My friends tell me I need to read that book, Eat, Shoots, and Leaves about punctuation. I’m obsessed with commas and ellipses. I love using them. I like how they sound when I read them out loud. I like how they make my writing look. It’s like I’m blogging how I think. It’s like I’m writing like how I feel. It’s like writing poetry. It makes my boring words sound better.
While she may think that, she also complains that no one reads her stuff. If she writes like she talks, and uses punctuation accordingly, then no wonder her blog is so hard to read.
In Learning Lessons from The Planet Blog, I wrote about how the CEO of a company was coerced into writing the first blog post on their new corporate blog, and how readers attacked him for his excessive use of ellipses in his writing. In the post, he openly admits that he was just writing off the top of his head, and that he wasn’t very good, nor comfortable, writing. His writing skills are not what made his company one of the largest in the world.
It took a lot of courage for him to write and publish that blog post. Yes, someone in the company should have edited it before it was released, but they wanted an “open” and “transparent” communications tool with their blog, so they didn’t dare edit the boss’ post. Should they? It’s too late now. What’s done is done. Readers aren’t always so forgiving when it comes to bad writing.
There are times when spelling, grammar, and punctuation interferes with your blogging from the reader’s perspective. Then there are times when your own obsession with spelling, grammar, and punctuation interferes with your ability to blog.
Obsessed With The Written Word
I know several bloggers who blog in English not because they are fluent, but in spite of that. They want to improve their English, and a blog is a fantastic learning tool.
One friend has two dictionaries and two thesauruses, one set for each language, that sit beside her as she writes on her blog. If she can’t remember a word, or how to get the idea across, she’ll hit her native language dictionary or thesaurus and look it up. If it isn’t there, she’ll think of a close approximation of the word in English and then look it up in English to find the word she really wants. It can take two hours for her to write a blog post as she struggles to learn the language as she blogs.
Watching a client work on his new blog, I spotted him copying and pasting it into Microsoft Word repeatedly. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t trust the spell checker on Firefox. I want to make sure I’ve spelled everything right and the grammar is correct.”
“Okay, but isn’t once enough?”
“No. Every time I make an edit, I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything.”
It took him an hour to write a five paragraph blog post while I sat next to him, biting my tongue. Luckily, he was paying and I had to do nothing to earn my hourly fee but sit and bite.
There is a price to be paid when blogging not in your native language or becoming obsessed with the words you are about to publish. You may think that publishing posts on your blog is fun and easy, but to many, the concept of publishing is serious business. It has to be right – absolutely right – before they hit the Publish button.
However, there has to be balance.
Finding the Compromise Between Perfectionism and Efficiency
When I opened my Blogging Tips book fresh from the printers and found misspelled words and missing words right in the first few pages, I hid in a corner and wanted to scream and cry at the same time. The last three days before the book went to the publisher at the end of three nightmare weeks to create the book from scratch and deal with constant changes in the page count and concept, of course there would be errors. How could there not be errors without a time-consuming and serious last edit and review, for which there was no time?
Now, I have to live with the consequences. Me, major spelling obsessed. The sole reason I got involved in the WordPress Codex, the online manual for WordPress Users, was because I was sick and tired of seeing “separate” misspelled as “seperate”. Look where that led.
Yes, look where that led? I only fixed a few annoying misspellings in the WordPress Codex, then soon I was editing and contributing articles to it. Then I had a whole blog dedicated to WordPress. See, you never know where a mistake along your path, be it a spelling mistake or otherwise, will lead.
There must be a compromise between perfectionism and efficiency, as well as peace of mind. Unlike a book, newspaper, or magazine, a blog is editable. It can be fixed. It can be repaired. It can be improved. So why stress out over things that are changeable, when there is so much more to stress over that can’t be changed?
When we obsess over minutia, it takes energy away – energy we need elsewhere in our lives. Energy we need in our blogs.
For the most part, readers are fairly forgiving. I’m sure that I’ve messed up plenty with my “grammer” that my readers let slip by. But when I make a big mistake, my readers correct me.
At WordCamp 2007, John Dvorak and Om Malik both agreed that they have long passed the point where they worry about making mistakes on their blogs. Dvorak admitted that this was a great way to start a conversation. Someone corrects you, having the courage to comment, and then you respond back. Anything to start the conversation ball rolling.
Constantly work at improving your blog writing skills, but lighten up on the panic attacks over every word you write. Put that energy into your blog content as a whole.
It’s amazing how much we will forgive when the point is powerful.
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- Writing With Culture – The Insidious Pull of Pop Language
- How Easy is Your Writing to Understand?
- How to Write Good – Tips For Bloggers on Blogging
- How is Blogging Like Stand-up Comedy
- Blog Writing: I lk yr blg
- Fortune Cookie Blogging
- Writing on the Web is Like Writing on Paper But The Rules Change
- Blog Challenge: Who is Writing Your Blog?
- Cultural Colloquiums and Blog Writing
- How Not to Blog in a Blogathon Blog
- The Best Bloggers Edit
- How Not to Tick People Off and Keep Them Coming Back For More
- One Year Anniversary Review: Blog Writing
- Getting Past the Writing Starting Gate
- Copy Copy Copy: You Can’t Write My Post. I Can’t Write Yours.
- Your Blog is Your Unedited Version of Yourself
- Learning Lessons from The Planet Blog
- A Blog Anniversary: Learning From Your Past Mistakes
- Do You Get to The Point or Ramble to the Point In Your Blog?
- Lessons from a Bookstore on Blog Writing
- Judging Blogs by their Post Content Styles
- Nine Years Writing: How I Generate Writing Concepts, Tools, and Strategies I Use
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.