Thursday, March 18, 2010

PSA For Bloggers, Journalists et al.

I apologize in advance for getting up on my soapbox about this, but I really have to rant for a second because I see this all of the time in blogs and also in my very favorite alternative weekly, The Weekly Dig, which I respect tremendously but have gotten on the case of regarding their occasional lenience toward typographical errors. (I've offered to proofread every article for free, but they haven't taken me up on it).

I know that some of you may have been victims of a less-than-stellar school system where your teachers just didn't know any better and taught you wrong, or maybe you just didn't listen, but there are two very simple grammatical rules that many, many intelligent (perhaps brilliant, and certainly talented) writers make every day:

1. Its vs. It's:

Somewhat surprisingly, the staffer at the Dig with the best grasp on this concept is an Art person, Taylor Seidler. He (she? I know Taylors of both genders but I'm thinking guy?) seems to get it. (Hello, copyeditrix Cox? Canhazyourjobplz? Willdoforfreez.) The rule is that "its" as a possessive is treated the same way as his and hers. His/Hers/Its. No apostrophe, EVER. Would you put an apostrophe in "hers"? Horrors, no, right? "Her's?" Ew. That's a grocer's apostrophe (apple's, 59 cents/lb!). So... why would you put one in "its"? Well, it is because "it's" as a conjunction of "it is" does exist in the written language (although, truth be told, if you're writing formally, you shouldn't be contracting anyway. [Blogs are not formal.])

Please, for the love of the language, learn the difference. Think to yourself "could I put 'it is' here? If not, why the hell am I using an apostrophe? Do I want my readers to suddenly doubt my otherwise credible voice (or cringe)?"

2. My brother and I went to the store vs. This is a picture of my brother and me:

Simple rule, again. Take the other person out. Would you ever say "this is a picture of I"? No. You'd sound like an idiot. So please don't say "this is my dog and I" either. It's "my dog and me." I know you were over-taught never to say "me" by your mother, and yes, "my friends and I went to the store" is correct, but you need to realize when "me" is appropriate, which is actually quite frequently. Example: "If you have any questions, come see Colleen or me." Never I.

The issue is not that you can't (obviously) get your point across without perfect grammar, it's that your content is distracted from by errors. People aren't going to focus on your wonderful prose if they can't get past the horrible lurching sensation in their bellies when they encounter this kind of error. And we do exist, oh boy, do we exist- "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" was a major best-seller, don't forget.

Thanks to my friend Sam, fellow violist and co-author of the astoundingly intelligent music blog for this additional, helpful link: 10 Words You Should Stop Misspelling.

End rant. Thanks for your time and I hope this was helpful and more amusing and edifying than terribly didactic.


  1. hmm... seems i've lost a follower after this post. please take it light-hearted-ly!

  2. I have to come in defense of many bloggers and we look at this as a hobby and not something we have to use perfect grammar on. I couldn't care less if my grammar on my PERSONAL blog is correct. It is informal and I do it for fun. I have even posted my thoughts on the topic.

    It doesn't come across as light hearted. It seems critical.

  3. Hi Hillary. read your link. I understand what you're saying (and I did mention that blogs aren't formal and are not subject to quite the same nitpicking as, say, a newspaper). I feel like this post is more along the lines of a "how to draw more readers in and keep them there" than saying everyone HAS to have perfect grammar... and honestly if anyone can't handle my snarkiness (fully disclosed!) then that's fine and they totally don't have to read my stuff!

    I just like to see the written word given some respect, especially when it's really really simple rules like this to remember but that everyone does wrong. The relying-on-spellcheck mentality in this country is devastating to me.

    And come on, I posted a cartoon link! And a crazy picture! Totally lighthearted.

  4. I'm WITH you and I've ranted about it, too. Granted, we all make mistakes. That's fine. Not everyone learned grammar at an OCD school like mine. That's fine, too. But if you expect people to read your stuff, you should make at least a minimal effort with the basics.
    Here's my analogy: when some good friends come to dinner, you don't spring-clean the whole house. But you do clear junk off the dining table and put out a clean towel in the bathroom, don't you?
    The thing for me is, there are so many wonderful blogs, I can't possibly read them all, and I will tend to spend longer and visit more, at the ones who appear to have a basic level of grammar and spelling.

  5. I agree with what Hillary said.

    "some of you may have been victims of a less-than-stellar school system where your teachers just didn't know any better and taught you wrong, or maybe you just didn't listen"

    The above statement isn't lighthearted, IMHO.

  6. Struggler, you put in your comment "But if you expect people to read your stuff, you should make at least a minimal effort with the basics". Just because a person blogs doesn't mean they expect people to read it. Many do it solely for personal/hobby reasons like Hillary stated. Feel free to read the blogs you want, that interest you and are up to your "standards", but don't feel like you are invited to read everyone's or that they care about your opinion on their writing style.

    In the meantime, I will do the same, and since I prefer my blogs without condescending attitudes I will make sure this blog and Struggler's never make my list of daily reads.

  7. Well, then! to each his or her own! Certainly didn't intend to stir up so much cranky!
    If you knew me, you'd know that "or maybe you just didn't listen" is in fact as light-hearted as it gets. Lack of sense of humor duly noted, (rather cowardly) anonymous poster.

    And thanks, Struggler! Your gorgeous prose is always a thrill to read and I very much appreciate your tutorials on things in which you are an expert and I am not!

  8. I guess I see what you're getting at, but what truly should to be touted, or at least analyze, over perfect grammar, is CONTENT.

    The criticism of grammar, spelling, and syntax? It's been done. It's repetitive. It's an argument that has been going on since the first American dictionaries standardized American English and started a dispute with Oxford English language standards. It's been going on since any younger generation developed a blatant disregard for the older generation's staunch and often arbitrary adherence to a language's supposed standards.

    A blog entry or print article may be spelled perfectly and be free from typographical errors, but that doesn't necessarily mean said writing is free from inane and predictable copy. Critical nitpicking is not the same thing as critical analysis or even interesting social commentary, no matter how "snarky" and clever the error-free sentences are.

  9. For many, it is literally impossible to judge content objectively when one is stared in the face with errors.

    These two errors are two that nearly everyone makes, no matter how well-educated or intelligent. Hell, I'd make them if I weren't so obsessed with doing it right. Just trying to help folks learn a little something that might stick with them forever and prevent their content from being dismissed based on cringe-worthy typos.

  10. "If you knew me, you'd know that "or maybe you just didn't listen" is in fact as light-hearted as it gets. Lack of sense of humor duly noted, (rather cowardly) anonymous poster."

    Just because you have readers, it doesn't mean they KNOW you. And why do you assume this anonymous poster is cowardly when you don't know who it is? For all you know it might be a close blogger friend who decided to comment anonymously. If you think anonymous commenting is cowardly, why have the option?

  11. I'm certainly not saying that my readers know me. Hence the 'if' you knew me. As in, "sorry my tone was hard to read since it's the internets and you don't know what a sweet person I really am and that it was totally just sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek fun while attempting to also be edifying about a specific subject that has not, in fact, been beaten into the ground (certainly not as much as their/they're/there, for example, which everyone bitches about!)"

    I actually, honestly, wanted to help. And be funny. Mission fail for some readers, clearly.

    If you're a bloggy friend than HI!!! What's up! Thanks for commenting!

    If you're just posting anonymously so people don't associate your upset with your own blog, yeah, I feel like that's cowardly.

    I leave the anonymous option for commenting so as to not force anyone to create a google account, that's all.


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