If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes, then before you read the rest of this post, click on the link above, watch the video, and then come back here. If you are a content writer, English teacher, or magazine editor, you will immediately identify with Weird Al’s criminal grammar issues in this song. While Weird Al is known for satirizing many subjects, this particular parody strikes directly into the heart of my list of pet peeves. As a graduate of a collegiate English program, I often despair of the spelling, grammar, and syntax in published works in print and online.
And I thought that you’d gotten it through your skull
What’s figurative and what’s literal
Oh but, just now, you said
You “literally couldn’t get out of bed”
That really makes me want to literally
Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head
– Excerpt from “Word Crimes”
I write for a living, therefore I understand the need for an editor to catch mistakes that a writer misses and give a writer feedback on how to improve their prose. We all have human failings causing occasional typos in written works. However, I personally find it inexcusable when a published work has numerous grammatical errors. The poorly-written text disrupts the flow of the text and damages the storyline.
Certainly, not everyone can be an English expert. After all, I cannot fix a car, which is why I go to a certified mechanic when his expertise is required. In return, I expect a non-expert to contract a professional editor to repair their writing. Weird Al emphasizes many of the common errors that I repeatedly see in advertising, marketing, and news stories as I read through emails and follow information feeds from a variety of sources. These simple errors make the publications look amateurish, at best.
Alot is not a word. You don’t write alittle, abunch, acantaloupe, aporkchop. So don’t write alot.
– The Oatmeal
If you have forgotten what you learned in school about common grammar mistakes, one of the best places to brush up is on The Oatmeal’s grammar page. The Oatmeal, aka Matthew Inman, has created several grammar posters that explain grammar humorously in order to help people retain these rules. My favorite is the “10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling” poster. Inman explains each point with an illustration that makes you laugh, including one about the infamous “its” vs. “it’s” conundrum that Weird Al sings about in “Word Crimes.”
Writing is a skill as well as an art. If you are not willing to hire a professional writer to craft your prose, then hire an editor to repair spelling and grammar mistakes before you send your writing out to the world. What you invest in editing will save your professional reputation many times over as a return on your investment. After all, who wants to work with a professional that cannot even take the time to correct their spelling?
Paula A can usually be found in her favorite chair with her feet propped up on an ottoman quietly typing on her laptop and sipping iced coffee while chaos reigns around her.