Thanks to the general cultural malaise that has settled over what is generically referred to as "the media," the public's perception of what exactly is involved in writing and reporting continues to plummet. "How hard could it be," folks often wonder, "to sit in a restaurant all day waiting for Brangelina to come by, and then write a breathless story about what kind of whipped cream they take in their mocha?" Those of us who ply our journalistic trade considerably far afield of Beverly Hills or midtown Manhattan recognize that, however undersung our accomplishments might be, there is genuine craftsmanship involved in our work.
But I realize that it's far better to show you than just tell you about it, so take a look at the paragraph below. There are 16 errors -- see how many you can find:
Nothing is more embarassing than making a writing mistake. Of course, we all think its funny when we spot a mispelled word in magazine ads or on billboards. If one of your employee’s are making the the mistakes, it can be disasterous. And if you have a typo in a memo to the boss, how do you think they will view your professionalism? These kind of mistakes can be prevented, irregardless of the persons job title. The people that make the mistakes can seriously effect how other’s view you’re company. That can cost any organization money and hurt it’s profits.
Okay, now here are the answers. How'd you do? As a trained professional (I was an English teacher before I got into publishing), I got 15 out of 16, and I would contend that the choice of "who" over "that" is more a personal preference than a strict grammatical error.
But if nothing else, you'll see that even we editor types have tools of the trade that we have to learn, and constantly update ourselves on, lest our skills turn moldy and musty. Maybe that makes us dinosaurs, in an era of text messaging and tweets that insist on abbreviating everything and omitting punctuation entirely, but I'd like to think that, just as in any industry that relies on finished products, good writing is distinctive from not-so-good writing.