Recently I spent several hours reading blogs written by people that I would never have guessed could formulate a coherent sentence. Some were former friends and colleagues and others, truth be told, were mortal enemies. What I found utterly fascinating was not that these people were not as stupid as previously thought, but that anyone now has the ability to write up a paragraph or two, pop it out into the world like a newborn babe and have thousands of people eagerly read it.
It wasn’t always like this you know. There used to be guards at the gates waiting with red pens and swift bitchery to cut you down like the novice you really were. Starting with the seemingly innocent handout given to you on the first day of English 102 which stated that the following were errors that you WOULD NOT be making. They included redundancy, ambiguous antecedents to pronouns (I had to look that one up) improper use of possessives, sentence fragments, ANY spelling errors, ANY errors of case and my personal favorite the dreaded dangling modifier. It was during these tender formative years spent intensively proof-reading and sweating that every single paper we submitted came back bathed in red ink, looking like it had been used in a sacrificial ceremony prior to grading. One particularly brutal semester we had the misfortune to score the angriest failed writer that had ever lived. It was clear that not only was this professor disgusted with the piss poor writing we were producing as a class but he was livid regarding any number of issues having to do with life in general. He started out by telling us the long winded story of his published work, which according to him was brilliant, but not very well read. He then gave a brief overview of his grading policy which if I remember correctly included a brutal hatchet job for every mistake. Tending the anal fissures caused by this guy repeatedly ripping me a new asshole was less painful than handing in new work, but I managed to eek through with a B+.
The next year we were fortunate enough to experience the other side of the coin. The creative writing teacher for juniors was a working sitcom writer who said “give me a good story, the rest the editors can fix”. This is also the guy who complimented my friend on her “great rack”, but he was a pleasant fellow with a decent paycheck.
So after all the ten point bonuses awarded for using parallel structure to coordinate clauses in long sentences and all the twenty point errors and ego beat downs with regards to mechanics, style and organization, does it amount to anything? Is Professor Bolton rolling in his grave about the ease of publishing work on the Internet? I think of him every time I misuse a semicolon or indulge in a run on sentence, but honestly I don’t think I care. If he were here, this entire entry would be circled in red pen.