Thursday, August 04, 2011

how to not write like you're crazy...

... unless you are crazy. Then I can't help you because there's no hiding crazy.

Mrs. Fisher has an excellent piece that includes tips on writing well.

Most of her advice is for those intelligible writers who write professionally. Or at least the bloggers and writers who aspire to be regarded as such and whose goal is reader comprehension. I have no such aspirations. Obviously.

The best advice is her final advice; "If you find yourself using emoticons, chop your hands off."

I've discussed this before and we share the same sentiment on the use of emoticons. There is only one rule for their use and it's a simple one. Don't do it. Ever.

I would also like to officially end the use of "LOL". In the real world, people who laugh at their own jokes are crazy. Don't put your crazy in print for all the world to see. You keep your crazy deeply hidden away.

You don't need me to remind you about the use of Caps Locks. If you do, you're probably crazy. If that's the case, you'll do what you anyway. Crazy people don't follow social mores, much less typing etiquette. If you question your sanity in any way it's a safe bet that you should not use this function. In fact, go ahead right now and pry the Caps Lock button off your key board.

Exclamations points. Crazy people use them to express their craziness. I might excuse the over excessive use of the exclamation point if you are Italian. In that case, I understand that it's the equivalent of arm waving and hand gestures. To deny you this expressive punctuation mark in the written word would completely deny your ability to express yourself. Parla pazzo!!!!!

Grammar Nazis are crazy. Crazier, in fact, than people who are too lazy to check their spelling, such as myself, or who make innocuous typos. I am much more forgiving of a typo in an article or blog post than I am of the Anonymous person who comments and corrects the author's spelling. Do you go around correcting the way everyone speaks? Do you correct your co-worker's or boss's spelling on work documents? Then you are crazy. And not in the endearing way, like the drunk neighbor who collects cats. But in the obnoxious way that no one likes. No one wants to be friends with the know-it-all.

Lastly, only crazy people take advice from bloggers on the computer.


The Digital Hairshirt said...


Remember, crazy gets you ADA protection.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Amazingly ironic, you giving us a lecture on good writing.

Kat, there is a reason people like editors and teachers insist that grammar and spelling count. Long before style or any kind of literary flair comes the basic building blocks, stuff we were expected to have a handle on by the fifth grade. I have come to the point with your posts, that I start them with a permanent wince.

The consistent misuse of things like apostrophes, the confusion of things like they're, their and there, are signs not of laziness but of functional illiteracy. And the determined defence of these things, of a particularly offensive form of anti-intellectualism, which, I might add, has done nothing to help the situation in the Church in the last 40 years.

Typos are one thing, and are more or less expected of bloggers. Consistently failing, or refusing, to apply basic grammar and spelling is merely an arrogant statement of contempt for the language you are using and for your readers.

The bad guys want to destroy language; language destruction has been a major part of the revolutionaries' campaign against the Good the True and the Beautiful. One of their most useful tools has been the strange (and largely American) insistence that asking for basic (and I mean primary school level) grammatical competence makes you some kind of pinch-faced nit-picker.

Doesn't it sound just a titch familiar? this insistence that rules don't matter and are really just a means of oppressing the freedom of our groovy expression?

Don't play along.

The Watcher said...

Call me Spell-Nazi if you wish, but I was raised to make sure I spelled my words correctly, being taught that misspelled words indicated laziness (for not proofreading and correcting any errors) and ignorance of proper spelling.

I offer corrections of spelling for two reasons and in two situations: 1, if the person knows me as the 'Spel-Nazi', I'll do it jokingly; if they don't know me that way, I offer the correction because I'd rather not have that writer misspell a word and perhaps be considered by others (besides me) of being too lazy to check their work, too dependent on Spell-Check or being ignorant of correct spelling.

Here are two examples of how a misspelled word and dependence on Spell-Check can make you look foolish: in college, I took a course where we proofread and revised previously-written scientific papers. The paper I was assigned misspelled the word 'organism' - spelling it as 'orgasm' 211 times in the paper. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued, as did a failing grade for the person who'd not proofread their paper. Ex. 2 - the corporate head of the school bus company I worked for sent out a memo with a misspelling in the company motto: 'Transporting the world's most precious commodity' ended up as 'Transporting the world's most precious commode'. I faxed the memo back with the wrong word circled and the word 'toilets?' written beside it.

If my concern for not wanting to see anyone be picked on or humiliated for misspellings is misplaced, my apologies; I also promise not to do it to you again.

Anthony S. Layne said...

To boldly split infinitives no one has split before ....

The Crescat said...

Hilary, this wasn't a lecture. A lecture is what you just gave me. Or tongue lashing. Which ever.

My point is not to completely dismiss any attempts at proper grammar. No one likes to look stupid. Or to be made to feel stupid. It's just a blog. Most people who blog do so by writing in a conversational manner.

To knit pick free styled writing is crazy. Would you sit down with a red pen and slash away at e.e. cummings?

Of course I am not comparing my incoherent, and oft discombobulated, blog posts to the fantastical stylings of Cummings. It's just an example.

The Crescat said...

I think you both of confusing my meaning. Perhaps I should have used the word "typo" instead of misspelling. Most misspellings are just typos and the meaning of what the author is trying to convey is obvious and not worth the effort of public humiliation.

Christina said...

"I might excuse the over excessive use of the exclamation point if you are Italian. In that case, I understand that it's the equivalent of arm waving and hand gestures."

My Mom is Italian and my Dad had her sit on her hands once while she was talking and she couldn't speak anymore. In writing she tends to use italics to express this rather than exclamation points.

Smiley said...

i cnt rezist typin ths, hp u dnt mind.
lol :P

shadowlands said...
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Kimee said...

Kat, I love your blog, don't change a thing!!!

Also, I laughed so hard when I saw the photo you posted. I had to do a double take on it 'cause I thought the "earrings" said SANITY ribbon...

Kimee said...

...those are the silly things I notice though

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

"nit pick" not "knit pick"

"It's just a blog"...

I think you might be slightly disingenuous here, Kat. Or perhaps just confused.

Writing in a conversational manner is a perfectly acceptable style and is indeed expected of personal blogs. Writing badly without regard to elementary grammar is not "conversational" it's just bad writing, and it's insulting to readers. Adjectives for adverbs. Nouns for verbs. "Passed" for "past". Words mean things and are not simply interchangeable sounds. Language has rules so that it can be comprehended by others. Using "there" for "they're" (and doing so consistently) strikes the reader as an indication that you either don't know or don't care, neither of which is acceptable in a writer.

You blog. You've been doing it for years. Like it or not, this means you are a writer, and being a writer implies a responsibility to do it well, at least at a basic level. And in all the time I've been reading you, you've made the same elementary grammatical and spelling errors, over and over and over. These are not typos.

Yours is not the kind of blogging that is merely links to funny cat videos. You actually write things about things you think important. Things about life, "dating", illness, the Church, raising your son, work etc, important things that are equally important and interesting to us, your readers. These posts are, presumably, things you want people to read and to take seriously.

You can't go to the trouble of maintaining a blog, writing it and publishing it and promoting it on the one hand, and then excuse yourself by saying it isn't something to be taken seriously anyway so you can be as cavalier as you please with the language. You take it seriously enough to have done it regularly for many years. We take it seriously enough to come and read it regularly.

Didn't you say while you were here that you would like to write a bit for money? If I were editing a magazine, I would naturally turn to your blog to see what kind of a writer you are. And the first thing I would find was that you are a lively writer with interesting ideas, who apparently doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're". Simply doesn't know.

In other words, who doesn't have a grasp of elementary-level grammar, syntax and spelling, and I would not hire you. First, because magazines can no longer afford to hire copy editors, and I would have the tedious task of going through everything you wrote and correcting it, like your fifth grade teacher was supposed to have done but apparently didn't. But second because someone who never got past (not "passed") elementary-level writing isn't ever going to be suitable for my magazine that is aimed at grown-ups.

Sorry, but these are the hard facts. Basic literacy is required for good writing. It is also required for people to take seriously what you want to say to them.

Reading a grown-up, writing about interesting and important things, who consistently refuses to bother to learn the difference between "their" "there" and "they're" is like listening to a teenager who can't compose a verbal sentence without inserting the word "like" every second word.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


Do us the courtesy, and have the self-respect required to proof-read and to work a little harder at the basics. You have an engaging and pleasant style. You have interesting and useful things to say. Learn to say them using correct English and you will fly. It's really a matter of taking yourself, your writing and your ideas seriously enough to put in the effort. A matter of being responsible and not looking for excuses for doing it badly.

It isn't hard. It really just requires reading a lot. Read books written by people who know the language. In short order, you will find that these common errors will smack you in the eye and offend you as much as they do others.

Read books by people who are real writers. Better writers than now exist on the planet. Read Newman; read Dickens; read Austen. These are the ones who will teach you what you need to know.

(And really, citing a pretentious modernist git like "ee" Cummings to me is like excusing throwing paint at walls by citing the "great" Jackson Pollock.)

Lola said...

I had nerve damage for a time in my fingers. And I was a cataloging librarian!

You should have seeen the tyypoos!

BTW, do you have directions for that charming Octopus hat?

The Crescat said...

Hilary; noted. Very sound advice and I appreciate the effort you made to articulate your point. You are passionate about writing and you do it well. Only a foolish person would not consider your input. Thank you.

On a side note; I know you may find it utterly unbelievable but I do proof read.

shadowlands said...

"Only a foolish person would not consider your input."

Having duly considered Hilary's input, I find it to be condescending in the extreme.

However, if that makes me a foolish person, no probs, I'm outta here!

The Crescat said...

I'm trying to keep things amicable while sounding as literate as possible.

Is it working?

shadowlands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eleanor said...

Hilary, publicly and without any solicitation offering Kat a dressing-down on her writing was ungracious and rude. Your points were all true; however, that does not justify the manner and context in which you made them. That is simply not how adults treat each other (you being neither her professor, employer, nor aunt). I know your schtick: contrarian, traditionalist, blunt and sharp-tongued ; you do it well and it attracts a deserved readership. That does not, however, excuse such a basic lack of courtesy.

Sharon said...

Re using "lol". When I first became accquainted with the Internet I went to a Catholic Chatroom (now defunct unfortunately) and discovered very quickly that Australian humour and American humour is very different. By using "lol" at the end of a sentence which I thought was funny, thus telling the Americans that I was being ironic, I saved myself getting banned and made some friends. The other Australians on the board agreed with me.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Hilary wasn't critiquing Kat's soul but taking issue with the ideology of her post. Kat trounced some bad writing habits but then suggested that a strict insistence on adherence to English writing conventions was fascist.

As Hilary believes with her whole heart that a slapdash approach to English style is both a cause and an effect of the decline of moral and intellectual standards in the West, I do not wonder at her fury. She's as harsh with herself as she is with anyone else, that is for sure.

Hilary is an excellent writer, and she has worked very hard to become one. Artists very often have strong personalities, and anyone who wanted to be friends with Brahms, for example, would have to swallow pride if Brahms had stuck his fingers in his ears at the sound of their piano-playing. In fact, it would be mad not to pay strict attention to what Brahms had to say about one's piano performance. The fact that Brahms had bothered would have been a huge boon.

Kat is taking the right attitude in paying attention to what Hilary says. If you really love something and want to get better at it, you find an expert in it. Not all experts have an excellent bedside manner. My best writing teachers tended (Grade 9, and a Continuing Ed. prof at University of Toronto) to yell at me.

It is a compliment that Hilary reads Kat's blog; if she didn't think it was worthwhile, she wouldn't bother to read and she certainly wouldn't bother to comment. Life's too short, and as it happen Hilary has a very short list of blog reads.

HJMW said...


I always enjoy the vitriol that inevitably starts spewing whenever a person who is given to excessively saccharine God-talk is crossed in any way.

You would be instantly bannned at my blog, first for refusing to own manfully up to your comments by giving a real name, but most of all for giving us all diabetic shock with such aspertame lollipops as "an angel's heart".

Angels don't have hearts, m'dear and people with very, very thin skin should probably not spend too much time on the blogs.

shadowlands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shadowlands said...

"You would be instantly bannned at my blog, first for refusing to own manfully up to your comments by giving a real name, but most of all for giving us all diabetic shock with such aspertame lollipops as "an angel's heart".

Do you imagine heaven gives you a round of applause, when you finish speaking then?

I am not anonymous, I am not a man. I am cautious as to who I tell my real details too. I was advised that that was a mature thing to do online? For example, you have posted anonymously too, why? Because you have good reason, in your own best interests to do so perhaps. Yet you assume I don't?

"Angels don't have hearts, m'dear and people with very, very thin skin should probably not spend too much time on the blogs."

All this talk of hearts and who should or shouldn't be blogging.
no poor spellers,
no saccharine sounding sentences,
no childlike speak,
no thinly skinned individuals

I don't mind if you did ban me from your blog. It's your call, actually all you would have to say is go away.

I am sorry to have roused your attention to the point where you had to comment.

No I'm not. To be honest, I'm flattered. Isn't that terrible? Attention's a funny thing, when you think about it.

Well M'dear, I think I will continue to blog, if that's allright with you ofcourse?

And please, feel free to moderate your own place of posting, unless you relent and invite me over sometime...

Blimey I've never been banned before visiting before, it's almost like the curse of original sin, isn't it? In a crazy way of thinking...

Shine Jesus shine!

Eleanor said...

Seraphic, if Kat had asked Hilary for writing tips, or "found an expert," as you say, the situation would be entirely different. Hilary may well be the Brahms of writing, but justifying lapses in common civility with "I'm an artist. It's just who I am," is just mushy adolescent bohemianism of the worst kind. It is not the kind of attitude I'd associate with Hilary. We are all rude rude sometimes--it's no capital fault--but apologies are much better than defenses.

The Crescat said...

Everyone, I appreciate your comments. I assure you, I am not in need of defending, as I perceived no offense given. But I thank you for your kind words in my support.

Honestly, I think Hilary would just like to see me do well as a writer. I had expressed to her, in the past, my desire to do so.

I've even gotten advice from Seraphic, *free* advice that people pay a good deal of money for from a match making consultant.

Hilary has a strong personality and even stronger opinions on matters she holds dear. As such, I would never make any one apologize for having convictions.

The Crescat said...

I meant to add...

"I would never make any one apologize for having convictions, no matter how blunt or sharp the delivery."