In this edition of The Week in Writing, we explore the importance of grammar, the anti-Twitter feelings of one prominent author, the debate by traditional media on how to quote tweets, and more.
Grammar is not a secret handshake.
Last Sunday was National Grammar Day, and the Wichita Eagle
's Grammar Monkeys blog took some space to remind us why—especially in writing—proper grammar is critical. After bemoaning those who use the rules of grammar “as a cudgel to bash anyone who steps out of line,” they also point out that “anyone can learn the rules of standard English. All it takes is time and inclination; like manners, grammar costs nothing." Read the post here
Jonathan Franzen doesn't like Twitter.
The novelist behind “Freedom” and “The Corrections” wants you to know he's not buying this whole Twitter thing—at least that’s what he told an audience at Tulane University. Novelist Jami Attenberg blogged some notes from Franzen's speech, which included this: “Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose … it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters.” Which brings us to our hashtag of the week, #JonathanFranzenHates
. Read about his comments here
How do you quote social media?
In her Language Corner blog on Columbia Journalism Review
's site, Merrill Perlman addresses how to quote social media and texting in writing and reporting. It's not as easy as directly quoting character-for-character text—at least not yet. This seems like another area where legacy media is not quite ready to catch up to technology (as Perlman points out, the AP wire can't even transmit symbols). After backing up her case with some highly respected style guides, she concludes, “For a tweet and text, it should be acceptable to spell out abbreviations, to use a source’s full name instead of a ‘handle,’ and to eliminate hashtags within quoted matter.” Do you agree? Read the post here
Debating book blurbs. The New York Times
' Room for Debate blog brings a group of guest contributors together to “discuss news events and other timely issues.” This week's issue: How helpful are book blurbs? Steven King argued that they don't do much: “The idea that a writer can bring his core audience into the tent with a blurb ... you might as well try herding cats.” But novelist Sophronia Scott tells how a simple blurb recommending her as a writer to follow helped her career not by selling more books, but by encouraging her to keep writing. “Most writers are all on the verge of abandoning our work from one day to the next,” she said. “But a message like that is a really good push in the other direction.” Read the rest of the debate here
A million sold.
A self-published author in the U.S. has sold a million books. John Locke wrote his first novel three years ago at age 58, and has written 13 books since, selling them on Amazon for 99 cents apiece. For those considering the self-publishing option, Locke says of his success, “It wasn't a matter of price point but word of mouth, people telling others, one sale at a time.” It probably also doesn't hurt that Locke made a fortune in insurance and real estate before becoming a full-time writer. Read the story here
Evan Peterson is a writer and communications pro in Chicago who has written speeches for executives and presidential cabinet members. His writing has appeared in
The Christian Science Monitor,
Politico, and other publications.