Being an amateur writer is no excuse for writing amateurishly…

Wading through all the elderly dross in the Guardian website’s food and drink section (overdue for an update guys – Christmas is so last year), I came across this article.

Then, in the comments, spotted a bunch of people, quite rightly taking the Guardian to task for spelling sumptuous as sumptious. Quite rightly, because as I’ve pointed out here more times than I care to remember, standards at the Guardian, at least in its online version, are going to hell.

Then up pops one Felicity Cloake, author of the article and, possibly, the perpetrator of the error, with her knickers in a twist and whining that complaining was “mean spirited” as the offending word had been copied “from a blog – you know, written by an amateur doing it for the love of it,”.

Sadly, comments are now closed, as reading that angered me, because being “written by an amateur doing it for the love of it” is never an excuse for not hitting the spell-check button – neither is there any excuse for Cloake not doing so either. I don’t know what sub-editors do these days – if they still exist – but they clearly don’t check copy for errors before publication.

And too many bloggers are too sodding lax. OK, I know some typos slip though here, but incorrectly-spelled words very rarely. And given that some days I can barely see the screen, I’m lucky it’s not worse than it is.

I was reading – or trying to, anyway – a foodie blog a few days ago, but it was so appallingly written, I just couldn’t. I tried hard to like it, as the writer had Liked a post of mine, but in the first post I read she’d decided she didn’t like what she’d written, and rewritten part of it. That’s fine, we all do that. What we don’t all do, though, is omit to delete the unwanted text, as she had. And it went downhill from there – every post, even the very short ones, having its freight of errors, mostly spelling mistakes, but also errors of syntax and grammar. The spelling mistakes there is no excuse for, but the syntactical and grammatical errors speak either to a basic lack of education** or a couldn’t care less attitude. That,assuming it’s an educational problem as far as her writing is concerned, can be remedied by reading – a lot, and widely – and getting a feel for how the language works and is put together, but which seems not to be happening.

Some people don’t care – Felicity Cloake is apparently one of them – and in their world amateurs are excluded from the need to spell properly. But not in mine.

I’m not seeking perfection, because it doesn’t exist, but if you’re writing a blog, or an ebook (free or paid-for), or a newspaper column, then you have an obligation to your readers to get the bloody spelling right. And if money is involved, proof-read until you’re cross-eyed, and weed out the typos too!

I want people to read my blog, so it behoves me not to piss them off by wilfully failing to correct spelling errors, or perpetrating any other mistakes that could have been avoided – well, most of them, anyway.

I expect others – bloggers, writers, journalists, whatever – to extend to me the same courtesy.  Being an amateur does not excuse you. Or me.

**Last time I said something like that, I was accused – as if it were a mortal insult! – of being an intellectual. Whether that’s true or not is not for me to  decide, but my education is basic secondary school level, and I lost about a third of that, and primary school, to illness.** Thing is, though, when I was there I paid attention, especially to things which were important to me, like my own language. And, as I’ve explained at greater length elsewhere, I had the world’s best English teacher. There’s another reason, too, covered in this very early post.

**And a year free-wheeling at primary school, as the damn secondary school hadn’t been built!

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6 thoughts on “Being an amateur writer is no excuse for writing amateurishly…

    • For some reason – probably ME-related – I confuse homophones (words which sound the same but are spelt differently)- and no spell-checker will pick those up, so everything has to be read assiduously, just in case. For example, I’ve just posted a comment on the Guardian’s website, where I spelt we’ll as wheel (that’s a new one). Luckily I spotted it in time.

      And sometimes I just type gibberish, or backwards. They, too, are ME-related.

  1. and i often find myself going completely cross eyed ,specially at night. and typing utter rubbish. esapecially if my back and shgoulders are playing up. (am leaving those 2 words in as examples.) what gets me is how on earth do i come to type the right letter then hit the one next to that letter making the word garbage? can appreciate what you say Ron about what you are like when you feel ill. if i have hit a patch where i feel like ive little or no energy, i again type rubbish.

    • It’s very easy to type gibberish at times, but if I – or another blogger, or a journalist, for example – expect someone read a couple of thousand words, then we have an obligation to them (as well as to out own reputation), not to publish gibberish.

      I think, one day soon, I’ll publish a completely uncorrected post, so people can see what I mean. That’s if I can do it, as correcting as I go is pretty much automatic.

      I’ve given up worrying about spelling on Twitter – not mine, others. With a 140-character limit you’d think people would pay attention and make every one count, but no.

  2. Pain is another reason for my misuse of the language that I love as we’ve all experienced and which, at times, can’t be helped. Not that that is an excuse! Sometimes my mind is so ahead of what I want to type but my body is is way behind, at other times it’s the other way around! I adore reading, I adore seeing English Language put in its proper context but as the pain goes on, as the stress gets worse and as the drugs weaken me I become one of those who not only annoys many people, but really annoys myself. I try hard, I really do and I hope that I don’t offend too many people.
    I have set rules about reading text speak – I won’t so I just delete it and don’t even try to work out what has “supposedly” been said. When they write to me properly, then I will maybe look and answer them – if not, tough, I’m me and have my own set of language standards :)

    • Yep – that last is in my comment rules – anyone who’s incoherent goes straight in the bin. If I can’t understand them, I’m pretty sure no-one else will.

      The other day I ran a post through a language-analyser to get a feel for the age group it was appropriate to. Turned out to be 17 and over, which is fine, and about what I was aiming for (no point in writing if no-one understands it!). But it also offered me a selection of lines that I “might like to rewrite for clarity”. Turned out the analyser didn’t understand apostrophes!

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