Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dark Side of Self-Publishing (a.k.a. GrammarGate)

Anyone can be a writer now.

Self-publishing one's words in the form of novels, blog posts, tweets, Facebook rants, and myriad other outlets has become commonplace. Although there are equal numbers of platforms for sharing graphics or images, never has it been so easy to disseminate one's written ideas to large numbers of people. I suppose we have the internet to thank for democratizing thoughts, opinions, and information.

In many ways, I think it's awesome that curmudgeonly editors no longer hold the keys to the publishing castle. Let's face it, if I had to rely on a literary agent or publishing house to publish my four novels, there's a good chance I wouldn't have gotten past the traditional guardians of the written word. And if I'd not had the opportunity to post my thoughts and ramblings on various blogs throughout the past eight years, there's a good chance I would have never had the confidence to put my ideas in print. Self-publishing has certainly been a wonderful development for me.

But there is definitely a dark side to the ease and immediacy of blasting our words out into cyberspace. I came across several reminders of this dark side today while exploring trending topics on Facebook and Twitter. Two happened to be on the same topic, DeflateGate. Unless you're an extreme Media Hermit, you are likely aware that DeflateGate involves the 11 deflated footballs used in the January 18th NFL playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. I should disclose that I was born in Indianapolis, so it's not hard to imagine where my loyalties lie, but that's neither here nor there. I'm much more disturbed by our deflated standards for writing than I am by deflated footballs.

One was an article in USAToday which had apparently never seen the eyes of an editor. Rather, it was pushed out in a rush after Bill Belichick's press conference earlier today. There were several errors, mostly typos. Reading it made my head and stomach hurt a little. This is a national newspaper publishing an article with glaring grammatical and spelling errors. And why? To save the few measly minutes it would have taken for an editor to fix them. We value timeliness over correctness, not only for the facts, but also for the delivery.

Another example was a blog post picked up by an Indianapolis media outlet that was written by a "mommy blogger." In her post, she implored the NFL to set some standards so that we can teach children that breaking rules has consequences and all that jazz. But she opened her blog post with the phrase "strike a cord" instead of "strike a chord." More head and stomach hurting ensued. I know not everyone out there is an English major, but I feel pretty strongly that writers should at least strive to get their idioms right. There seem to be no consequences for breaking the rules of English, but there's no outrage over GrammarGate.

I also read an article today encouraging women to be naked more frequently (obviously I have a wide range of interests!) The author used the phrase "drop trowel."  Um no. It is "drop trou," not "drop trowel." The author clearly didn't know the difference because she used the word "trowel" twice.  
And apparently an editor didn't catch that either.

Three articles, three disappointments for this Grammar Snob.

Furthermore, as an indie author, I follow a lot of other indie authors on social media. Sometimes I read particularly cringe-worthy excerpts that make me question why in the world these individuals decided that writing was a suitable career, or even hobby for that matter. And then to see that these books get sold and garner positive reviews is just befuddling to me. Do their fans overlook the obvious issues or are they completely ignorant of the poor quality of the writing, both in style and syntax? Don't even get me started about how the junior-high level 50 Shades became such a phenomenon.

I am not sure what the solution to this issue is. I like the fact that so many people are taking an interest in writing, specifically in writing complete sentences devoid of abbreviations and text talk. I like the fact that people want to express themselves publicly and to foster discourse and debate. I feel hopeful that the written word is far from dead. But I also feel sad that our standards for grammatical conventions are so low. And that so many seem not to care. Do we continue down this path? Do we let the language evolve to have different or looser rules? Or is there something that can be done to renew an interest in learning and adhering to grammatical conventions?

Now it's your turn to write. Please share your answers in complete sentences with correct punctuation and spelling! #comeonyoucandoit #goodgrammarrules (pardon the pun!)

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