Effective communication with the world around us begins with intentionality. [Image: Slava Bowman | Unsplash]
When we talk about writing, three kinds of responses typically arise:
◦ What if I sound stupid?
◦ What if I can’t get my ideas from my head to the screen/page?
◦ I’m just guessing, and I always guess incorrectly.
◦ Other people understand the rules, but I’m just no good at it.
◦ Why does it matter where my commas are, as long as I say what I mean?
◦ Who cares about grammar when the important thing is getting my ideas out there?
◦ The rules are always changing anyway, so why bother?
The English language has so many exceptions to the rules that no one can really learn it all anyway.
◦ I don’t have time to read. I need to keep things moving.
◦ Why would I bother to rethink what I’ve already said?
◦ Rules are for other people.
◦ What errors?
In the pre-internet world of the late 20th century, our fear of permanence froze our fingers over the keyboard or holding the pencil, as if the words that emerged would somehow be cemented to our reputation. Now that our 21st-century words hover permanently in cyberspace – something we never would have believed just a few short decades ago – we seem to have lost our social filters as we like, friend, critique, affirm, and shame one another in a global format.
Somewhere between anxiety and narcissism lies a middle ground where the rules are necessary for us to communicate well. English, beautifully infused with myriad languages from its immigrant peoples, is one of the most nuanced languages in the world. Each punctuation mark inspires emotional responses, whether conscious or subconscious, and a misplaced comma or inadvertent dash can lead to misunderstandings both fleeting and permanent.
Mechanics matter, and the rules are simple. Once we recognize the simple math, we can replace the fear, ambivalence, and inattention with intentionality. And with intentionality comes the freedom of knowing that our words will connect us clearly and confidently with the world around us.