Whenever I have to explain to people why good writing matters, I use this story from rock history as an analogy. Back when Van Halen began playing stadium shows, their contract rider (that’s the document the band’s management sends ahead to the venue with the technical requirements and requests from the band ) famously called for a bowl of M&M’s in their dressing room – with absolutely no brown M&M’s. (This is a good story to use on the writers we work with at the college paper because you can give everyone M&Ms and then hit them with some straight-up fiery AP style preaching while they’re eating).
This story is often used as an example of rock and roll diva behavior, but the truth is that it was an ingenious safety measure. David Lee Roth explained in his biography that if the band got to the dressing room and found brown M&M’s, they knew that the promoters hadn’t read the rider thoroughly. This told them that the elaborate staging, the electrical system and all of the other technical specifics of the show were also suspect and possibly unsafe.
Bad writing is like brown M&Ms for your whole life. When you write something that’s…well, crappy, you’re telling people that you don’t care enough to do it right. Think about what that says about you. Sure, you proofread your resume (You do proofread your resume right?! Just get out of here, I can’t even). But here’s the thing: It’s 2011. The whole Internet is your resume. Everyone is Google-able. Your Twitter posts and your Facebook statuses are available for everyone to read, including potential employers and possible future significant others/bang buddies (you think I date anyone who can’t operate an apostrophe? Nuh-uh). If you write like a moron online, you look like a moron in front of everyone with an Internet connection. You have to get it right, more now than ever.
This blog will hit on a lot of basic conventions of good writing that are applicable to everything–from a Shakespeare term paper to a tweet–but mostly this is a blog about why good writing still matters. There will probably be some fun writer goodies sprinkled in there, because I love to shop and am a functioning office supplies addict. I’m in my twenties. I’m about to graduate from college. I know it’s a mess out there, but I really do believe there will always be a place for people who can just really write. Welcome to Stickler.