Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Respect Your Reader

Welcome to (yet) another edition of “Yes, Writing Well Really Is Important.”

In my last post, I shared a few observations stemming from a very animated discussion on a local news station’s comment board. A user with the handle of “Old Town” not-so-gently advised a young man to use proper grammar, capitalization, and punctuation if he wanted others to better understand his viewpoint.

I agree with the sentiment, if not Old Town’s choice of time and place to offer this guidance. Considering that the distraught young man had just lost a beloved family pet, his lack of grammar skills probably could have been overlooked. But Old Town does have a point: A person’s communication skills (or lack thereof) affect how that person comes across to others.

Typically, I avoid the comments section of online news articles like I avoid running off of cliffs with a bungee cord tied to my ankle, or jumping out of mechanically sound airplanes. Modern media affords anyone the ability to comment on online articles, and many people use – and abuse – that privilege. My experience is that pertinent and well-written comments are the exception, with the norm being something like, “Thes peole dont know what your talking about, get you fact strait.” Not the type of writing I want to spend time trying to decipher, and I know I'm far from alone in that regard.

If you want to establish any sort of credibility with a reader, and if you want folks to understand your message, you need to write clearly and correctly. Period. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a report for work, using social media, or participating in an online discussion. Say your piece and say it well. Good writing shows respect for the writer as well as the audience. Respect your reader.

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