Unconfusing the Confusion About Writing: Is There Room For Imperfection?

When writing, one has to consider the form, the purpose, and the audience.

Is it your own diary? A poem? A first person fiction piece? Or is it a formal essay, non-fiction book, or a business proposal? Your tone, voice, style of writing, and grammar will all vary depending on what the writing is.

There is room for slang and improper grammar–and sounding like you speak–in some forms of writing, although often there are conventions to writing them. There is room for creativity in poetry, personal writing, advertising, copy writing, and blogs, to name a few. Although some conventions will always apply, certain rules can be relaxed or broken for various purposes in some forms of writing.

If you’re writing first person fiction or quoting a character in dialogue, go ahead and write, “Me and my friend went camping.” And in your dialogues, you can certainly use “ain’t” or “gonna.” Go ahead. That’s how your character speaks, isn’t it? (Just please, please don’t use “your” when you mean “you’re = you are,” as in “I think your going to like this.” Those are different parts of speech and that will just never apply.)

In sales writing, you want to be more grammatical, but you want to sound like you’re speaking to your audience. So there’s a flow and sound to the writing that makes it different from a documentary.

Something else to consider is whether your written work is a fast text message or email to your friend, or a permanent fixture in the written world and on the Internet, such as an e-book. If it’s important, do your homework or hire a professional editor. Remember, the right editor works with you, not against you (Did You Know An Editor’s Job Is to Work With the Author, Not Against the Author?).

And one last point: When the spell checker is done with your work, edit! Auto-correct may misinterpret similar words, and homonyms will not be flagged. Too often, the grammar checker misinterprets what you are saying; it may consider some words you’ve used as adjectives in their noun form, for example, or prompt you to use ‘s when it’s actually wrong. Although spelling and grammar checkers help–and they certainly take a load off–they are a good start rather than a good finish. In the end, the human mind still has to interpret the recommendations (Sirius Word: Why Edit?).

So can you use casual writing, creative flair, or even bad grammar in your writing? Depending on your intent, yes. Are there conventions in writing and are they necessary? Yes–because that’s the standard that provides the greatest consistency in our understanding and interpretation of the written work, punctuation being as powerful a tool as the words themselves. (These conventions vary even among English-speaking countries.) Write with a sense of knowledge of what you’re using and why.

Consider the form, the purpose, and the audience.

P.S. Did you notice that “unconfusing” in the title is not a real word? (Case in point. Need I say more?)

You may also be interested in

Writing Tips: When to Adhere to the Rules and When to Break Them, and Why Should You Care, Anyway?

Did You Know An Editor’s Job Is to Work With the Author, Not Against the Author?

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

About Eva Blaskovic

This blog has moved to http://www.evablaskovic.com.
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8 Responses to Unconfusing the Confusion About Writing: Is There Room For Imperfection?

  1. Sherie says:

    Eva, I so love and enjoy your posts. Giving ourselves permission to be imperfect leads to more writing, doesn’t it? “Consider the form, the purpose and the audience”…fabulous point! I like unconfusing as a verb, it works for me! There is no substitute for the human eye and even though I am not great at proofing my own work, I do go over it and don’t depend on the spell checker. For my ebooks, I always have someone else edit them for me. I am too close to the work!

    • Thanks, Sherie. And you make a great point. Writers, even if they are editors, are too close to the writing. Letting it “grow cold” for a few days or weeks is a big help, but if it’s going to be published (and that includes ads and brochures as well as books), have someone knowledgeable proofread.

  2. Great article, Eva. It’s great to have permission for a little wiggle room when writing. Considering the audience is so important to get the develop the right approach for your work. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for your comment, Lisa.

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