29 April 2008

Using the "Write" Word

Seriously. Good English may soon be a thing of the past. Educated people used to be taught to speak as well as they wrote. Then, it became "understood" that writing was a more formal means of communication than speaking. So, it was acceptable to use slang and relax grammar rules in speech, as long as you left no participle dangling in your written work.

Now, I'm lucky to be able to decipher a third of what people say to me, and, heaven help me, the resumes and cover letters that I receive from prospective employees are a fright. And these are from people who hope to be hired to edit the books my company publishes. Are they kidding?

Aparently not. One aspiring editor wrote that she was the best at her job at her current company. She boasts "the lowest amount of punctuational errors of all the editors." Her current employer must have literally no standards for hiring.

If punctuational didn't tip me off that she might be a bit wordier than I would prefer in an editor, she stomped directly on one of my most sensitive pet peeves by using amount instead of number.

One of the most searched pages at ChicagoWriter.com is the Word Wrangles page. Here, she could have learned when to use amount (measurable) and when to use number (countable) before she sent off her cover letter--or edited anything.

Using the right word is as important in speaking as it is in writing. Whether people comment on your word choices or not, they are subconsciously judging you by the quality of your speech or writing. The difference is when you make sloppy, ignorant, or careless errors in writing, you're leaving a documented evidence trail of your incompetence with the English language. Not the "write" impression for someone wanting to work with words professionally.