Writing For Morons: You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride

amateurI’m not God’s gift to journalism but I consider myself a decent writer. There are lots of folks out there that are better than me, but I’ve thrown down some bad-ass prose in my time and I can look back on what I’ve accomplished with a certain amount of pride. I’ve also made mistakes for all to see and laugh at – using the word “situation” three times in a run-on sentence is my personal best – and I’ve learned from those mistakes. And while I have the whole grammar thing down pat (barring any stylistic wanderings on my part that I justify in the pursuit of creativity) every so often I see a story or review I wrote that’s gone to print with some glaring errors and think “Nice one, you dolt…” Sure, I could blame the editor, but I try not to.

With the general pace of life and all the instant messaging going on these days (and please, kiddies, keep the fucking laptop away from the bathtub!) it’s no surprise that grammatical rules have gone to hell. Blogs, text messages, Twittering, online bulletins… everyone has a voice whether they can write or not, syntax be damned. Can’t blame them, either, because ultimately it’s the message that’s important to them and the parties involved, not how pretty it looks.

On a formal level, however, presentation counts. Anyone with half a brain knows this, which makes me question how it’s possible that record label promo department staff and music journalists – established and wannabes – are able to keep their jobs with the way many of them operate these days.

The thorn stuck in my throat? I’ll give you an example:

“Sweater Puppy Massacre is a new Band from the seventh Level, of hell destined to replace Britney Spears! as the Queen of pop Music and Bad Hair.”

I see this happening more and more, with writers sitting on their “shift” and “comma” keys as they wade through their text, capitalizing anything that looks like it might be one of those noun things, putting breaks where they look coolest (?!). I’m guessing these folks flunked See Spot Run 101.

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that I actually asked my BW&BK colleague Martin Popoff about six months ago if someone had changed the rules. Evidently they haven’t; people have just become lazy and stupid.

To be fair, I’ve yet to see a full story printed in such a haphazard manner. I’m guessing the editors cursed with having to clean up such disasters are actually doing their jobs, but still… when major publications are issuing online blogs this sloppy it makes me wonder how in the hell they and their staff retain any credibility. Sure, a lot of fans don’t care and may not even notice, which is a pity. It would do these morons a world of good to have some 16-year-old hit them with a “Dude, your writing sucks balls…”

Press releases, another story entirely. Major labels and minor powers selling their products to the industry with a document written up like a Grade 6 geography notebook? Only thing that’s missing are the boob doodles in the margins. Pathetic.

I see musicians writing blogs like the above example and I think, “Well, he became a musician because he doesn’t know how to write…” 😉 Forgiven, absolutely. I see my “peers” do it and I wonder what kind of slobs they are when the computer is switched off.

On second thought, I don’t want to know.

2 thoughts on “Writing For Morons: You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride”

  1. Hi Carl,
    I concur wholeheartedly. The seemingly continual decline in English language skills, as evidenced frequently online by “experts” and non-experts alike is astounding to me.

    Is it laziness? I tend to think so, and as such, I find TXT and other “cool” internet language insulting if it’s sent directly to me.

    Over the years, I’ve also come to realise that spelling and grammar mean very little in the corporate world. Even the most incompetent communicators can ascend the corporate ladder and some of the official communications I’ve seen (from CEOs to general line managers) have been absolutely atrocious.

    In the dating game, I’ve also come to realise that I’m less attracted to women who can’t write properly. Seriously, I find myself less interested in a woman if she either cannot spell, cannot express herself in written/typed form or uses TXT language. I dated a girl last year who claimed to be a keen writer but I never witnessed it. She made up for this serious failing in other areas though…

    By the way, I wanted to thank you for the Devin Townsend interview. His efforts to change his life and implement positive changes, as discussed in your interview, are really admirable. Curiously, similar changes have taken place in my life in recent times too so it was really interesting to get an insight into Devin’s situation. I felt like I could really relate to what he was saying and I admire him for being so honest about his past (and present).

    Incidentally, I think it’s also extremely brave of him to make a record like Ki, which is just so far removed from anything he’s ever done. This simply exemplifies his eagerness to now make music for himself, rather than be part of a safe, yet ultimately unfulfilling machine such as SYL. Ki will probably sell bugger all, but I don’t think he really cares. And for those few of us that dig the record, it’s like our own secret treasure and I kind of like it that way. Anyway, thanks again for the great interview.


  2. I think a big problem is that a lot of “writers” are just doing this stuff too quickly. I know that it sometimes takes me longer to do something but that is because I fear my words sounded disjointed, unprofessional or worse yet unintelligible. Spell check is avoided like the plague by many and that is bad practice if you are putting your words out there as review commentary and then sending this same text to a media resource that is counting on your narratives to support their artists.

    Everyone who does this kind of thing should take the extra five minutes to make sure what they scribbled down makes sense and offers insight that brings something worth reading to the table. My two cents.

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