I recently read a blog post that advocated spelling, and by extension revision, is only for the weak and timid. Bullshit. The internet is full of content by people that is dashed off at a frenzied pace and posted without any further regard. Perhaps because time is short and there’s just so much information out there to discover, people don’t think self-editing is really necessary or important. It’s the spirit and the passion behind the post that count you might say. From my point of view if you don’t have enough passion about what you’re posting to at least give it a quick proof read and check the spelling then you don’t really care about your ideas. Presentation matters. Ideas poorly expressed and with little regard for the craft of writing reflect poorly on the writer.
When the pros, and I can’t count myself among them, write something they feel worthy of being read, it is on the whole cleaner and better written than the rest of the “content” on the internet. The immediacy of the medium tempts many to disregard the polish that writing deserves. You can whip up a posting and click a button so that it’s instantly available to the whole world. The infinitesimal lifespan of the blog post also tempts bloggers to say it doesn’t matter. But persistence is in the mind of the reader. If a blog posts a constant stream of dashed off ideas full of typos, then a reader remembers and the errors build up in his or her mind over time. You’re judged by what you post. This is especially true if you’re using your blog/web site as a vehicle to promote your writing.
Writing’s a craft. Spelling and grammar are the tools that ensure your words and your ideas are heard above the rest of the noise out there. Whether you work in pen and ink or pixels is irrelevant. Good writing is worth the time and effort. If you don’t care enough to take even thirty seconds to check what you’ve written, why should readers care about what you’re saying? Remember Sturgeon’s law: Ninety percent of everything is crud. Which side of that percentage do you want your writing to be on?
This post invariably makes me look snooty and uptight and old-fashioned. That’s fine. I can live with that. If I want to call myself a writer, and want people to take me seriously as a writer, then I’ll put my time into polishing what I write. I’ve been a writer at my day job for over twelve years now, so it’s ingrained in me. Detractors will say they’ve seen plenty of crud from me. But the times I’ve made the greatest number of mistakes, or handed in the sloppiest writing was when I was most apathetic about my subject.
And the spelling mistake in the title is deliberate.
2 thoughts on “Teh internet as an excuse for sloppiness”
Recently, we had a class on how to teach Writing to students. It’s a multi-step process. One is to just let them write. Anything. No attention to what it’ll look like finished, no editing, no revision. Just draft. To do otherwise gets them focused on minutiae and they loose sight of the bigger picture. Then you let it sit for a while. Then you come back and revise. Not edit. This is not the stage for grammar and spelling. This is where the big picture is refined and streamlined, and chunks of text are added, moved, or deleted. And it sits for a while. Then comes editing, where grammar and spelling are checked and the piece is polished. All of these steps are necessary for the clear and effective communication of ideas.
As we discussed in class, all too often these days, at least one of these steps is omitted in the interests of saving time. Part of what they really want us to do as teachers is make sure we start teaching all three again. To do otherwise is to do students a great disservice.
That said, I’m finding that as I’m marking things, if the finished piece is riddled with grammar and spelling errors, even if the content is deep and thought-provoking, I have huge amounts of trouble seeing past the mistakes to what’s underneath.