I Hate Word Crimes. But Here’s Why.

 

You’ve seen Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Hate These Word Crimes”, haven’t you?  If not, check it out.

OK.  It’s good, right?  The spoof is better than the original song/video.

I agree with every point he made.  I would add these word crimes:

  • Lack of capitalization at the beginning of sentences.
  • Lack of pronouns.
  • Overusing exclamation points.  Nothing could be so exciting that it requires 15 exclamation points.  There’s a reason the exclamation point is on the top row and off to the left on the keyboard.  It shouldn’t be used that often.

I hate these crimes not because I’m a grammar Nazi or because I think I’m better than anyone else but for the simple fact that I love reading.  I love to read anything and everything – not just books and articles, but ads, blog posts, e-mails, letters, the writing on packaging.  I love it all.  I love impeccable, flawless writing because it makes it easy for me to do what I love — reading.

Word crimes make reading difficult.  Word crimes make enjoying reading difficult.

A “2” instead of a “to” or a “too”.  Misplaced commas.  Missing words.  Unforgivable spelling mistakes in a world where spell-checking is a click away.  Not knowing the difference between “you’re” and “your”, “its” and “it’s”, “their” and “they’re” … these errors pull you out of anything you’re reading.  I have to stop reading (horrible), pause and wonder what the writer meant to write.  I don’t want to do that.

I should never have to spend any time wondering what someone meant.  That work should take place during a time called editing or rewriting.  And the lack of editing or rewriting is my biggest problem with word crimes.  Word crimes exist because the writer didn’t bother to carefully re-read what they wrote. This goes for texts, e-mails and comments (although any errors made here are slightly more forgivable). If something took you a minute to write, you could spend 10 seconds re-reading it to make sure it makes sense.  If it took longer, it probably means you care about what you’re writing. Spend a few minutes reading it out loud! (Or, quietly to yourself.)  If you can’t be bothered to re-read what you wrote, why should I spend time reading it?

If you write anything, follow this formula:

wordcrimes2

If you’re writing, you probably like to read as well.  Put yourself in the reader’s shoes for a few minutes and help them fall in love with your ideas/thoughts/stories.

Because that’s why I read.  I want to fall in love with someone’s prose, their ideas, their mentality. I want to immerse myself in someone’s writing.  I want my eyes to glide across the page/screen effortlessly.  I want to be won over.  I want to be completely involved in someone’s story.  I want someone else’s thoughts to become my thoughts and not remember that it happened.  I want to be inside someone’s mind and forget where I am.

I can’t do that if there are obvious errors.  The subtext is:  “I’m going to make things difficult, complicated, and ambiguous for you.  Yes, communication is tricky between human beings when they are speaking to one another, let alone writing to one another, and I’m just going to make it more tricky.  I don’t care.”

Even though everyone is writing more because of social media, people seem to care less about writing well.  It’s as if the how and what you write don’t matter as much as where and on what you write.

There is a part of me that wonders if any of this matters.  As long as you understand what someone is trying to say, what does it matter if they write “intend” instead of “intent”?  Or if they say “I could care less”?  I know what they mean.  What’s the big deal?

I don’t have an answer.  It’s a big deal and I care.  Unlike Weird Al, I’m not going to give up.

MM

 

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5 thoughts on “I Hate Word Crimes. But Here’s Why.

  1. I was just doing some editing for a blog I write for (they also asked me to edit some articles) and I often see people using the word “then” for “than”. I see it a lot actually. It irks me. “To” for “too” does too.

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      1. I do not get paid to edit at the moment. I have been looking furiously for some paid gigs for that. They are hard to find. I may eventually get paid to do what I am doing for this website. I make a little money on some article writing for a local company in my hometown but not what I would like to make.

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  2. I totally agree – it bugs the living daylights out of me. I think it is a by-product of a lazy culture, one where people don’t seem to care about the impression they give out. I will say that I do find myself over-using exclamation marks – I rarely use more than one at a time, but I do use them to emphasise how I would speak in real life (often very excited!). Also, I proof-read all of my writing within an inch of its life, but typos invariably get through. Doesn’t mean I don’t care, just that I don’t always see them!

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    1. One exclamation point, one typo…cool. Too many exclamation points mean none of them have the impact or make the point you want them to make. I think everyone probably has one particular word or grammar or usage crime they personally can’t stand.

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