Posted on March 8, 2015
When you talk to me, there are all these cues and clues I use to grasp your meaning. I listen, not just to your words, but your tone. Are you being sarcastic or lighthearted, solemn or straightforward? I listen to which words you group together, which words you emphasize, and which words you add after a pause, as an afterthought.
We share a context – we are speaking “in the moment,” and we might be in the same place at the same time. We share, perhaps, history. When you mention someone by just a first name, I might know exactly who you mean – there is only one Heidi that we both know, for example.
When you write, a lot of those cues and clues are gone!
There is a reason that letters and emails and text messages and tweets are sometimes misunderstood. A serious statement might be taken as sarcasm, or vice versa. Even uses of emoticons or can go awry – and is that LOL laughing with me or at me?
When you write poetry or novels, essays and reports, you might be expressing your ideas to complete strangers who live in a very different place and time than you.
That's one reason that communicating through writing is harder than talking, and writing well is harder still.
And it's one reason that proofreading is so important.
Not only will some people judge you if you use their or there where you should use they're (and of course teachers and professors sometimes dock grades for such mistakes), errors in spelling and punctuation have actually caused misunderstandings, even fights!
You probably don't need to proofread every text message to every friend, but be sure to proofread important stuff, such as ANY message to your boss or teacher, messages that will be read by lots of people, even if it just a tweet or Instagram message, assignments and reports that have real-world consequences, items that will be published or reproduced or displayed, and creative expressions that you hope to stand the test of time.
- Here is some advice on how to proofread.
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