Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emotional Mistakes

By now we all know many of the reasons why typos and other blunders make their way into writing: haste, apathy, brain-to-keyboard disconnects, poor grasp on grammar and/or punctuation and/or spelling, and so on. The other day I was reminded of yet another reason: high emotion.

Have you ever gotten so angry or upset that nothing coming out of your mouth was quite right? Bumbled words, twisted clichés – a total sputter fest that may or may not have been quite intelligible to the listener. Now take that heightened emotion and mix it with a good dose of modern technology (think tiny keyboards, a quick finger on the “Post” button, and Twitter). The written sputter fest might look something like this:

- These people flat out stopped sellering on E-bay.
- It was true good to be true.
- We are just ponds in their game and they have endless Queen's and Kings.

These were all from a single response – one response! – to an online article about the “millions” people have earned by selling on eBay. This same person actually posted several responses, all quite passionate about the negative eBay experiences he and his wife had. Clearly he was on a roll by the time he made this post.

In the “good old days” of paper and pen, you had a lot of time for your emotions to cool as you scribbled a note or letter expressing your feelings on whatever topic set you off that particular day. Now we have the Internet. Who wants to step back and take a deep breath? Public ranting is only a click away.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

They're Just Words, Right?

Like most everyone on the planet who has access to electronic media, I've been following the coverage of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The troubles at the nuclear power plants in particular have caught my attention. Yesterday morning, prior to tackling a mountain of homework, I clicked on CNN.com to find out what had happened overnight.

Imagine my horror when I read this subtopic header on the home page, right below a main caption of "Report: 9,500 missing in one town":
"Pump system caused nuclear blast"
Visions of mushroom clouds sprang immediately to my mind. I mean, there's only one thing that "nuclear blast" can mean, right?

I clicked through to the story, not at all sure I really wanted to know what happened. Here's the title of the article:
"Japanese official says pumping system caused nuclear plant blast"
Okay...not quite so horrified now. The article goes on to clarify further:
"An explosion at an earthquake-struck nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to being the reactor's temperature down..."
Quite a bit of difference between that first teaser line and the actual situation, don't you think?

Other Internet sites did a little bit better at not throwing their readers into a panic. AOL's headline for the event:
"Nuclear Plant Explosion in Japan"
From Yahoo!:
"Explosion rocks Japan nuclear plant"
From MSNBC:
"Blast Rips Quake-Hit Japan Nuke Plant; Radiation Said to be Lower"
And from the New York Times:
"Radiation Leaks After Explosion at Quake-Damaged Nuclear Plant"
None of these headlines is nearly as alarming as the words "nuclear blast" in my opinion (although MSNBC certainly seems to be going for the hard-core abduction of readers' attention).

Journalists: Please think a little more critically before you post. Scaring your readers is not the best way to get their heart rates going first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Life Lesson From the Writing World

Today we’re taking a break from the Perpetual Typo Hunt to check out some advice from literary agent Kristin Nelson. She recently posted this comment on her PubRants blog:

"When you get a rejection, you just have to remember that ALL writers received them at least at once in their careers and where you are today as a writer is not necessarily where you’ll be a year from now. That you will always be learning, growing, and maturing as a writer.

"Being a writer is about the journey. Embrace it."

How true. No one is born knowing all there is to know about writing – or life, for that matter. We are continually growing and learning as we travel life’s mysterious pathways. And there is always more to learn about being a writer.

Enjoy the journey, my fellow word warriors. Embrace it. None of us ever knows how long or short that journey will be.