The Greatest Mistake That Writers Make
Oh My God in Heaven
This is not your normal introduction. I am going to begin by sharing something I found online the other day. I was looking for some information for an article I needed to write about the causes of slippage in an automatic transmission and this is the first article I came across:
“As car technology evolves, more and more features are being added towards the modern automobile, in particular the automatic transmission system, however it has an associated problem such as the transmission slipping which become more common.
It is consider as one of the most common trouble among automatic transmissions. If ignored and left unfixed for a longer period of time, it may complicate the damage on the vehicle and may cause accidents.”
Please, just shoot me now and put this old teacher out of his misery!
I counted seven grammatical errors in the first three sentences. There may be more but I had to leave it and upchuck my lunch.
Welcome to the World of Writing in the year 2014.
Since this was a website for a business, I have to assume that the writer was paid for this hogwash. Make no mistake about it: he, or she, accomplished the goal, namely to cram as many keywords into the introduction as possible….but is this writing?
Well yes, technically speaking, this is writing. Words have been put on a page, and those words appeared through the effort of writing. But let me ask you this: If I teach a potbellied pig to fetch a ball, is the pig then a baseball player?
Can I be clearer than that?
I Understand, I Understand, I Understand
I have had this discussion many times before, and I understand the opposing viewpoint. I am told that we should never discourage others from writing simply because they don’t have a mastery of the English language, and for the most part I agree with that. Writing for the love of writing should never be discouraged. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who loves writing to write….but….
And there is always a but now isn’t there?
What really bothers me is that the person who wrote that drivel above most likely lists “writer” as their occupation on their tax returns, and that I simply can’t abide by. We need another word to describe those who yes, get paid for writing, but really can’t write themselves out of a wet paper bag.
Why does this matter so much to me? Because writing is a craft, that’s why! Writing is one of the Arts for the love of all that is holy, and if you can honestly tell me that the above passage is artful then I have some serious concerns for you as well.
So to the Point of This Article
The greatest mistake that writers make…that is what the title says, so that is what I’ll give you.
I spend a great amount of time with other writers. We share, we compare, we comment and we support. We all try to improve in areas like voice, rhythm, flow, character description, pace, scenes and other areas of the craft.
But there are some who forget the most basic of skills…namely the language itself.
Of course at times it is alright to make grammatical errors if it adds to the basic story, but to butcher grammar simply because one does not know the rules….that is not and never will be alright.
Allow me now to tell you my biggest problem with online writing and with ebooks. I know this will make some “writers” unhappy but that’s just too bad. In my opinion, the ease with which someone can post an article or a story or a book online has led to the dumbing down of the craft of writing. Writers online are not accountable for their mistakes. It’s just one big candy shop where the children can eat as much as they want without repercussions, and the readers are the ones who go home with a stomach ache.
Where is the pride in doing a job well?
I have been accused of being against the online writing site Bubblews. That simply is not the case. I have nothing against those who write 400 characters and then network like crazy to increase their views and “clicks,” thus increasing their earnings. If that’s your thing then fantastic. Times are tough and people need to do whatever they can to make money and pay bills….I get it!
There are some on that site….certainly not all by any means…but some who don’t care how poorly they write. They are just churning out characters and calling it writing, and that I do have a problem with. If Hemingway was a writer, and those who turn out junk just for the sake of gaining views are writers, then I think we have a basic philosophical problem.
Why You Should Care About This
Whether you are a freelance writer trying to establish a toehold in the writing community, or you are a would-be novelist or nonfiction writer hoping to one day publish a book, remember that what you write is part of your platform. Your words are you! They are a direct representation of your ability as a writer.
Now how do you want to be seen? Do you want to be taken seriously or not?
Butchering the English language is a guaranteed way to figuratively slit your own throat in this business.
Again, if you are a writer who writes for your own enjoyment and because you have a need to feed your passion for writing, then God bless you and don’t worry about any of this. Just write for the pure joy of writing.
If, however, you are a writer who has goals and dreams, then learn the language. You might be able to fool a few hundred people into reading your ebook, but once they have discovered that you have the writing skills of a 5th grader, they will not come back. Why should they?
I understand that I am a dinosaur with these beliefs. I understand that I am bucking the current trend by insisting that writers take their craft seriously and try to improve. I understand all of that and I stand my ground.
Writing should be a gift from the gods. Writing should be a sensory experience akin to having literary sex. Writing should be the advancement of a craft that has been handed down by the masters to those of us who are apprentices. That kind of writing carries with it a responsibility, and I will go to my grave believing that.
So if I insulted any of you I am truly sorry. That wasn’t my intention. My only hope in writing this article is to advance writing and hopefully to encourage all of you to do your best. We have enough “dumb” in today’s society. I would love to see that “dumb” lessened by some quality work from serious writers.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”