the whole message. It, at least, reduces the impact of the writer’s message.
Also, if you write controversial material, keep in mind that your critics will use any opportunity, even a typo, to find a reason to discredit your writing.
I certainly am not a perfect writer, but I proof each piece before posting. Some errors may still escape detection prior to posting, but WordPress allows me to correct it as soon as I see it—or worse, after it is called to my attention.
I love writing, but make no mistake, it is work and it takes practice and diligence to write right.
Let the critique begin!
Suggestions for proof reading your writing
1. If you are writing news items when timely postings are important, find someone you trust to read the text before you post it. Fresh eyes often see things more clearly. I have several (intelligent) friends to whom I send drafts for a quick review.
2. If, like my writing, timing is not as important as getting the message correct, allow at least 24 hours between the first writing and the first re-read. This makes your own eyes “fresh eyes.” Read carefully and critically.
3. Do use your writing program’s spelling and grammar checking function, but keep in mind, it may not be perfect. Check each suggested correction.
4. An old trick I learned from a daily newspaper editor: for shorter articles, start at the end and read each word in reverse order. This is tedious but it is good for detecting spelling errors and typos.
5. Finally, read the article in the “preview” or “preview changes” mode on the blog hosting site BEFORE you hit “PUBLISH.” It is amazing how we see little glitches in this mode.
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