I promised the folks who run National Grammar Day (it was Tuesday, for those of you who are keeping track) that I would write a post for IU about grammar this week. And ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about.
I mean, Cathy Speight does a great job with her grammar-related posts. She explains the rules better than I ever could. So what’s left?
I thought and thought. Nothing came to mind. I gave up and went to Facebook to kill some time – and as I cruised the various writers’ groups that I’m a member of, it hit me: I could write about grammar on Facebook!
All right, I hear you guys muttering. And don’t think I don’t see you guys way in the back who are flexing your brass knuckles and checking the edges on your knives. Just hear me out, and if you think I don’t have a point, I promise to slink away quietly and we can all pretend this never happened.
Here’s the thing: We, as authors, present ourselves to the public with our words. When people form an opinion about us, that’s all they have to go on. You may think, when you’re responding to a friend’s post on Facebook, that you’re just dashing off a quick joke to people who already know and love you. But your friend may not have his or her privacy settings adjusted the same way you do, and your words may end up being seen by a whole lot of people who don’t know you from Adam or Eve.
I’m not just talking about coarse language or double entendres or photos in questionable taste. Sure, anyone who’s dumb enough to post that kind of stuff on Facebook pretty much deserves what they get, if their current or potential boss digs it up later. Right?
But we’re selling books. We’re selling our words. Words are the raw material we use to craft our characters and plots. Grammar and punctuation are the tools we use to corral our words and make them do what we want them to do. And if our public posts on Facebook (or Twitter) indicate that we can’t string together a coherent thought, using punctuation and grammar in more or less the prescribed fashion, what do you think is the likelihood that a random stranger will buy one of our books?
The muttering’s getting louder. I think I heard somebody say, “Oh yeah? What about a closed group? I post in there when I want to blow off steam with my author friends! No random person can see those posts!”
True enough. But some of the authors in your closed Facebook group may well be editors, too. And you may be looking for an editor, one of these days. I’m not an editor (right now, although I’ve done editorial work in the past), but I can’t help thinking that if an author whose Facebook posts are rife with errors came to me and asked me to edit his or her book, I’d think twice about taking on the job.
I don’t mean to say that every little thing you post has to be utterly perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, especially when writing quickly, and particularly when fat fingers are hitting virtual keys on a teeny-tiny smartphone keyboard. But just keep in mind that you’re representing your personal brand when you post. So be careful. Proofread your posts. And if you spot an error, go back and fix it.
I’m going to slink away quietly now. But I’d love to hear what you think about this.