I like my social media. Facebook is top because Twitter is deathly quiet lately. In the good old days, you could go on, have a conversation with a nice group of people and then get back to work. Now it feels too much like hard work to interact, online conversation is not something I want to put four work-hours a day into, so Facebook wins. Unfortunately, Facebook is where the Grammar Police hang out. If you want to say something you’d better make sure you punctuate properly. Else be prepared for one of your friends to point out your misuse of their, there and they’re.
Imagine settling down in front of Facebook to vent about how a speeding cyclist had almost took your wing-mirror off with their face. You type so fast, it’s like your fingers are flying. You finish and make a cup of tea to celebrate. Sat back down in front of your screen, top lip just about to touch the surface of your perfect cuppa, you see it: a typo so bad you know the Grammar Police will be banging on your virtual door any minute. You panic. You start looking for the edit button, face burning. You’re sweating and panting. Then you hear BING! Usually you’d hope it’s someone liking your post or, dare you dream, sharing it, but not today. Tentatively looking at the screen with one eye closed, you see the comment and it says something like this:
“Surely you mean your because you’re is a contraction of you are. Just giving you a heads up.”
Sometimes it’s followed by a smug little emoji, smiling, nay, laughing at you. Then you have the internal struggle about how to explain your faux pas. Do you ignore, acknowledge with a thumbs-up sticker, block them, write an explanation of exactly what happened and start a grammar-off on your post…The choice is yours. Meanwhile, your tea has gone cold.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have a little giggle at the funny misinterpreted words and phrases I see sometimes; things like chester draws instead of chest of drawers on a selling page (my friend Charmaine likes to point these out). I’ve shared a few snarky where, were and we’re type posts on my wall. I’ve even drawn attention to one or two, especially when it’s been someone who I absolutely know would be mortified by their mistake. I’ve also been on the receiving end. Does it all matter, though? The answer for me is sometimes more than others.
I’d be very worried if I saw a social media post from the Prime Minister that said ‘Where all very thankfull of, you’re support. cheers for Voteing,!’ Surely if they couldn’t communicate well in writing, they’d at least employ an editor…
If I saw a sportsperson write the same thing, I’d be thankful that their trade is to kick a ball or hold a racquet.
If an author wrote it, I’d make my OMG face and cringe in solidarity.
If my son wrote it, I’d arrange a meeting with his teacher and probably leave a comment…
Good grammar is important but so is imagination and expression. It’s all about balance. A good story or anecdote is still good with a misplaced comma. The world knows what you mean if you use the wrong version of your. Never feel so intimidated by grammar that you stop being creative. There are so many resources out there to help you improve that stuff, it’s all technical and something most people can learn. It’s a skill. Imagination is something that can’t be taught. It’s not a skill, it’s a talent.
Being on form with punctuation doesn’t mean you’re a natural writer – it’s just an extra spanner in your toolkit. I’ve read a few self-published books and nine times out of ten, it’s the grammar that lets them down. It’s a problem for a whole host of reasons but is especially important in children’s books. Children are impressionable. If they see incorrect grammar repeatedly, they’ll eventually think it’s right. For the adult market, it completely disrupts the flow of the story and makes reading difficult.
To be more concise, it depends on who is making the mistakes and in what context. For those of us working with publishers, we have a safety net. We have editors. If you’ve never been able to put your finger on the difference between (most) self-published books and traditionally published, I would bet my favourite hat that it’s down to editing and art direction.
Basically it goes like this:
A Writer writes.
An Editor edits the writing.
An Illustrator illustrates.
An Art Director directs the illustrator.
Now that’s not to say that just because you have an editor you can get away with writing as if you’re in an intense text convo with a teenager. That’s like dropping your chip packet on the floor because you know the cleaner will be along in ten minutes. Do everything to the best of your ability, always.
Editing services are available to indie authors. There are shed-loads of freelance professionals out there offering their skills for a fair price so there’s absolutely no need for basic (or complex) grammar issues or bad (self) editing within your work.
For those that are really concerned about getting a ticking-off on their wall from a grammar-obsessed friend, get learning. There are squillions of resources out there and once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s not so hard.
And finally, if you’re the person that feels the need to correct everyone, next time you doodle, post it up so your artistic friends can critique your work as though it’s about to be hung in The Tate. Or take a video of yourself snowboarding so your sporty friends can compare your technique to Jenny Jones’. I’ll get the popcorn ready.
(Disclaimer: If you don’t know the difference between an apostrophe and a comma, you’ll find it extremely difficult to make a career out of writing. Write your story and use it as a springboard to learn more about grammar, punctuation and storytelling.)