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Do You Encourage or Discourage Your Readers?

TeacherTonight I received an email from Borders. There’s a contest on Gather to write about how a teacher changed your life.

A recent blog posting from Brian Clark of CopyBlogger was my inspiration, 5 Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb. Brian wrote the post over 2 weeks ago, but it’s been nagging at me ever since. I consistently struggle with grammar and spelling.

About the Contest: Do you know a teacher who made a difference? Borders and Gather would like to hear your story so we can share it with others and celebrate the wonderful work that teachers do every single day. Borders will select four finalists to receive a $50 Borders Gift Card and on one lucky winner to receive a $250 Borders Gift Card.

During the day I reflect on what I’ve read, learned and accomplished. On my drive home, I’m usually collecting those thoughts in my head and organizing them to write on my blog. By the time I actually sit down to write, the content is ready to explode. I tend to write in ‘streams of consciousness’. I can’t type fast enough… so my sentences and paragraphs tend to be erratic and jump around.

Invariably, I leave a few mistakes. I save the post as a draft. I read the draft. I proof-read the draft. I fix mistakes and republish the draft over and over. Finally, I publish the post… and proof it again. Even though I take great care, I’ll still leave one of those mistakes that ‘makes me look dumb’.

But it won’t stop me from writing. I refuse to let it.

The Gather project inspired me to write about my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Rae-Kelly. If you don’t take a minute or two to read the post, I’ll fill you in. At that point in my life I was totally unsure of myself and desperately needed someone to provide me with a reason to gain some respect for myself.

Rather than focus on my terrible writing, spelling, and grammar, Mrs. Rae-Kelly scoured my work to find what was good rather than bad. By concentrating on the positive, I wanted to learn and produce great work for Mrs. Rae-Kelly. I would review my work for the mistakes made in the past and make every effort not to make them again.

Mrs. Rae-Kelly knew how to inspire and build self-esteem in her students. That’s rare for both teachers and leaders in this day and age. I know that Brian didn’t write the post to ‘make me look dumb’ but it sure did (and still does) bother me. My hope to you folks that are thinking about blogging or are blogging is that articles like this don’t discourage you.

NOTE: Brian’s blog is one of the best on the net. It’s a fantastic resource and has helped me to improve my writing and copy writing skills immensely. It’s a happy and positive blog and would never be used to discourage writers… quite the opposite is true!

I can’t speak for all bloggers, but I will forgive you for your mistakes and hope you’ll forgive me for mine. I’m not reading your blog because I’m trying to find your errors – I’m reading it because I am learning from you or enjoying your writing. At the same time, I hope you’ll take the time to fill out my contact form if “I look dumb”. I won’t ever get upset… one of my readers had to explain to me three times in an email when I wrote advise instead of advice (argh!).

I believe that my grammar and spelling skills are improving. I understand that, for some readers, mistakes like those hurt my credibility and reputation so I am working hard to improve them. Hopefully, you cut me some slack and focus on the message and not the mistakes!

Good teachers correct their pupils, great pupils encourage them. You can substitute leader, coach, priest, parent or blogger in place of teacher and it holds true.

8 Comments

  1. 1

    I could write it off as “tough love” Doug, but really, the use of “dumb” in the headline was only to increase the pulling power. Turns out that was the most popular post I’ve ever written, which was quite a shock.

    Hope there’s no hard feelings. 🙂

    • 2

      Hi Brian,

      I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote this post so that it wouldn’t sound that way! Your blog has been a great source of information and inspiration. I know you didn’t mean it that way at all – I’m simply sensitive since I’m ‘grammatically-challenged’. 🙂

      Rather than discourage, your blog has been a great encouragement to me (and I’m sure many others). The word ‘dumb’ just stuck with me since reading it and I can’t seem to let it go.

      As well, I’ve noticed many of the comments (I’m subscribed) and so many of the commentors are downright mean! Your post will help a lot of folks (it helped me). I hope the commentors don’t discourage anyone from writing. It takes practice and patience with oneself!

      Thanks so much for checking out the post! Thanks for all the encouragement.

      Doug

  2. 3

    I think it was a good way of reminding people about their mistakes. It sure sounds harsh to say dumb but it’s probably the way people get attention. It was certainly his way of teaching.

    • 4

      I agree, Howie. It has helped me and it was a terrific post. Ironically, I hope it doesn’t ‘discourage’ folks from writing posts like that. My point was not to take a shot at Brian (I really do love his blog). My point was just to make sure that we look to encourage one another.

      I surely don’t want people to avoid blogging if they can’t write well. The wonderful thing about blogging is that people write about what they know. Sometimes grammar and spelling are not in that category… but things like development, parenting, faith, etc. are and should be shared!

      Thank-you for your comment!
      Doug

  3. 5

    You describe exactly what I feel when I got the topic to add it on my blog I feel lost on my mind. And I think blog reader doesn’t care much about the grammar and spelling, the important is the content of it.

    The good thing about blogging is you increase your writing skills, as post by post you can get the experience and identify your own mistakes, especially people who coming from country that not have English as 1st language e.g. My self

    😀

    • 6

      AskaX,

      Your example is probably the best example – I had not even thought of folks who have English as a Second Language! The Internet doesn’t have language boundaries and we should absolutely support and appreciate our bloggers that are still working to master English at all.

      Thanks for commenting! And great job on your blog.

      Doug

  4. 7

    I agree that content is more important but we can’t escape the fact that some readers are just concerned about what authors have written. Or maybe, they think that being able to write an article naturally means that you are a good writer. And by that, correct spelling and grammar.

  5. 8

    Hi Douglas,

    When it’s about blog posts and articles, grammatical
    errors *do* make you look dumb because your meaning
    gets messed up! (like your advise VS advice case)

    But I always tend to look at the content… which is
    hard because I think of myself as a proofreader
    even though I’m not certified 🙂

    It’s a different world when it comes to stuff that people
    pay though! If it’s free content, meh, grammar and
    spelling mistakes are everywhere.

    Don’t hit yourself so badly =) No one’s perfect (and no
    one will be :))

    To the top,
    Asher Aw

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