It's been a while since I've published a ranty post, and I really hope this doesn't come off as too ranty, but... I can remain silent no longer on something that has been bothering me for a while. For people who claim to be writers and lovers of the written word, some of us aren't representing ourselves very well on social media.
I get it's an informal "setting." I get that we're posting from mobile devices and are often the victims of the dreaded autocorrect. I get that we're humans and don't have editors and proofreaders on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever the latest thing is. I get all that. And I'm not claiming everything I post online is perfect (far from it). I also understand there are legitimate challenges some people face that make spontaneous message-writing a nightmare (e.g., dyslexia).
But those things aside...
What the heck, people?!?!?!?!?!
Social media is both a beautiful and scary thing. Beautiful because it's FREE. Scary because it's free; therefore, people think they can toss any old thing out there and call it good. You can show people who you are and give them a taste of what they'll be getting from your writing for absolutely no cost. No cost, that is, except to your reputation, if you come off sounding like a drunk kitten who couldn't conjugate a verb if your life depended on it. (Who's going to buy a book from that person?)
Here are some routine mistakes that damage your credibility online:
1. Routine grammar and mechanical mistakes. Maybe you routinely use "that," instead of "who." (Ex. "I know there are some lovely people out there that would like to buy my books.") I see some lovely people WHO do this all the time, and it makes me stabby. This is just one (very petty) example, of course. More egregious is the use of text-speak ("U"? Really? You can't be bothered with the two other letters in that word?), a refusal to use capital letters and punctuation, and blatant misspellings.
2. You don't know the difference between your homophones. (Or don't know what homophones are.) (Ex. "I am to lazy to put to o's on the word that means 'also' or a 'w' in the number. Its to much work, and I don't no how to be smarter than autocorrect.") Ay-yi-yi. Your editor doesn't live online. Learn how to do some things for yourself. And show autocorrect who's boss!
3. You often leave words out of sentences, so they make little to no sense. (Ex. "I could gone back and proofread this before hitting 'post,' but it too much trouble, and anyway cares?") I care. Your readers care. And your readers want YOU to care enough to read something before you send it out there for everyone to see.
This brings me to a valid question you may be asking at this point: "Does anyone except this nit-picky hag actually give a darn about any of this?"
Maybe if you polled people, the nicest, most relaxed of the bunch would say, "Online, I've learned to filter typos and mistakes, and as long as I can get the gist of what they're trying to say, it doesn't bother me." But do you want to be the person who requires other people to constantly filter and interpret what you mean? Is it really that hard to get one to three sentences or 140 characters correct? If you consistently post "kind of correct" statements, aren't you sending a comprehensive message you'd rather not send, specifically that you--a writer--don't have a firm enough grip on language to effortlessly converse online, much less write a book that someone would be willing to purchase and read?
Whether you like it or not, everything you write is an advertisement for you as a writer.
So what can you do? SIMPLE STUFF.
1. Proofread. Boo-boos are still going to slip through, sometimes even after you read something several times, but fewer mistakes will go public, and the ones that do will be anomalies, not, "Oh, Brea's posting on Facebook while on the riding lawn mower and inhaling exhaust fumes again. For the fifth time today."
2. Spell check! Please, for the love of all things holy, utilize the built-in spellchecker.
If you stump the spellchecker, then GOOGLE it. When all else fails, use a different word. Preferably one you know how to spell.
3. Correct mistakes. If you notice something after it's out there (I always do my best proofreading after I hit "publish" or "send" or "comment" or "enter"), take advantage of the "edit" feature. It's there. Use it. If it's not working or not available on the platform you're using, copy and paste your post into a new one, fix your goof, and re-publish it. Then delete the old one. Too much work, you say? Maybe it's too much work for readers to slog through your next release, hmmm?
Listen (or read). I'm not saying we should speak the Queen's English in social, casual settings. This post is a good example (I hope) of writing that breaks a few rules here and there for effect and for the sake of conversational style but is still coherent and mechanically correct. And it may sound like a stream-of-consciousness rant, but I proofread it and edited it before I hit "publish." Maybe some typos still slipped through. It happens. Maybe you've resolved to never buy a book from this infinitives-splitting, angry hack. Okay. (No, actually, that makes me really sad and a little panicky, but... I accept the consequences of my compulsion to air this latest grievance of mine.)
Bottom line is this, though. I like to support fellow authors. Sometimes that means reading their books and recommending them, but I don't have time to read EVERY book by EVERY author, so the easiest way to vet someone is by looking at their social media posts. If I see too many sloppy, half-baked, semi-literate offerings by that person, I hesitate to recommend them to anyone. I've worked hard to build trust with the [admittedly few] readers I have. If those readers, based on my recommendations, regularly spend their hard-earned money on books that fall short, quality-wise, they're going to get a bit pissy with me. And rightfully so.
You may say, "Big whoop. One stuck-up grammar nazi won't share my links or retweet me or whatever," but I guarantee I'm not the only person using this shortcut to measure the quality of your writing. People much more influential and possibly vital to your future success (i.e., agents and publishers and paying READERS) are doing the same thing. You can bet on it.
So don't be a social media slouch. If it's worth posting, then it's worth getting it right.
*drops microphone and walks away*
*comes back and puts microphone in its stand, because it's not cool to do that to expensive audio equipment*
When I'm not wasting time on social media, I write novels of the chick lit variety. Check them out on the "Books By Brea Brown" tab on this site. You can also follow me (and feel free to nit-pick my posts and tweets, some of which are written before 6 a.m. and are bound to sound like that drunk kitten I mentioned above) by clicking on the icons above (I think they're on the upper right of each page on this site).
P.S. I like parentheses. Don't hate.