Reporter’s Notebook: Readers Do Care About Spelling

Responses to my last two blogs were not as I had expected. Some friends called (yes… called instead of commenting. What can I say? Old school is still cool for some folks). They said I was lecturing to deaf ears. Consensus was that the writers of today gave as minimal a value to spelling as do readers.

Not so I said. Prove it they said. But I had no stats. The conversation ended.

Then out of the blue, up pops a survey with stats. You have to love the Internet. If what you need isn’t there, wait a bit and it soon will be available.

Disruptive Communications is a London, UK based agency focusing on digital PR, content marketing and social media. It decided to “research into what brand behaviour annoys people in social media. Surveying a total of 1,003 UK consumers, we asked what would be most likely to damage their opinion of a brand in social media ”

What turns off readers. What irritates them about a brand. A brand being a business or just a writer promoting himself or herself.

“Most people flagged up poor spelling and grammar as their number one turn-off.” Those are the words of Disruptive Communications. Let’s hover over that statistical revelation.

Now look at the Infographic to reinforce the point. A significant 42.5% said spelling and grammar matter. Yes, it does drop to 20.9% in the 18-24 age group— but it is still their 2nd biggest gripe!

Interested in learning more? Read another commentary on various aspects of the story by Shel Holz in today’s Ragan’s PR Daily. And then there are the thoughtful comments from readers as well (take note my old school friends) that reinforce the survey.

Anthony M. Scialis

Reporter’s Notebook: Self-inflicted Media Wounds

“A gaping, self-inflicted social media wound bleeding all over the Evansville, Indiana airport Facebook page.” How would you like something you wrote to be forever described like that?

That’s how Jay Baer on Social Media Today labeled a recent FB post that I feel proves my point of the dangers that you bloggers face when avoiding journalistic responsibility to check your facts and write intelligently with respect for your readers.

Facebook logo
Facebook logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is the Facebook item:

We just saw a tweet from Google facts that an airline in India only hires women because they are lighter, so they save $500,000 in fuel!!! Insert your women drive jokes below – haha!

Not to diminish the really bad taste soliciting for “women drive jokes,” and flat out offending women fliers, but I want to concentrate on the “responsibility” factor of the author of this bit of “writing.”

There are so many errors & misrepresentations in that post that if the writer had checked his/her facts, and then double checked what he/she wrote, this post would not have been written (I hope).

As an editor and as a writer, I would ask: is this a long-standing policy or a new one (hasn’t even been launched, but the post seems to indicate this is an ongoing practice); is this company-wide (no, just for flight attendants, but the post seems to imply all positions are so marked); is the fuel savings daily, monthly, yearly or total (yearly).

I did my homework and researched the item about low cost carrier Go Air, pulling these facts from several sources, including this CNN story.

“Weight and its reduction is a key focus for airlines as fuel costs, comprising a third to half an airline’s operating costs, continue to rise.”

The airline is also reducing the size of in-flight magazines and capacity of water tanks; the hiring of ‘women only’ is neither an isolated incident nor even impending. The current “130 male cabin staff (out of 330 total) will be unaffected — the policy affects future hires only. The airline expects to hire around 2,000 flight attendants and pilots over the next seven years.”

As you can see, after you check out the basic story, the focus was really on an airline trying every which way to cut costs. Nothing funny about that. And as Baer points out, nothing to do with female drivers.

Granted this was not an issue with a blog, but with a Facebook post. Yet my point about you bloggers being reporters, self-training yourselves to check facts, watching what you write and respecting your community of readers is self-evident. If you don’t learn this in your formative stages, it will come to haunt you, and someday someone will hang you with creating a “gaping, self-inflicted social media wound bleeding all over” the internet.

Anthony M Scialis

Reporter’s Notebook: Bloggers Stop Whining, You ARE Reporters!

Newspapers B&W (3)
Newspapers B&W (3) (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

Face it, with the impending demise of print, bloggers are the new wave of columnists: reporters with opinions. You have a responsibility to check your facts, substantiate your opinions, and present it all in an understandable manner. Stop whining that you don’t have to do that.

Far from wanting to be Patrolman Pat of the Punctuation Police, my hope is to draw upon over 40 years in print & broadcast media to curate some tips on writing. And occasionally take a jab at media issues.

Too often I’ve trudged through blogs and articles which are mangled grammatically; they are weighed down with words misspelled or misused because authors lazily relied on a spell check crutch rather than a working knowledge of the tools of their craft.

If you’re going to write, please know the difference between “it’s” and “its”  or the value to rhythm/readability when choosing among simple, compound and complex sentences.

I’m not perfect. Neither is my writing. But I care. Let me pass on something a journalism professor once told me.

“There are hundreds of people out there than can write better than you ever will. The difference is you care. That’s what sets you apart. That’s what makes you a journalist. You care about the words you select and the thoughts expressed. You write not just for the sake of writing or to hear your literary voice, but to share information with a community of readers that you care about. Don’t let them down.”

When you, as a writer, as a reporter, don’t care enough to check the simple things like spelling, how can anyone trust that you properly researched your facts? You insult your readers’ intelligence. The internet is vast. Readers can oh so easily go elsewhere.