Writing and Authority

While not a professional writer, I do take my writing seriously. Some of my blog posts never see the light of day, simply because I’m not happy with how the material is coming together. This article is a prime example – it has been in my drafts bin for a few months, but I just wasn’t happy with it until some recent edits.

I tend to be a bit of a nitpicker when it comes to grammar and spelling. I don’t expect grammar to be perfect, especially since there tends to be different rules for “formal” and “conversational” english. If it seems like the writer hasn’t bothered to either review their content themselves or have someone review it for them, I’m often tempted to discount that writer’s perspective – after all, they have displayed that they’re not being overly thorough in their writing, so why should I consider their authority in other areas to be any stronger?

The inspiration for this post was an editorial in a software testing publication that I read a while back. The editor made several mistakes in his grammar, as well as a spelling mistake. It made me question whether the rest of the publication was worth reading – after all, if he’s the editor and can’t write reasonably well, how well can he gauge the writing of others? As it was, I decided to read the rest of the publication, and discovered that the editorial was an anomaly – several of the writers were quite eloquent. Based on the style of grammar, I suspect that the situation may be that english is not the editor’s first language, and that the grammar of his native language was being superimposed on his writing. While this would be completely understandable, the editor should be all the more conscious of the need to have someone with a good grasp of the language review all writing, to ensure that it is reasonably clear. Especially in the case of the editorial, which tends to set the tone of the publication, it is essential to be able to communicate to your audience in an authoritative way; bad grammar and spelling do the opposite.

Have you ever read an article, and seen some glaring spelling mistakes or odd turn-of-phrase? If so, what was your response?

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