Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spelling and Punctuation Matter

I'm writing this in the technology center of my library. I got my computer back late yesterday and was all set, or so I thought. No internet connection when I got home. I called my server and had a most frustrating call about my username and password. I've had the same server, same username and password since 1999. The sweet young thing who took my call insisted that was impossible. She said all had changed a few years ago.

"Not me!" I told her. Round and round we went. She gave me a new username and password of her choice, then could not connect with that. After many technologic acrobatics, she determined that I needed a new modem. I am still not accepting that 100%. But they are sending me one in 2-3 business days. Up went my blood pressure! But what can I do but wait. I'm hoping it arrives before we leave late Thursday on a driving trip. If the cyber angels are with me, it will.

Meanwhile, today's topic is spelling and punctuation. They do matter if you don't want to be known as one who sends out sloppy writing.

Not everyone is a great speller but in today's computer world, we have spellcheck as a great aid. If you are typing like mad and come across a word that you are not certain as to how to spell it, use spellcheck or look it up in an online dictionary. Don't just wing it. If you send a story to an editor that is full of misspelled words, he/she will just hit the delete button in a hurry or dump it in the circular file if you have sent it via snail mail. It takes time to make sure you've spelled everything correctly, but it will pay off in the end.

Punctuation is also pretty important. Commas in particular cause problems for many writers. In my critique group, many excellent writers, still don't use commas correctly. I notice that many do not use one after an introductory phrase. That comma is there to give a little pause to the reader. If you read something aloud and there are no commas after these phrases, it's almost difficult to breathe. Look at the sentence below without the comma. Then look at the next one which is correct.

   Before she went to the park Nell put the stew on to cook then called the children.

   Before she went to the park, Nell put the stew on to cook, then called the children.

That's only one punctuation example. There are rules in using capitals, semi-colons, colons, periods, and more. Spend some time reading the rules and try to use them when you write. You'll be a better writer.


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