Is a writer permitted to make lots of elementary mistakes in arbitrary written communication? Surely.
Do others (no matter their credentials) have the right to correct grammatical errors made by an unsuspecting, off-duty, writer? Definitely.
Should either do either? No.
Before I piss a whole bunch of people off, allow me to make one thing clear: I make lots of mistakes. That’s why I keep an editor on my payroll. I send emails with misspellings in them and I post here with questionable word choices. I’m not preaching, I’m learning.
I was recently copied on an email conversation in which one writer criticized another writer’s word usage and punctuation in a casual exchange. This made me wonder: Are writers responsible for upholding the integrity of language in all they do? And how should they handle ridiculous criticism that isn’t solicited?
I didn’t have to ponder this one for very long. For the same reason that nuns don’t RSVP “yes” to lingerie parties and college applicants do clean up their Facebook pages, writers are responsible for, at the very least, proofreading correspondence, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. “Don’t we get a day off?” you ask. No, we don’t. Because we reserve the right to tie our hair up in a knot and simmer in yesterday’s sweatpants, we give up the right to take a break from what we purportedly call “our passion.” This isn’t me being pretentious. It’s me offering writing advice. You see, two of my best (as in lucrative) clients found me through arbitrary forum conversation. Had I just blasted off some nonsensical, error-riddled statement, they may have never believed that I could deliver anything else.
When you’re a writer, every mistake is sign-sized:
Just as branding experts attest, when you are committed to a venture as risky as self-employment, your brand identity needs to course through every vein of your interactions and communications. Building a reputation for yourself through others’ perceptions is more valuable than any billboard or banner ad, and in order to accomplish this, you must remain professional, and reasonably error-free, in your written communications. Not all interactions will require profound, literary stuff. But an evident grasp of the basics will always be in style.
I know, this sucks, right? Wrong. You either love and respect the English language or you don’t. I don’t believe that writing is something you can turn on and off. You love this, remember?
If someone does criticize your writing when you haven’t asked for it, particularly if you shot off a quick email without the intention of it being published, how should you react? Swallow it like the gift that it is, because if you can’t handle a comment about an apostrophe in a quick email, you’ll buckle like a belt when a Big Six publisher goes ape shit on the manuscript that you’ve slaved over for years. I understand that great writing is so much more than good spelling and grammar — but, as Aunt Mabel might proffer, presentation helps.
We’re writers. One job requirement is that we at least attempt to act like it. We are also flawed human beings. This means we will make plenty of mistakes and that we should, in turn, show compassion for the stray fingers of our fellow human composers.
What do you think? Should writers be held to a higher standard in all written media and channels? Or do we get a day off, too?
- 7 Ways to Build Your Reputation As a Writer (jadealysewrites.wordpress.com)