Write Your Way

I’ve always been bothered by articles that tell writers how to write. I don’t mean helpful articles that tell us the differences between different comma types, I mean the really snotty types that take common writing styles and tell you “don’t do that”. Articles that look down on modern English conventions and act like there isn’t any reason that they exist, and that they should never be used.

English has changed a lot over the past 20 years. Vernacular has changed. Communication itself has changed. In 20 short years, we’ve seen the internet grow at breakneck speeds and focus change from print media to clunky web pages to short, snappy social media messages. In that time, younger generations than even my own (I’ll be 30 at the end of the month) have developed completely new ways of communicating with each other.

Some sticklers would have you thinking that this is a linguist’s nightmare.

There are articles all over the place where linguists themselves say no, no, this isn’t a nightmare, this is freaking fascinating, we’re all seeing something happening in real time that most people only study in the past tense. We’re seeing shorthand terms developing (“because money” to explain why big businesses do some of the things they do, for example) right in front of us.

English is a language that trips other languages and steals their lunch money. Since English became a thing (look, more modern vernacular), it’s always “borrowed” (well, stolen) from other languages. It’s always been changing, too.

At one time, phonetic spelling was the way of things – everybody spelled words depending on how they pronounced them. There are turns of phrase that were common a century ago that are no longer used. There are other turns of phrase whose meanings have become lost to time.

So, when we have hipster-esque dudes telling people not to use common phrases or writing styles simply because they don’t like them – under the guise that those forms are “unprofessional”, though they tend to just say “stupid” – we have to learn to tell them off. We have to learn to say, “No, let me decide how to write based upon my audience.”

That’s what it comes down to: the way you’re going to write is going to depend on your audience. I’m not going to use a conversational style when dealing with an accounts report for a CEO, and I’m not going to stick to a robotic, formal style when trying to write for the generation that comes after me.

There is no proper way to write a blog, a story, or an eBook. What engages one group of people can utterly confound another. Just look at the audience you’re writing for and go from there, or at the purpose of what you’re writing.

And when you inevitably stumble across yet another writer trying to gain snobbery points by telling younger folks not to write in ways that are familiar for them, no matter what, no, never, not ever? Laugh. That’s where we’ve all started out, after all, and they’ll mature eventually.