by Jennifer Michael/DeviantFeather
Most of us start writing because we have ideas, thoughts or insights that we’d want to share, we hope to effect our world in some way, to change other’s opinions to match our own.
For most readers, I’ve already lost them. Why on earth would you listen to anything I have to say if I can’t keep my grammar straight? Affect vs. effect. Other’s vs. others’. Oxford commas. It’s vs. its. Run-on sentences. Good vs. well. They’re, their, or there? The list is endless, and these simple goofs are a quick way to lose your reader.
Don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes. Even the most educated writer will miss a comma or switch up their tenses. Misspellings are like cockroaches—there are always more hiding under the surface, populating despite our best efforts. There are also plenty of old-school rules that are now acceptably broken, such as ending a sentence in a preposition, starting a sentence with a conjunction, or using ellipses in the middle of a sentence…those aren’t the issue.
The issue is losing your reader’s interest or trust because you don’t proofread. A reader has an expectation: that you will entertain and/or inform them. When they open a book, blog, or even a Twitter feed, they are extending trust that the writer will deliver on that expectation. They trust that we won’t waste their time—they can do that well enough on their own.
Grammar can quickly break that trust, and once it’s broken, it’s nearly impossible to recover. After all, if you (the writer) can’t produce a polished finished product, why would they (the reader) trust your content? First impressions matter, especially in writing! In person you have a multitude of mediums with which to express yourself: body language, voice inflection, your clothes, your attitude, etc. Writing has none of that—you’ve got your words and a blank page, so you’d better make those words count.
Think about it this way: if you find spelling errors on a restaurant menu, do you wonder about the staff’s education? Do they know basic principles of safe food handling? What if you’re an investor and checking out a new business? Grammar errors on their website might call into question the business’ commitment to quality and attention to detail. If you find typos in a magazine, are you likely to subscribe to it?
Bottom line? If your writing is presented to the public, it’s a product and you are the manufacturer. If you expect to keep a reader’s interest long enough to share your message, clean up your product. Take some time to educate yourself. Take a class. Buy Grammar for Dummies. Ask your ex-English-teacher mom to give it a final read.
A little effort up front will pay off in the end. And if it doesn’t, at the very least you’ll avoid crucifixion by the grammar nazis.
Looking to avoid grammar goofs? Try these resources: