I realise that as a journalist, I’m much more concerned with words and punctuation than the average person.
And I’m aware that language changes over time, and my hang-ups about rules are just random leftovers from a particular moment in education and time. But, if you’ll try to see things from my perspective, there are still two reasons I’d like the general public to pick up their grammar game:
- Sometimes people don’t understand you. Agreeing to a system of spelling and punctuation means less ambiguity or downright incomprehensibility.
- My job is to remove all your mistakes - give a girl a break.
But some of it would be so easily fixed if people took a few tips on board. So, in the interests of time saved for editors everywhere, I bring you a few of my bugbears:
Eccentric spaces. Some people put two after every full stop, as they were taught in their mid-century typing classes. But computers automatically put a wider space after a full stop, so it looks wonky when you add another one. Then there are people who think you should have a space on both sides of a comma, or no spaces, or a surprise double space between words just to keep us on our toes. Finally, some (perhaps older) people haven’t yet found the return key, so put a run of spaces at the end of a paragraph to get to the next line. Please stop.
Inappropriate capitalisation. This is not the 19th century; please don’t capitalise every single noun. Conversely, people’s names need capitals. AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON PEOPLE WHO WRITE IN ALL CAPS.
Redundant information. If you’re writing about something that happens next week, you don’t need to add the year. I’m going to assume you’re not giving me a year and a week’s warning. Also, supplying a history of your organisation when you submit something to a newspaper is probably overkill. Don’t waste your time - just wait to be asked.
Don’t write too much. I know it's hard to contain yourself. For example, I have so many more of these bug-bears, I’d need a whole page to detail them. But I’ve been given a word limit, so I’ll stop right here.