From the Editor – See What a Comma Does to a Species!

Dear Ghumakkars,

We are growing and we are growing fast. Proof? Well, here is the list of our brilliant new authors this month:

Nikhil Chandra
Sandeep Panwar
Shantanu Sinha
Shreeniwas Sharma
Sunil Katyal
Vaishali Ahuja
V. P. Singh

Welcome to Ghumakkar everyone! Hope you are all feeling at home here. We are happy to have you on board. So keep writing!

Gone are the days when publishing one’s writing was a nightmarishly long process. Self-publishing and blogging have made it a piece of cake. Now we don’t really need to bother about what others think of the piece of writing that we are publishing. With no tedious editorial process to stand in between, everyone gets a chance to showcase their talent to the world. But with this freedom comes a great responsibility as well. Not to anyone else but to ourselves. A responsibility to portray ourselves as the sincere and dedicated people that we are.

If you have watched ‘3 Idiots’ you will definitely remember the infamous speech. Chatur, the blue-eyed boy, goes on the stage confidently, looks around at the eager audience which consists of the Head Master of his college and the Chief Minister, and starts speaking. And as soon as he does that, it is disaster beyond any repair. A few incorrectly-used words not only destroy Chatur’s reputation as a student, they damage the school’s standing with the CM as well. It is the same situation really when we click that publish button after writing a blog on Internet. It is like a speech that we pour out to the world. And whether we like it or not, readers are going to form opinions about us from what they read. In fact, sometimes they imagine a complete persona which may not actually be true. A carefully written and edited piece of writing will reflect well upon our education and background and writings full of spelling and grammar mistakes may indicate that we are not sincere enough to make an effort. And that is just one of the reasons why it is important to pay attention to spelling and grammar while writing anything on the Internet.

The second important reason is that if you misspell a key word in your post, it may not be caught by the search engines for relevant searches and hence you will lose out on readers. And all of us who have been writing regularly will understand that this is a huge loss. To think that a large number of people will perhaps never get to read what you have to say simply because you spelt one word wrong is simply tragic.

Another important reason is that while readers will gladly take a few mistakes lightly, frequent mistakes are almost always going to distract them from what you are trying to say. Think about confusing long sentences, think about common spelling mistakes, and think about misplaced punctuation marks. They are very likely to turn your reader off or in extreme cases even cause the article to be misunderstood. If you have read the Lynne Truss’s book “Eats shoots and leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation”, you will know that there can be no better example of this. Here is the popular punctuation joke cited in the book:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.
‘Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
‘Well, I’m a panda,’ he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’
The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’

Did you see how a misplaced comma changed the entire personality of the Panda?

Another example closer to home is what you see often on shops that serve alcohol. “We serve chilled bear.” Well they should be glad that they are not in trouble with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) yet.

These are some really unfortunate spelling and grammar mistakes. But similar things happen to us at regular intervals. I particularly remember one example when I prevented a colleague at a government office just in time from sending a letter addressed to “The Horrible Minister of State”. The letter was to be sent to “The Hon’ble Minister of State”. I shudder to think what would have happened if she had gone ahead and sent the letter. But this time luck was with her.

However, all spelling and grammar mistakes do not result is dire consequences but may cause your readers to take you lightly. They may doubt the amount of effort you put into your post and, hence, what you have to say may lose weight even though it is backed up by data and research.

With so much to lose, it is really important to take the age-old concept of running a spelling and grammar check seriously. And it doesn’t really require much effort. You just need to copy the stuff that you are going to publish into Microsoft Word and run a spell and grammar check. After this, I also advocate that you read your post aloud. Because sometimes, computer misses what human eyes can see. For example for switching of words like There/Their, Its/It’s will not be caught by the tool but your eye will definitely see it.

I am not a grammar nazi by any standards. In fact, the way we write is unique to our personality. Moreover, the content at Ghumakkar is quality content and our authors, I am proud to say, put in a lot of effort to craft their posts. And it is apparent from the comments that we regularly get. Still if you ever feel that you are hard pressed on time to run a spell or grammar check or would want a second pair of eyes to go through your article just to be sure, feel free to give me a shout. I am available at vibha@ghumakkar.com and will ensure that none of these embarrassing mistakes make their way into your posts.

Also relevant: 10 tips on writing a good travel post.

Till the next time…

25 Comments

  • Onil Gandhi says:

    At last!

    I have been waiting for this article. A very well written one too.

    Though, a few corrections, in my reply, are in the order; I couldn’t “holler for your help” before taking this plunge.

    Please do correct it.

  • Onil Gandhi says:

    At last!

    I have been waiting for this article. A very well written one too.

    Though a few corrections, in my reply, are in the order; I couldn’t “holler for your help” before taking this plunge.

    Please do correct it.

  • Vibha says:

    Thanks Onil. I am glad you liked the article.

  • Nandan says:

    And I would guess that we would also need volunteers to help those who are brave enough to shout for help.

  • ashok sharma says:

    a very good article,and a much needed one.
    Nandan,i think i should volunteer for the cause.

  • Vibha says:

    Awesome! Thanks Onil and Ashok for the response. We’ll get in touch with you when we hear a shout!

    Cheers,
    Vibha

  • Sahil says:

    Hey Vibha !!!
    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing :)

    Sahil

  • Vibha says:

    Thanks Sahil! :)

  • Chhaya says:

    “I am not a grammar nazi by any standards” reminds me of the time when I got a word doc reviewed by you :)

    Cool post !! I am enjoying the blog.

  • Vibha says:

    Thanks a lot Chhaya. Yes I think I remember that. Guess I am a bit paranoid about grammar after all. :)

    -Vibha

  • Hi Vibha,
    Just to let you know I am on speedy road to recovery – although my prescribed diet sucks. “I will try my best to reply to all the compliments I have received today”. And I know that the sentence under quotes need correction with today part :D :-)
    Apart from digressions, it’s a honor that my name finds mention in the newsletter. And you do have way with words as always and have come up with an interesting article. I really did liked the Lynne Trusss book. Your post did remind me of a sentence and how powerful punctuation could be and I’d like to share that here.It goes… “woman without her man is nothing” A guy when told to correct it wrote “woman, without her man is nothing” and a gal rewrote the same sentence as “woman, without her, man is nothing”. So indeed “see what a comma does to a specie!”
    Cheers,
    Nikhil

  • Sorry I messed it up I mean the punctuation thing. It should be
    Guy – Woman, without her man, is nothing.
    Gal – Woman: Without her, man is nothing.

  • Vibha says:

    Thanks Nikhil,

    That’s a very good example of the use of punctuation. Lovely! And in the title, it should have been species and not specie. Can’t change it now though since it will break all the links wherever the post has been shared. Another reason why we should edit our work really carefully while publishing online. :)

  • Nandan says:

    Have changed the title. Post publishing, permalink can be preserved. One can also have custom permalinks. Anways, it has been corrected.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Excellent, Vibha. Much needed in our environment.

    Would you give a few points on photographs as well? Some seems to think that the whole world is craving to see them and their favourite things in every frame.

  • Vibha says:

    Wow! Thanks Nandan.

    Thanks Patrick, I am glad you liked the article. I will get in touch with you details of the issue about the photgraphs. Sounds like a good topic for another article.

  • nonagon47 says:

    Once upon a time, in the English parliament, Sir Winston Churchill was taken to task for one of his many stings to another member. His reply is famous: “I have said it it is true and I am sorry – and you may punctuate that any way you wish!!”

    :)))

  • nonagon47 says:

    OK, ok – enough fooling around! Excellent post – as someone who works in the security service sector, I see enough misspellings to rant and rave about – so I won’t. But I would like to say a word or two about ‘spell check’, etc.

    I find that working in my WP program – which is MSWord, can be wrenching! In my writing [I’m doing a story which is about dissolved love, kind of a part “What Dreams May Come”, and part personal experience. WORD drives me up a wall!! I try very hard not to misspell, but the gremlins in MSWord know nothing of ‘usage’ or ‘slang’, they’re tearing up my text to the point that I turn them off!! Might as well just cruise, and take my own chances. Better that, than a constant review of MSWord claptrap rules and regulations! How else is work to actually get done?!

  • nonagon47 says:

    For Patrick – I believe we’re all kind of entangled in the whole FACEBOOK, TWITTER, FLICKR conundrum. I like playing with my profile picture on occasion, and it deserved a change, so I recently put in a photo my wife took in Yosemite Park, CA.

    But, I’ll change it again sometime soon. I got tired of GUMBY, anyway. MRF

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