Hello, my name is Kay… and I abuse words. It is almost like I get involved in the word of the month club – where one word comes into my head and I feel the need to interject it needlessly into conversation. If it wasn’t so true it would be funny. I’ve run the gamut on words I obsess over. I am currently preoccupied with “rather” but since we are the beginning of the month, it might be time for a change. I spent several weeks in college throwing “purple” into as many conversations as I could. I know at some point I started referring to any woman I met as a “gal”. I like to think of myself as a relatively intelligent being, but the fact that I allow one word to dominate my thoughts makes me wonder if I am really the higher primate I thought I was.
The book I am currently studying, “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, has an entire chapter entitled “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused”. I was not terribly shocked to find in their list a few words and expressions that I apparently misuse. I have to admit, I felt some pride over the fact that I don’t practice bad style ALL the time but it was hurtful to have them refer to the ones I do as “commonplaces of careless writing.” Nevertheless, it did give me pause for thought. What does it really mean to be a careless writer? I know I have read my fair share of posts that were poorly written or disjointed enough to make it unreadable. What is fascinating to me about this book is that it is not only teaching me how to become a more stylish writer, but also helps me to see what to look for in my editing. This was something I was lacking before. It is easy for me to pick up on visual matters – things that might detract from the readers enjoyment of the story, but it has been fairly difficult for me to correct the form and composition.
When I first think of someone being a careless writer, I visualize a rather (see? it cropped up again, maybe I’m not done with it) slovenly person, generally male – no offense, who drinks coffee and spills it all over his manuscript. Besides being unkempt, he also is disorganized and absent-minded. Technically a careless writer is not someone who is necessarily careless in their real life, but someone who doesn’t give care to their writing. One of the synonyms of careless is cursory – a term which really hit home. Up until the point I started blogging, I would only give a cursory review of whatever I had written before submitting it for publication or review. I was under the impression that I am close to being perfect, I guess, and that whatever came spewing out of my thoughts and onto paper was worthy of reading – no matter how poorly the grammar was, how misspelled the words, or how ineffective my language. Thankfully I have been knocked off my pedestal and have the where-with-all to realize I never should have been up there in the first place.
It is said that writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar. It comes from within. Whereas I hope to never see myself in that perfect light again, I would hope that my readings and study will produce a writer who is no longer careless, but thoughtful and satisfactory. Besides, the mere thought of spilling my coffee… wasting precious caffeine, makes me cringe.