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Why Good Writing Matters (Guest Post by Grammar Girl)

In our last post, we mentioned Grammar Girl as a resource for daily tips and tricks to keep your grammar skills current. Good grammar increases your skills, makes your message clearer and can help increase your rating and attract DirectOrders.
We are fortunate enough to have a guest post from Grammar Girl herself! This post is not an endorsement of Textbroker, but something to get you thinking about how you write and how you can improve your clarity and message.

In our last post, we mentioned Grammar Girl as a resource for daily tips and tricks to keep your grammar skills current. Good grammar increases your skills, makes your message clearer and can help increase your rating and attract DirectOrders.
We are fortunate enough to have a guest post from Grammar Girl herself! This post is not an endorsement of Textbroker, but something to get you thinking about how you write and how you can improve your clarity and message.

 

Why Good Writing Matters

Mignon Fogartyhttp://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com

"My writing may not be perfect, but you know what I mean." It's the common refrain from poor writers, but it's not always true, and writing well is important for more than just dragging readers through your ideas.
 

Maybe They Don't Know What You Mean

Modifying Subjects

Poor writing or improper punctuation can cause confusion. Take this example from a real Associated Press article:

  • Michelle Obama and Paul McCartney's designer daughter Stella are also being honored.

Huh? The sentence could mean that Michelle Obama and Paul McCartney share a daughter, which I doubt is what the AP meant to say. It highlights the danger of modifying compound subjects.

"Designer daughter" could also cause readers to do a double take in this age of genetic selection that can produce "designer babies."
Switching the order of the subjects, using parentheses, and adding articles can fix the problems. Here are two examples:

  • Paul McCartney's daughter (the designer Stella McCartney) and Michelle Obama are also being honored.
  • Stella McCartney (a designer and the daughter of Paul McCartney) and Michelle Obama are also being honored.

You could also separate the subjects:

  • Michelle Obama is being honored, as is Paul McCartney's daughter, the designer Stella McCartney.

Comma Problems

An apocryphal book dedication leaves out the final comma before the "and" (called a serial comma or an Oxford comma), and reads "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God," which leaves the reader wondering whether the the delusional writer believes that his or her parents are actually Ayn Rand and God. A comma clears it up:
To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

Squinting Modifiers

Sometimes, modifiers can get caught between two phrases, as in this example:

  • Dogs that bite frequently should be put down.

Does that mean frequent biters should be put down or that it's usually a good idea to put down biters? It's impossible to tell from the sentence.

Even if readers can figure out what you mean, you shouldn't make them work hard to do it, and the quality of your writing sends a message to the readers.

If your material is scattered with typos, careless errors, or inconsistent style choices (e.g., sometimes you capitalize "Internet," sometimes you don't; sometimes you make write "Kansas's," sometimes you write "Kansas'") it tells your reader you're not a very careful person. It you're not careful with your writing, they wonder, how careful are you with the facts and opinions they're reading?

If your poor writing shows up on a company website, it may cause readers to wonder if there is anyone in charge.

We "meet" people in writing these days. Displaying sloppy writing is like meeting someone in person while wearing a wrinkled, misbuttoned shirt. Take a bit of extra care and make sure your writing is neatly "ironed, buttoned, and tucked."

 


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