Without even realizing that today is National Grammar Day, I tweeted earlier about being annoyed when writers, especially novice writers, use bad grammar or style when tweeting or commenting on blogs. It actually came up after reading comments on Chuck Wendig’s blog (no, the man himself is not responsible for the bad grammar), seeing people arguing using some pretty bad grammar.
It might not be fair to judge a writer by these small blips of communication. After all, I know I don’t set aside my tweets for a few months, come back later with a fresh eye, and edit them to perfect clarity of meaning. I don’t always even adhere completely to the tenants of perfect grammar myself, something I expect lambasting over (this is the internet) and which I will lamely defend with the words “style choice”.
On the other hand, a lot of times my first exposure to these writers is through Twitter, the comment threads of larger blogs, and then their own blogs. They might not be meaning to, but they way they speak in those areas is their first line of marketing towards potential readers. Before I read their book blurb, or hear them talk about the awesome idea that they have, I will see their social media interactions.
In other words, before I see them as a storyteller, I see them as a writer. (And these are far from synonymous)
So when I see someone rambling in the comments, using a lot of ellipses, sentence fragments, and poor grammar, it makes me much less interested in checking out anything they’ve written. There are tens of thousands of well-written books out there, so I’m less likely to take a chance on someone who, from first appearance, makes me think he can’t write well.
And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.
It gets even worse when the writer is self-publishing their novel, not because I think the self-published market is a hogwash of poor writing and a general waste of time (I don’t), but because, when you self-publish, you are responsible for your own marketing to a greater degree than traditional publishing, and are more resting on your own laurels. Self-publishing can be a very insular creation process (I realize it doesn’t have to be, and that that is not always even a bad thing), which means if you make me think you’re not a good writer, I’m even less likely to pick up your novel.
Now, I don’t expect perfect grammar, even in novels. Style is important, and in short-hand communication, mistakes can be made, but when the bad grammar makes it hard to even understand what the writer is trying to say? That’s a problem.
It’s just my $0.05 (inflation is a bitch), but it’s worth paying attention to. To me, blogging, tweeting, and commenting are all writing, and I care about how I come across (Of course, I’ve also been told I speak like I write, at least with respect to the degree of formality, so YMMV). You don’t have to obsess over it, but I’d at least make sure that what you are saying is as clear as you can reasonably make it.
Besides, good grammar is sexy!