Even for pro writers no punctuation is a-okay

Candice Landau   •   May 12, 2016

Even for pro writers no punctuation is a okay

My favorite, curl-in-the-couch-and-eat-ice-cream feeling blogs have one thing in common: they almost entirely ignore formal grammar and punctuation rules. They misspell words. They write. like. this. And you know what? It’s a breath of fresh air.

As an editor, I feel immensely guilty whenever I read one of my old blog posts and find an error. I feel guilty when I find an error in something I’ve edited. I feel guilty when I see an error on another blog, as though that blog’s editor has somehow missed the fact that unbeknownst to them, a boob has been hanging out of their bra all day long. Yes, you’re cringing aren’t you? Well, that’s how I feel. I’m an editor, ergo everything I write/touch should be perfect, right? No misplaced commas, no misspelled words, no punctuation adapted to suit my selfish (incorrect) needs.

Wrong. Abso-bloody-lutely wrong! It’s exactly this type of thinking that makes blogs feel homogeneous and boring for readers. It’s this type of thinking that makes blogs boring for writers to write, especially for writers with a strong voice.

Go take a look at Neil Gaiman’s blog. Go. Now. It’s littered with these so called errors. And you know what? It’s a damn sight more interesting than most other blogs I read today.

Here’s an extract from his blog post, We thought you were dead, with baby photos:

There. No brain. I sound like a walking advert for baby things. If I get email done, or something read, I’m proud of myself. The rest of the time, it’s changing the baby. Who mostly seems amused by the whole thing…

I’m not going to waste time going into how much I’d correct were I wearing my pro editor hat, but mistakes included, this is a very readable, very enjoyable article. And maybe, just maybe it’s because of all those little colloquial “mistakes.”

Fiction writer, Maggie Stiefvater, takes the same casual chit-chat approach. You can read her blog here. And while you’re at it, check out Holly Lisle‘s blog and Meg Cabot‘s blog. They’re just as chill.

In fact, what also makes these blogs so interesting, is that their writers are open, honest and in a sense, vulnerable. They chat through their daily life, they make no excuses for their writing style, they share unashamedly—at least the better ones do. Best of all, they’re pro writers!

Don’t go thinking you can’t write—and write some seriously good shit—just because you don’t have a handle on how to use punctuation in exactly the right way. It’s much more important that you get the story or message across.

If you can’t “strike” the inner critic, well it may not be the worst thing. Actually, you just have to learn to work with it. In Orson Scott Card’s wise words:

“You must get your inner editor to stop looking at the ‘prose style’ of your writing, period. Language is nothing. You can write any scene ten thousand ways — and a thousand of them will be fine, and a hundred will be brilliant. Of course, nine thousand won’t be fine, and of those, about five thousand will truly suck. But who cares? You can fiddle with language whenever you want. It has nothing to do with the writing process…And, as an added bonus, when you’re concentrating on story matters instead of prose matters, usually your prose style stops being controlled and starts being natural — your real voice (or one of your voices) emerging effortlessly. Your style will probably be much better when you aren’t thinking about it than it ever is when you are.”

I think we’ve trapped ourselves in this idea that everything we put out into the world has to be “portfolio quality” because ooh, guess what? You’re Google-able now and that one awful article you wrote years ago still represents who you are today.

So, here’s to writing with less of my inner critic, with a little more disregard for nitpicky bits and bobs, and with a greater sense of vulnerability.

By |2019-05-07T07:31:34+00:00April 30th, 2019|Latest Articles|