The Five C’s of Writing – Part 2: Correctness

If I were a journalism professor, I would start my first day of class by teaching my students The First Rule of Journalism: “Spell the names correctly.” This has become increasingly important in the age of electronic search and retrieval. Spelling names correctly is not something left to Spell Checker; the onus falls squarely on the writer.

Correct spelling is not the only aspect of the Second C of Writing; correct grammar and word usage are also keys to achieving the Holy Grail of Clarity. Readers may be able to figure out what you are trying to say in spite of grammar errors, misspellings, and wrong word usage, but they shouldn’t have to work so hard to do it. Conforming to the approved, conventional standards of language relieves the reader of that effort.

The Grammar Curmudgeon says: “The rules of grammar and usage constitute a collection of conventions that we have agreed upon to make our language comprehensible. Therefore, following these conventions is important.” Violations of Correctness are distractions that “muddy the stream of thought…. People who assert that the rules don’t matter because readers can infer our meaning anyway (or who think that grammar is purposeless or something that matters only to snobs and English teachers) just don’t get it. Correct grammar is not an end in itself but the means to an end, and that end, of course, is clarity.”

Another important aspect of Correctness, particularly in technical writing, is conformance to the truth, to logic, and to the facts. Sometimes in corporate bureaucracies political correctness comes into play; however, this should never get in the way of factual correctness and accuracy. Better to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth – and leave the fudge factor to the confectioneries.

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The Second Rule of Journalism:

Never, ever say that it’s a slow news day.

One Response to “The Five C’s of Writing – Part 2: Correctness”

  1. ironhorse20 Says:

    The “We don’t need no stinking badges” was actually taken from an earlier work “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” written in 1927 and made into a film some time later. Then the Monkees spoofed it in the 1960’s and then Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles. Just some fun trivia. Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinking_badges

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