Have you ever seen the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate? Spoiler: don’t watch when you’re hungry; you’ll thank me later for that little tidbit. Anyway, chefs sit around talking about the best thing another chef made. So, I started thinking about the best writing advice I ever received from another writer. This is not an easy thing to figure out since writers tend to be great with “take my advice I am not using it.”
After mulling it over for a few days, I’ve finally decided on this: all writing matters. I know you’re all thinking duh; tell me something that isn’t obvious. Hear me out…please. Regardless of whether you’re sending a mass email/text/Tweet to friends or posting on Facebook or replying to a business associate; finally finishing that business report - well, the list is really endless - you should practice good writing skills.
But why (insert whiny voice here) …
Practice makes perfect. Well, nothing makes perfect. But practicing good writing in all our affairs keeps us consistent, concise and able to easily communicate thoughts and feelings. If that doesn’t work for you it will keep that friend, you know the one who ALWAYS points out grammar mistakes, from becoming too heady with power. Seriously, we all have ONE friend who keeps us honest about how we write, what we write to whom we write. It’s generally me, but even I’ve been on the receiving end with such a person.
“If you make mistakes with personal emails there’s nothing stopping you from making mistakes in your professional life and we both know…”
Generally, my eyes would glaze over and I’d roll them (thank God for telephones before video chatting) and silently pray he’d get off his kick. Of course, I knew he was right but I didn’t need it pointed out to me. I prefer to do the pointing, thank you very much. As fate would have it, I’ve corrected him, too.
Honestly, I’ve come to truly appreciate the advice because it keeps me vigilant and honest in my writing. Does it mean I don’t make mistakes? Hell no; I’m human and some days I am the queen of writing mistakes. It’s made me more mindful about what I am doing and as a result I’m more clear when I write.
Food for thought
I get asked all the time how I get so much writing done. I remove distractions. I don’t check email or Facebook or other social media platforms or text messages. It’s just me, my jams (80s music, Sinatra, Dean Martin – the list is LONG), and my computer. It’s like wearing blinders; regardless of how many people are around me. I think some of it has to do with working in noisy newsrooms and the rest because I have a pesky friend who keeps me honest about writing.
Twitter only allows you 140 characters…use them wisely and carefully. Yes, there’s acronyms galore out there for that very reason. Please use them sparingly. And when you find yourself writing with real words and not codes please don’t rely solely on a spell/grammar check. It will catch some errors but not ALL. And chances are someone, like me, will come along and point out your errors.
A few months ago, when I picked my niece up from school there was an event invitation among her things. I took one long at it and pointed out the error without a second thought (out loud in front of the administrator). Hmm…maybe that’s why a recent University of Michigan study found people who point out grammar errors are less agreeable.
I disagree. For me, it isn’t about showing up my friends or colleagues. It’s about sharing how to be more mindful and present in everyday life. Chances are the friend that ALWAYS corrects you needs the lesson more than you do. Chew on that and let me know what you think: are people who correct grammar really jerks?