The art of writing good…I mean well

As the end of the semester approaches there are many group projects that need to be done.  During the last couple weeks I have worked very hard on a very long public service campaign and also on a marketing campaign.  Group projects are hard to do, but professors tell us that when we enter the real world we will be forced to work with other people, so they insist that it is best to gain practice now.  It’s definitely tough though, especially when we all have incredibly different schedules, at least in the workforce we will all be in the same office.  Anyway, to make things easier for ourselves for my group projects we meet a few times and then each person takes a piece of the puzzle to work on.  For instance, some one will take the SWOT another person the market analysis, then the competitor analysis and so on.  Then usually one person is in charge of compiling all the pieces into one big document.  I volunteered to be the collector for my public service campaign and what I have seen has not been pretty.  My public service class is made up of mostly seniors, seniors who will be entering the workplace soon, and I hate to say this, but I don’t think we are ready.

I have started getting papers back from everyone and the number of grammatical mistakes that I have seen is unreal.  We are supposed to be the communicators, the writers who know this stuff inside and out, but many of us are apparently about to graduate with out a good grasp of the subject.  It’s scary.  We will soon be out there writing news releases, brochures, and emails that will be grammatically incorrect.

What’s even worst is that apparently it’s not just us.  According to this post, even seasoned editors miss many mistakes on a regular basis.  If people who have been in the workforce for years and years are making mistakes what hope is there for us?

I don’t think that I’m a horrible writer, but after seeing the work of my fellow students I feel like there are probably many mistakes that I’m making without even realizing it.  I guess the only solution to this is to write often so that I can practice, and then read articles like this one when I get stuck because after I graduate I will no longer have a professor to go to for guidance every time I need help (I mean, I guess I could, but they would probably be annoyed).  Soon, it’s basically going to be up to me to catch mistakes.  Or at least I hope it’s me, and not my reader.  Good thing I’m taking Writing for PR this semester.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wordsedge
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 11:57:37

    I’ve spent a bit of time writing for a living (as a technical writer and a copywriter) and I can say that mistakes happen. Sometimes they happen because clients are stubborn, or because language bucks and writhes underneath you, or simply because there are only so many eyes… So many eyes and not enough time.

    Something I learned that seems relevant to what you’re saying is that communication is beyond the words. It’s why you can scan a document to get the gist of it. It’s why you can untangle someone’s meaning on-the-fly when they mangle grammar.

    What I’m saying is that the words live on the page but the communication happens elsewhere.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not celebrating mediocrity – I have a near-hate of exclamation marks and many other crimes against grammar and paper. There’s a degree of fallibility involved and it’s something to be managed, dealt with, accounted for and it’s part of my growth as a writer.

    As for catching mistakes, I think the three basic approaches are to be calm and zen-like, terribly organised, or just plain wired. (I’m a fan of the mindless, zen-like tack.)

    Working with pieces from different people makes it a little more exciting because every one of them have their own idiolect. One of the reasons I like the zen-like approach is because it means that it’s easier to adapt. To accept and incorporate.

    Of course, we haven’t even talked about what being a good writer means (one who writes perfect sentences, or communicates effectively, or something in between, or something else altogether?). And that’s just one continuum.

    To get back to something you said, I think self-reliance is invaluable. What you mentioned about not being able to go to professors relates. At some point you have to close the recipe book and put it back on the shelf and just taste as you cook, or drop the chord book and just jam.

    You can develop your confidence with language and communication that way and which is, in some ways, what an idiolect, or a personal sense of language, is. And that’s not something perfect: it evolves. And it does that through error and triumph and everything between.

    I can go on and on…

    Am I supposed to apologise for the long response? Never did get that.


    • Elsie
      Dec 06, 2009 @ 22:36:12

      Thanks for contributing. I think there is a lot of wisdom in your words.

      I usually write really long comments (probably annoys my friends) no biggie 🙂


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