It doesn’t matter if you’re posting something only for your friends or advertising your skills to an employer, good writing in the digital age still matters.
(My auto-correct is fighting me on that word. It keeps telling me that what I really want to say is “emirate.”)
BuzzFeed’s Emmy Favilla has published a new book that is … no exaggeration here … a declaration of war on old grammar rules in the glittering digital age, A World Without ‘Whom’: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age. (Read Tom Rachman’s TLS review here.)
I like shorthand speech as much as she does, and I get where she is coming from. (I don’t even mind ending a sentence with a preposition.) But I can’t help rolling my eyes when she says:
“Today everyone is a writer – a bad, unedited, unapologetic writer. There’s no hiding our collective incompetence anymore.”
It’s not that I disagree with her. I just think we should do a better job of hiding that fact on our personal websites, Facebook posts, other social media platforms, etc. The world is watching us. Constantly. Always. Once we hit “publish” on a post, our thoughts will continue on — bad, unedited, unapologetic — in some weird, cached immortality for as long as the internet exists.
So here’s a poetic thought: One day, long after I’m dead and gone, it might be nice for my middle-aged kids to discover some frazzled post I wrote while I was trapped in a midlife crisis. Maybe it will comfort them. But I sure don’t want any potential employers, readers, and other supporters to find that stuff … not unless I really want them to. (Again: I don’t mind a dangling preposition now and then.)
That is why we all need to struggle against the easy slide into bad writing online, even though Emmy Favilla does her level best in her new book to show us how to embrace it and move on.
Onward, my beloved friends.