More people now are blogging, Tweeting, texting, e-mailing and Facebooking than in generations past.
This is a terrible setback for society. Not so much because people are ignoring their loved ones to stare at their phones, or because it’s turning regular folks into rabid narcissists (the kind who post every boring, mundane detail about their lives — such as the recent birth of a child).
No, the main problem is that by using all this new-fangled technology, more people are communicating through writing than ever before. And by communicating more, they’re becoming better writers.
And by becoming better writers, they’re endangering the livelihoods of those of us who write for a living. (Though I don’t make money, so I guess it’s not that great of a living. Stupid journalism education.)
Case in point: My accountant sent me a troubling e-mail in which she said there’s very little money remaining in my bank account. (That wasn’t the troubling part. I’m a writer; there’s always very little money remaining in my bank account.)
What bothered me was the superior quality of her writing. Not a word was out of place, and her grammar was impeccable. She even used a semicolon correctly. (“Allen, I’m so sorry you’re broke; however, you still owe me $150 from last month. Thanks.”)
Where exactly does an accountant get off having the writing skills of an English major? She’s supposed to be good with numbers and formulas, not words. Words are my business. They’re all I know. (Well, the dirty ones, anyway.)
So not only does my accountant have a valuable skill set that helps her contribute to the betterment of society, but she can write well, too. She has two sets of skills compared to my one. I couldn’t do her job, but she could easily do mine. (And knowing her, she probably wouldn’t have split that infinitive like I just did. Talk about getting 1-upped big time.)
This horrifying epidemic is only getting worse. It seems with the proliferation of social media, everyone’s learning to write good. (Sorry – I meant “well.” Luckily, my accountant’s standing over me as we speak, helping me edit.)
Even the neighborhood loan shark (the go-to lender for many a broke writer) left a grammatically correct note taped to my door. Sure, he threatened to break my kneecaps, but he did so using an em-dash to separate thoughts. That shows a degree of professionalism not often found in the darkest reaches of the criminal underworld. A less-literate thug might have used a comma and created a run-on sentence.
I’m not saying I want people to communicate through grunts and grumbles (I see enough of that each night on CNN). But please, leave the professional-level writing to the professionals. You don’t see me intruding on your profession. (Whatever it is you do, rest assured, I can’t do it. I can’t do anything. That’s why I opted to write for a living.)
I suspect the problem’s only going to get worse. Times are tough, and competition is fierce among us writers. The good ones can barely get by. The not-so-good ones (and I won’t name names) owe money to their accountant and the neighborhood loan shark.
So if you’re not a journalist or an editor or a goateed caffeine addict writing the Great American Novel at the corner Starbucks, then by all means, feel free to make mistakes in your writing. Misspell a few words. Misplace a modifier or two. Write “except” when you really mean “accept.” The professionals will thank you. (Just don’t expect flowers or a fancy gift, because most of them are broke.)
One last word of advice: If you’re considering writing for a living, don’t. The money’s not good, and it’s hard to get around with broken kneecaps. Plus, you have to pitch your ideas to publications, and hope they’ll except your proposal.
Sorry — “accept.” (It helps to have an accountant over your shoulder.)