I started writing when I was in primary school. And I used to get high marks for my writing: A’s and A+ marks. It made me feel good. Then the impossible happened: I got a job at Bluesouth in 2007. Well, back then it felt impossible and amazing to get this job. (It still does, sometimes)
So I had to write content for many different websites, sometimes even press releases. I’m still learning every day. Sometimes I got it right; sometimes I got it wrong. I didn’t do too bad back then. I can read some of my older articles and not want to beat my head against a wall. But there are some horrors that I would like to share with you:
1. It’s versus its. One of our account managers walked into the common area at our old offices and wanted to know who wrote a specific article. Well, back in September 2007 it was obvious: I did. I wrote an article for a client and used it’s instead of its. I looked blank for a second before said I’ll change it to the correct word. But I didn’t know why it should’ve been its. Perhaps I was drawing doodles in English class when we covered this. Or perhaps I bunked class for that day. It’s possible. It’s is a contraction of it is or it has — also something I only learnt after school. Or perhaps I just forgot. Its means belonging to it: Its tail was sticking out. These are such easy mistakes to make and sometimes I blame being Afrikaans 😉
2. Using hip ‘n happening words. Fine, I still make this mistake. I still think everyone knows what a fashionista is. I once wrote a blog post and thought everyone would know that a kitchionista is the domestic equivalent of fashionista. People don’t know. If only the truly web-savvy know that Subscribe to my RSS Feed is free, chances are most won’t know ‘fashionable’ words. So it might not be clever to write about teh interweb 😉
3. Utilising words in the wrong context. Ever used enormity instead of enormousness? Or utilise instead of the not so glamorous sounding use? OK, fine, those aren’t the worst examples. But sometimes you use words that just do not belong. Enormity means wickedness, though many people disregard this rule and now prefer using it instead of enormousness. Utilise is not a synonym for use: it means to make the best possible use of something. It’s mostly better to use the original, non-Latin word. Simple is better, remember? I wrote an article last year and used compliment when I meant complement. *knocks head against desk*
4. Verbal diarrhea is a pain. Back in high school, there was a guy — a popular guy, mind you — who we claimed had verbal diarrhea. The online writing equivalent is when you write fluff. Keep It Short, Stupid. Back in September 2007 I wrote 55-word sentences and didn’t feel bad about it. Now I do. Cut out the words you do not need: essentially, actually, in fact, as I was saying. You’ll be more likely to be read posts from authors who do not waffle on and on and on and on.
5. Overuse of brilliant adjectives. See? Who said adjectives are brilliant. Should the reader decide whether a company is brilliant, or should you force-feed him or her to believe it? In the same September 2007 article I wrote about “a dynamic online marketing company in Cape Town”. Perhaps they aren’t, so why write it?
6. Getting subject-verb agreement wrong. I catch myself all the time. I say “Where’s my keys?” when I mean “Where are my keys?” This is such an easy mistake to make. And blaming it on being Afrikaans is a cop-out; I have many black friends who speak faultless English. So I correct myself a lot these days: “There’s my books, um, I mean, there are my books.” Plural subjects need plural verbs. And single subjects need singular verbs. It’s that easy.