Does Good Writing Matter? by Katy Lee

I recently came across a survey titled, Does Good Writing Matter? The following are a fewpen of the questions I answered. Would love to compare your answers with mine. Feel free to leave some, or all, in the comments below.

1)      Do you judge other people based on their writing?

Now before you throw your pencils at me, or your mouse as the case may be, I will say the word “judge” may be too harsh. Do I judge? No. Do I feel a writer loses credibility if they can’t express themselves well in writing? Yes. A person’s inexperience comes through in their writing and if they want to be taken seriously, whether in fiction or in nonfiction, accurate writing is a must. But like I said, I would not call it judging. I think a better term would be “to question.” Do I question a person’s validity based on their writing? Definitely.

2)      What writing mistakes bother you most?

The answers to choose from were: “Grammar/punctuation,” “word use,” “long, difficult sentences,” “vague purpose,” “poor logic.”

And my answer? Poor logic and vague purpose. A writer may lose credibility with inaccuracies in their writing, but I don’t let those bother me. I’ll most likely continue to read on, correcting mistakes as I go, but a lack of purpose and poor logic has me closing the book/article all together. For example, a few months back I had to judge a writing contest of published works. One book in particular was nearly painful for me to read because it lacked purpose. I squirmed in my comfy chair. I fidgeted and kept looking at how many pages I had left. My husband watched me from the couch. He said, “You’re not enjoying that book.” I was not surprised he could tell. Every sentence, every piece of dialogue, every scene needs to push the story along and show the purpose to the reader, and it needs to be logical, or they will close it up.

3)      Do you apply the same writing standards to social media?

This one was a tough one for me. With the 140 character limitations in Twitter, I think I have to be more understanding to errors in social media. Although, I have seen some great Tweets and Facebook statuses that are short, but full of impact without compromising intelligence. Then there are those posts that confuse “there, they’re and their.” (See question #1 for my response to those.)

I thought this was a great question given our social media world these days. It used to be that a person had to be credible in their field in order to write. These days, everyone has a soap box (or media outlet). Some might think that’s scary, but I still believe your intelligence, or lack there of, shines through even in 140 characters.

Either way, I’m interested in hearing your take on this one.

4)      What is your personal pet peeve in writing?

This is a question we ask many of our guests here at the Scribes, and I have learned so much from their responses. I had no idea some of my word choices bothered people. Now I do, and I don’t do them anymore. So, I am hoping if you don’t answer any of the other questions, you will at least answer this one. I know there is still so much for me to learn, so please share.

Now as for my personal pet peeve word. I would have to say the word “got.” It just jolts the flow of my reading. Also, “lightening vs. lightning.” One is to lighten your load. The other is a natural electric discharge in the atmosphere. The misuse of that word also gives me a jolt. <grin>

The Unlocked Secret: Today’s secret isn’t really a secret, but here it is anyway: Everyone’s a critic. Make every effort to put your best work out there. That means take the time to learn through classes and workshops, reading various works, and keeping your handy-dandy grammar book by your side at all times. And if you’re still unsure? That’s what editors are for.

So, have at it, Scriblings! Answer away, and remember as I said in question #1, I don’t judge.

And as always, thanks for your Tweets and Shares!

11 thoughts on “Does Good Writing Matter? by Katy Lee”

  1. My goodness Katy. Thank you for lightening my load. In my WIP, just two days ago, I had a thunderstorm, and thought, which way is correct? The lightning cracked across the sky followed by the deafening rumble. Or is that deafning? Sorry, couldn’t resist. The English language is tough, especially having grown up in Brooklyn, where the “r” seems to be missing most of the time. For example: The fabric feels coa(r)se and itchy while sitting and squirming reading the cou(r)se material. How’s a person supposed to know which one anyhow? What about the word foward, oh, thats “forward”. Tain’t easy! And I am an A+ speller, won the spelling “Bee’s”. Is that correct?

    As for grammar, third grade came and went w/o learning grammar, and ninth grade was a disaster with Mrs. Brown, who read the newspaper whilst we wrote whatever. And forget my writing whilst doing my Masters in “Criticism”. Finally in the last few months, and the Little Brown Book, and my editor (phrase her or is that praise her, HA?), I am finally learning my grammar and punctuation.

    All jokes aside, if I pick up a book, or as you experienced in that contest that had me judging too, it is difficult to stay in a story when poorly written. And Katy, what is with “got”? And here’s another one for you, where do the quote marks go on the word or phrase, or name of anything when you write? Around the name and then the period or question mark as in the word “got”? Or “got?”

    Grammar and punctuation pop off the page of anything I read now. If the writer keeps making the same error, I am out of there. And, what about white space? I need that negative space to rest my eyes.

    I have an excellent forerunner, Tom reads first and recommends which ones I should read. That saves me time. Thank goodness for Tom. Cause, then effect. Oh yes, “whilst” is a common word in the nineteenth century. I got (oops) taken up with the word while writing. And-why must we write out
    19th century?

    1. Hi Gail,

      I am so sorry you had a teacher that read the newspaper in class! You would hope when a teacher has lost the excitement in teaching they would retire. It makes me sad to think how many years of children coming through their class are shorted a good education.

      As for “got” I just think there is a better word out there to use. Sometimes in dialogue it is fine. After all, we use the word when we speak. But in other parts of our writing, the author can go a little deeper and replace it with a better word.

      And as for where quotes go, this is how I understand it: Commas and periods stay inside the quotes. Question marks and exclamation points go on the outside unless it is part of the quote itself. Also when there is only a letter or number, then the period or comma goes on the outside. “A”,

      And I’m with you on the awesome. It is a word that loses its real value when it is overused.

  2. I do assess people based on their writing. But, I realize that writing isn’t as important to those who don’t write. And those who do are on a journey like me. Most are ahead and some are behind me. regardless, we are all growing, I hope.

    Vague purpose and loose logic are also the biggest turn offs for me too. They bother me more the longer I write.

    Yes, I do apply the same rules of writing no matter where the words appear. Using single letters for words (R U) and other short hand tricks irritate me to no end, but I am trying to adjust a bit at a time.

    Cliches are my most current irritant, but it is usually whatever I am working on in my own skill set. I become hypersensitive to infractions in the areas I struggle most.

    Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  3. What I find bothersome are the adverbs “just” and “so.” I think they are just so overused. But, who am I to judge? 😉 Good post, Katy.

  4. Hmm, good questions! And good Post!
    My answers:
    #1: No, I don’t judge them. But I do question why other people seem to like their writing style. And there ARE people who do, because otherwise, why would that book have been published? So either I’m missing something important about the uniqueness of this writing style, or the story itself is so good that it overshadows the ‘not-so-good-in-my-opinion’ writing style.

    #2: Long difficult sentences and of course vague purposes and poor logic really bother me. Grammar mistakes I can deal with. But I hate reading sentences or descriptions that go on and on and on. Get to the good part already! ;0)

    #3: Twitter and Facebook I can forgive a lot because many people type using their phones and also since Twitter is character limited, it just makes sense to create funky acronyms. But…like you said, if the person keeps making the same obvious mistakes over and over–their vs they’re etc–then I start to judge them. Especially if they’re a writer. ;0)

    #4: One of my biggest peeves is a ton of POV switches as well as author intrusions and random sentences that jerk you out of the deep POV all of a sudden. Deep POV is harrrrd to master, but if the author is at least trying, then I can forgive some POV mistakes.

    But in summary, if the story/characters are interesting and intriguing enough to distract me from any mistakes or peeves of mine, then that author has me hooked for life.

    1. Hi Marlene,

      Thanks for sharing, and I’m with you on the POV changes. Anything that takes me out of the story and makes me go back to reread can ruin the experience for me…at least until I get into the rhythm of the author’s voice. If I stick with it, I usually can feel it out.

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