We all know the old expression, “You are what you eat.” The idea is that whatever you put into your mouth affects your health. You’ve probably also heard the expression, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you eat candy and chips, you are likely to be fat and feel terrible. If you eat your veggies and avoid junk food, you will probably feel much better. But did you know that the same is true for what you read? It’s true!
Even the best of us, who know our grammar fairly well, can get twisted around and confused when we see the same mistakes made over and over by others on Facebook. Social media has been, in my opinion, one of the greatest promoters of bad spelling and usage that our world has ever seen. Think about it. We used to only read newspapers and magazines that were held to the highest standards by editors. Now, most of what we read is on the internet. In addition to social media, there is a ton of “news” published every day on the internet which, at best, was done hastily and without enough proofreading. Show me almost any internet news article, and I can find some errors in it. The internet has made our society sloppy. And when we see the wrong thing over and over, it becomes impressed upon us. We are then likely to make the same mistakes we have seen made so many times, regardless of how solid our knowledge is.
Therefore, if you want to write better, you must resolve to read better books and material. Stay off of social media as much as possible, unless your friends are all grammarians. Read the actual print newspaper instead of internet news. While not perfect, the print version is certainly more meticulously and professionally edited than most internet news sites. Read good books from the NY Times Bestseller list or New Yorker magazine, instead of tabloids and trashy paperbacks. Think about what you would like to emulate, and seek it out.
My favorite southern authors include Clyde Edgerton, Fannie Flagg, and Flannery O’Connor. When I’d like to sharpen my fiction writing skills, I pick up one of their books.
Letting your mind go into something easy sounds attractive, until you realize it can diminish your communication skills. Seek out a challenge for yourself today, and find a great book to read! Your writing skills will improve for it.