Recently, I stumbled across a discussion in a writing group on Facebook. The OP, Christian Saunders, basically warned writers that when we’re posting to social media, we have a duty, as writers, to at least show a grasp of basic grammar and spelling. That means, no weird spellings, no misspellings, no strange sentences. Write it properly. Typos happen, but overall, what we put out there should reflect our ability to write. I mean, social media statuses are still written words, right?
You know what? I’m just going to share the post. Here;
“There’s been a lot of talk in the past few days about people correcting grammar and such on posts in this group. Here’s how it is. While we are all prone to the odd dropped comma or missed apostrophe, especially when typing on our phones, the fact of the matter is that if your post is riddled with errors it looks sloppy, and is a very poor reflection on your writing ability. Let’s not forget, this is a writing group. And for the people who think this kind of thing isn’t important, you are wrong. If you don’t know how to use grammar, or if you can’t spell or punctuate properly, in other words, if you don’t know how to use the basic tools, then I’m sorry but you have no business proclaiming to be a writer.” – C.M. Saunders
Well, what he had to say didn’t go over well. Many members of the group agreed, but more did not. They called him a troll, an elitist, a snob, a bully, and one person who agreed with him was called a cunt. Christ, kids. Sensitive much? We really have to drag out the c-word? I mean, I love that word, but use it wisely, and with restraint.
More than one member (and even one is too many, in my opinion) of this group said we have editors to deal with that stuff, so we don’t actually have to learn it.
Another said it’s just Facebook, so who cares if we’re sloppy. Um, YOU should care. And editors aren’t there to fix your shit. When it gets to an editor, all the shit should be gone. You should have polished that sucker as much as possible, and then the editor can work on what you missed. That’s how you be a professional, cupcake. The editors aren’t there to do the work for you. Lazy much?
“Lots of great novelists had poor grammar and ignored writing rules.” – Yes, and those writers ignored said rules AFTER they learned them and followed them and understood WHY they were there in the first place.
“It’s impossible to post perfect statuses and such when using a phone. Auto-correct ruins everything and the keypad doesn’t have proper punctuation.” – Wrong. I use my phone all the time. If auto-correct gets a word wrong, I fix it. Or I shut auto-correct off. Or I go back in when it’s posted and I edit. And every keypad on every phone I’ve ever had has all the punctuation. You just have to press the little button that says “ABC” or something like that, and it switches to punctuation and/or numbers. No excuse for sloppy posts.
“Writing is so much more than making words into sentences on a page.”
Just let me remind you, writing is ALL ABOUT making words into sentences. It’s kind of the way it’s done.
“It’s Facebook, not a literary journal.” – Sigh. What you put on Facebook is seen by potential readers. If it’s sloppy and poorly written, a reader might believe your fiction writing is the same. Takes a few seconds to write a Facebook status. Take a few more to make sure it’s not a shit show.
One of the group’s members posted a rebuttal status, basically asking us all to be kind to one another, blah, blah, vomit, etc. And then, when Christian replied to this rebuttal, this guy deleted the comment.
I know, right? Anyway, let’s move on.
Look, kittens, you’re calling yourselves writers, so cut the shit. If you’re going to join a group for writers, stop expecting to be coddled. If you’re going to SELL what you write, expect criticism. Stop acting like spoiled two-year-olds and really hear what people like Christian are saying. They’re not bullying you. They’re not trying to make themselves look smarter or better. This is solid, GOOD advice. Use it.
I’m tired of hearing about this “We’re a community” bullshit, where we stroke each other’s egos and ignore basic shit like writing in complete sentences with proper spelling and grammar all the time. I’m sick of hearing that writing is art and it’s subjective, so you don’t need to know the basics. That’s bullshit. I have busted my ass to learn the basics, and I expect anyone calling themselves “writer” to do the same. If you’re going to post something in a group MEANT FOR WRITERS, and you decide you don’t need to write it properly, I’m going to correct you. Why? Because I don’t care about your ego.
Editors are NOT there to fix what you’re too lazy to learn. Publishers will NOT take a manuscript that’s riddled with errors because the “story” is kickass. Know why? Because they won’t even READ it. One, two, five, ten errors later, they’ll be all “Fuck this shit,” and you’ll get the rejection letter. That’s reality. Part of writing a good “story” is the words you use, the structure you give it, and the flow all of it creates. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other basic writing elements are all part of that. Believe whatever delusion you want. Doesn’t make it true. Readers won’t be thrilled either, should you decide to self-publish without fixing mistakes. Sure, even big publishing houses publish errors and typos. We’re human. I make mistakes all the time. I miss typos. My editor misses stuff too. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for perfection. Impossible to achieve, I agree, but at least make the effort.
No one should be rude when correcting spelling or grammar, but would any effort to do so be received as anything but rude? I’ve seen some of you lose your damn minds when someone corrects you. Well, I’m sick of coddling the snowflakes. You’re annoying. Calling Christian rude for saying what he said is hypocritical too, as many of these sensitive little flowers were more than rude in response to this post. They were downright hateful. And for what? Because he told you the truth? Suck it up, sunshine.
We SHOULD pay attention to what we post on social media. We’re writers. Many of us are trying to sell what we write. When you do that, and you market online, how you present yourself is important. Paying attention to simple things like spelling and punctuation shows you’re a professional and gives readers (the people who might buy your books) confidence in you and your work, and ensures they might actually read what you post.
If you consistently post statuses or comments that are riddled with text speak, spelling mistakes, poor grammar, etc. you’re hurting your brand. If you don’t care, then go ahead and continue ignoring that stuff. Whatever floats your boat. Expect others to comment on those mistakes, though. Christian’s not evil or a troll for stating something that should be obvious to a writer.
Some of the people that commented wondered why we have to be so negative. Some asked why anyone would post such a thing in the first place, if not to be a troll or a bully. Do you want to know why he posted it? Because, for a group of WRITERS, the number of posts with poor, no atrocious punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. is staggering. This trend isn’t limited to this particular group either. I see it a lot, in many writer-type circles. And it’s not because these folks don’t know better. It’s because they’re lazy. Yes, a few might still be learning, but others are PUBLISHED. So, one might assume they know the basic rules of grammar and such. Right? I’d hope so.
Writing is art, sure, but it also requires skill. You have to practice and learn, and in order to master this skill, you’ve gotta take some criticism. If you’re going to call yourself writer, then behave like one. Not just sometimes. Do it every time, everywhere, with everything you put out there. If you’re too lazy, you better thicken that skin and learn how to take criticism in all its forms.
7 thoughts on “How To Be a Writer, Not a Tool”
Well said, Renee! Bravo! I see this all the time and it makes me so mad and quite frankly, exhausted. As a reader, it’s about respect. If they don’t have enough respect for others to take the time to post well, then I want absolutely nothing to do with their ‘work’ because I’m sure that carries through. Not to mention, the internet is forever. Is that the impression they really want hanging around FOREVER?
Thanks, Hanna. I don’t think some of the “writers” in this situation care that it’s forever, because they’re not really interested in writing well. I think they’re just interested in getting attention or feeling special. Or something.
I think the person you quoted put it a bit too strongly, to be honest. In general everyone, writer or not, should make their best attempt at clarity and coherency in their writing and other forms of communication. And following standard (not “proper”) grammar rules is one of the more effective tools to achieve that goal, especially with a broad or formally distanced audience.
And certainly if you want to riff on standard grammar rules to make your point more effectively, you have to know those rules to break them usefully. But I wouldn’t say someone who struggles with grammar or spelling has no business proclaiming themselves a writer.
If the stated philosophy of the group is to use standard grammar and spelling, then people should make that effort if they wish to be part of the group, and none of the excuses you rebutted are good ones for not doing so, including being on a phone or being lazy To that extent I definitely agree.
But in terms of the wording used, that quoted post definitely seems to not care too much about mixing up the issues of being purposefully sloppy–which is definitely a target for legitimate critique–and the issue of who deserves to proclaim themselves a writer or not.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make excellent points. Yes, he could have been clearer, although he did clarify his intention in writing the post in the comments, but of course, I can’t post the entire thread here (more than 400 comments/replies). You’re absolutely right about it being unclear about sloppiness vs. calling oneself a writer. He might have avoided some of the backlash had he been more careful in what he said, but the general consensus of many in the group is that social media doesn’t matter, so I think no matter what he said, or how he said it, many of these folks would’ve been offended. From what I’ve seen, criticism in any form isn’t taken well.
I think if you’re in a forum that is dedicated to writing, social media or not, it’s important to show that you respect the craft. I hope that this mindset is limited to this particular group, but I have a feeling it’s not, which is a shame. So much potential is wasted in laziness.
In me experience, many people are less concerned about standard grammar and spelling on social media. Which is fine in general, but I can definitely see the argument that when posting in a writing group as opposed to on your own timeline or some such, a bit more care isn’t an unreasonable request.
Personally, I can’t leave a mistake in one of my own social media or online posts once I see it, and even in private messaging or text, I feel the need to *correct myself in most cases.
I’m the same. If I see the error, I have to fix it or acknowledge it’s there if I can’t edit. I don’t go around correcting others, though. I know that’s a guaranteed way to piss everyone off. If what’s posted is riddled with errors or text speak, I just scroll past it, so whatever they were trying to convey isn’t received.
Well said. Though i think text speak can be part of your brand, sloppy isn’t. I recently read an argument about using womyn, womxn, and womin rather then women or woman. The use of the new words were spelled as they were for a reason and with a purpose. The argument took odd gendered turns and I’m sure mansplaining occurred at one point, but what i enjoyed about the discussion was the defense for purposeful breach of rules. But it’s one thing to breach with understanding, and another to breach due to laziness.