The Troth of Writers
Writing can be such a lonely undertaking. Writers are, after all, living on the outskirts of our modern age. It’s hard to get people to appreciate well-written . . . anything . . . when “r u gng 2 th parT” is an acceptable form of communication. Most of the people I know under the age of 18 would actually consider that a sentence.
“Text speak” is not the only form of communication that has, in my opinion, degraded our language and the art of using it. It’s only the newest form of pseudo language. Think about signage, labels, and other marketing means of creating catchy slogans for cereals and such. Froot Loops has been around for over 50 years. What about the dog treat called BonZ? Ever sit in a Kozy Korner?
Even the arrival of the computer has detracted from the respect that good writing once commanded. Perhaps, through the ease of composing on a computer, some of the value of that skill has been lost? But what many people don’t know, or don’t appreciate, is that it takes more than a spell-checker to create good writing.
It takes a solid knowledge of the form, fit, and function of language itself, and the skill of juggling rules of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and context with the art of presentation. Those really good writers are the ones who have moved past the mere utilitarian usage of such parameters and have gone on to manipulate them to their advantage. They communicate clearly, concisely, beautifully. Their writing is easy to read and understand. They delight the reader.
There are so few actual writers left. In our fast-paced world, the gods of Convenience and Speed seem to rule over everything. Writers are given new rules—often at odds with the real rules of writing—that they must follow to satisfy a schedule, a customer, or even a political agenda.
What happened to The Art of Writing? Only a hundred years ago, writers were respected, even revered. Names like Frost, Twain, Hemingway were breathed in a kind of hushed whisper. They circulated among the crowd of cinematic, financial, and political stars. They gave us timeless classics that demonstrate, even today, their skill at using The Word and a deep and abiding knowledge of the human spirit.
There are some of us that still maintain our devotion to The Art. We are scorned by today’s illiterati, those who consider themselves educated and literate, but who possess only a thin veneer of literary sophistication. We are often judged by them as being difficult and old-fashioned because we cling to concepts of good writing. We use style guides instead of preferences to guide us when we have questions. We actually edit what we write. We strive to educate clearly and entertain with ease.
Good writing—really good writing—means you have communicated clearly with the reader. So clearly, in fact, that readers can see what you want them to see, feel what you want them to feel.
How can you possibly do that with text speak?