To a reader, an error is never small.

To a reader, an error is never small

We live in a world of six-second attention spans. We live in a world of scrolling, flashing, disappearing information and images. As a result, we have become a society that believes “fast is better than right,” when it comes to news, social media, even print.

But I admonish writers everywhere to take heed. “Fast” has become careless and lazy. No matter how information dissemination evolves, no matter how much shorter our attention spans become, there is one person who will never value “fast” over “correct.” That person is THE READER – the true reader who consumes the written word as though it’s a delicacy, not an all-you-can-eat buffet. It is for this reader that we should all be writing. This reader will hold our feet to the fire, refusing to compromise art and accuracy for trash and “close enough.”

For the purposes of this blog post, let’s examine just one tiny corner of the writing world: journalism. There was a time, not so long ago, when journalism was a trustworthy, reliable source of information. The days of Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings come to mind, days when viewers had no idea what the anchors’ political leanings might have been. There was no hysteria, no propaganda, no predictable positioning in their reporting. To borrow a phrase, they delivered “just the facts, ma’am.”

There was also a time when newspapers delivered unbiased information, if you can imagine. Headlines were written properly, and sensationalism had no place. Those papers were worth reading, from page 1A to the very last page, and people did just that. But information was more precious then. We were not constantly bombarded with today’s insistent buzz of nonstop communication, both factual and fictitious. Today’s news is designed and spoon-fed to a population starving for affirmation and mob-think. Cronkite would be appalled.

A sad indication of the dilution and downward spiral of news reporting is the shockingly poor presentation of the news, especially as it’s shared on social media. I have read countless headlines that are grammatically incorrect; I have read just as many that are nonsensical:

“Homicide victims rarely talk to police”
“Woman fatally killed in city park”
“Studies show that teen pregnancy declines after age 25”
“China may be using the sea to hide its submarines”

I won’t even go into the eye-crossing, mind-numbing articles that are peddled to us, day in and day out. Editing seems to be a thing of the past, and the written word is not better for it.

I do not share my thoughts on accuracy, mechanics and grammar just to complain about what we’ve lost; rather, I write this to encourage each of you to hold fast to the value of words and your use of them. Pay careful attention to your use of grammar and structure. A true reader will not overlook errors in these areas. Many readers, myself included, will simply stop reading when we trip over lazy writing and a lack of editing. Whether the piece is a blog post, an article or an entire book, true readers do not – cannot – get past these glaring blunders. Do your part to preserve a beautiful language, and the love of excellent writing.

Be sure to follow Carole’s blog here on WRITE ADVICE and take heart! There is a grammar and mechanics refresher course available here. Just take a look at all of the WRITE ADVICE course offerings, and register today for this critical class and reference tool.

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