Bad Writer, Bad!

Daniel Scocco is wrong. Not completely but fundamentally wrong enough that I need to call him out on his errors.

He points out Six Common Punctuation Errors that Bedevil Bloggers and, whilst all are grammatically correct, I think he is missing a point. Now on a technical level, as someone who writes for a living I, like most people,agree with him. I’m not posing what I’m about to say as an excuse not to write properly nor as any reason to ignore some basic rules of grammar but there is part of me that doesn’t think that the casual writier need to be as concerned with the laws of writing as a professional writer.

In other words, I know the law but I am not a policeman.

So let’s look at the six suggested rules:

1. Apostrophe for Plurals
OK, I can’t argue with this one at all. It is wrong people, stop doing it.

2. The Comma Splice
Whilst grammatically correct, it’s at this point I start to ponder what grammar means in terms of conversational text. A lot of bloggers aren’t trained writers, they have a basic grasp of grammar but little more, and it’s not something that concerns them. They are, typically, telling stories of a personal nature and mostly they adhere to a narrative take on writing.

Essentially they use punctuation to help phrase their sentences and see no reason not to use a comma as a “pause”, nor to use quotation marks for emphasis.

3. Quotation Marks for Emphasis
We’ve all seen the two-fingered air quotes used in film and I’m pretty sure we understand that they aren’t actually quoting anything, merely indicating a level of sarcasm. I will plead guilty to having done this on my personal blog where I tend to write freely.

4. Multiple Punctuation Marks
Technically correct. But there is a part of me that can only just muster enough energy to shrug this off, colour me apathetic. I don’t think either example is less-readable than the other.

5. Punctuation Outside the Quotation Marks
See Point 4. Ohhh and the main thing that annoys me about this kind of thing isn’t the grammatical inaccuracy, but the shapes the punctuation marks form.

6. The Missing Comma After Introductory Elements
I find this one surprising. As I mentioned in Point 2, most bloggers (or at least the ones I read) use a comma as a pause and the example given suggests that they’d use one there anyway.

And anyway, what does “Joe stopped on my house” mean?

I’ve commented on this kind of thing before, whilst I am a writer by trade I do think that, occasionally, we thrust our own perfections on others under the auspices of the common good. Everyone who speaks English should know these rules and adhere to them, we say. I’m sure other professions do the same, the joiner visiting my house will look at some of my attempts at D.I.Y. and shake his head in dismay. The key difference for those of us employed as writers is that our skillset is so widely used that the myriad of different abuses that assault our eyes on a daily basis make it all the harder to stomach.

As others have mentioned, the rules of grammar are interpretative and also depend on both where they were learned, and the location (and knowledge) of your audience. I totally agree with Daniel, if you are serious about your blogging then learning to write well is important. The real key is learning to write as well as your audience expects.

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