The Basics: Why Spelling and Punctuation Matter.

Make sure you’re sending the message you actually want to send to your audience, every time.

d-school-letter-grade
For the first time in a long time, I’ve recently abandoned reading a book. I’m usually fairly persistent, but I couldn’t get past the second chapter. It’s so full of basic errors, I’d be giving any of my students who wrote it a D.  That book – any book – has no business being for sale on any platform, Indie or otherwise, until it has been properly edited and corrected.

If I had a dollar for every time I have face-palmed over glaring errors of spelling, word choice or punctuation in someone else’s social media posts, I would be considerably richer than I am today.

As people who promote ourselves as writers, it’s crucial that we don’t make those mistakes.

I’m not talking about the occasional typo, and I’m not talking about the type of formatting error that can happen to absolutely anyone when converting a book to eBook format. I’m talking about really basic errors – missing punctuation, terrible sentence structure, shocking spelling. Of course, not differentiating correctly between “your” and “you’re” is always going to frustrate people. There will always be people who put apostrophes where they don’t belong and omit them where they are needed. The same is true for commas.

It boils down to the issue of credibility. If I cannot correctly construct a sentence to encourage people to buy my book, what is going to make people believe I could possibly write a whole book? A writer should be able to communicate their ideas and messages clearly and effectively, without frustrating the reader or making their eyes bleed.

Quite honestly, if someone’s social media posts are full of errors, I’m not going to be buying their book. I’m not even going to put my hand up for a free copy. And it’s not going to change my mind if people laugh it off and say, “It’s just Facebook… relax!”

I may be called judgemental  or overly critical. That’s okay.
As a reader and a frequent buyer of books, I’m entitled to be.
As a writer, nothing less should be expected.

proofreadingIf we want people to believe that Indie books are just as good as traditionally published books, we have to make sure they are. We must edit, and have them edited, as professional authors. We must promote both ourselves and our books as engaging, intelligent, and literate.  The example we set on social media is part of that, because that’s where we hope to find readers.

Please, folks, for credibility’s sake – in the interests of your own integrity – proof-read all your posts. Make sure you’re sending the message you actually want to send to your audience, every time.

Broken.

You did… what?
That was you?

I’m stunned. I am horrified.
I don’t know what to make of this.
I never would have believed that of you.

You’re the one who speaks of unity and trust.
You’re the one who is supposed to look after us… to look after me.

You’re the leader. The protector. The mentor. The guide.
At least, I thought you were.

How can I trust you now?
There are shards and splinters of faith scattered all over the place.
The fine, toxic dust of of doubt is still in the air, settling slowly, tainting everything, choking the life out of the relationship between us.

You lied. You cheated. You schemed.
You took every opportunity to work things for your own benefit.
How carefully you wove the web of deceit, trying to camouflage your actions and to conceal the heart behind them.

As for unity… you chose to break that, too.
It was no accident. You knew exactly what you were doing.
At some point, you decided that your own interests are more important than our interests… that your future takes precedence over any shared future that we might have had.

Maybe you hoped that you could do what you did without anyone knowing.

Maybe you hoped that you could evade the consequences that were always going to be inevitable.
Maybe you thought that people would just trust you to do the right thing, and  that you wouldn’t face any questions.Could you really have believed that such betrayal could go unnoticed?
It’s impossible to imagine how.
Maybe that’s a confirmation of just how different we are.

Don’t tell me I don’t know anything about it.
Don’t tell me that it has nothing to do with me.
This has everything to do with me.

This has everything to do with how I look at you, how I respond to you, how I respect you.
Only now am I beginning to realise how little I ever knew you.
I always assumed you were genuine. I never questioned your integrity, or my loyalty to you.

That’s all changed.Everything has changed.
I don’t even want to be in the same room as you.
I don’t want to hear you try to rationalise what you’ve done.
And you certainly don’t want to hear anything I have to say to you.

Don’t tell me everything will be okay. It won’t.
Things will never be the same again.

High dudgeon at low treatment of a good friend.

Loyalty has always been important to me; it’s a quality for which I am known.  My friends are enormously important to me.  I am protective of them, keen to encourage them and sure to discuss things calmly before problems elevate to “barrier” status.

That’s why it really frustrates and angers me when I see a friend suffering because someone they have helped and nurtured fails to return any loyalty to them. It’s even worse when another friendship suffers because of the words and actions of that disloyal person.

A friend who I admire immensely is going through that at the moment. She has faced challenges with integrity, and gone through significant personal grief, yet she is still a nurturer, a giver, a carer… a generous soul. When people are in trouble, she helps them.  She thinks about the needs of others and does all she can to meet them. Often, she does this at the expense of her own health and welfare, and many don’t realise how much she invests in others.

Enter a young person who is unhappy in their workplace, feeling as though there is no option and longing for something to change.  My friend took this young adult under her wing, gave them a new job and a new lease on life. Said young adult has “returned the favour” by white-anting her, undermining her both professionally and personally, and causing her more grief than they will ever realise. Relationships have suffered, friendships are strained, workplace tensions are elevated, and everyone involved is suffering… except for the young person who has moved on to new opportunities.

My message is this: when someone tells you “something someone said”, measure what they are saying against what you know of that other person.
Is it consistent with what you know of them? Is it borne out by what you’ve seen them do and how you’ve seen them live?  Is what they are accused of consistent with how they’ve treated you?  If not, then it’s probably not true at all.

If what you have heard bothers you, please just go to the person concerned and ask them what’s going on. Talk with them. Listen to what they have to say.  Use it as an opportunity to communicate, rather than to bottle things up and let it escalate to a point where silence becomes a habit and both of you are left wondering what happened to your friendship.

I know nobody is perfect. We all get things wrong sometimes. We all fail, we all make mistakes, and we all do things without realising that it’s going to hurt someone else.
However, deliberate misrepresentation of those things is cruel and heartless.  It’s impossible for me to understand what drives someone to do that. Is it a “divide and conquer” mentality, that lives in hope of breaking a friendship so that both parties will dislike each other and develop stronger friendships with the person in the middle? Is it jealousy of a strong relationship that someone desires for themselves but doesn’t know how to achieve that?  Does it make someone feel important? Is it a power trip?  I just don’t get it.

Gossip, half-truths and lies are toxic. They kill friendships, they poison happiness, and they leave pain and heartache in their wake. Why anyone chooses that as a lifestyle is beyond me.

I will not allow those things into my life, my friendships, or my relationships.

I will not allow someone who engages in those things to shape my view or understanding of events and people in my life.

I will remain loyal to those who are victims of this kind of behaviour and show no loyalty whatsoever to those who are responsible.

I don’t care if my writing this makes someone uncomfortable. If someone’s conscience is pricked, good!

If someone thinks this is about them… it’s probably not, but perhaps that’s an indication that they need to take a long, hard look at themselves and how they treat their friends.  It’s never too late, and it’s certainly not impossible, to say “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”

If you are someone who people this way, don’t be surprised if I am very cautious about being friends with you. I’ll be pleasant, polite and friendly, but we won’t be friends. I won’t tell you things, and I sure as hell won’t let you tell me things about other people.

My friends matter to me far more than things, events, or experiences.  I will guard my close friendships with more tenacity and stubborn determination than most people have ever seen in me – and that’s saying something.

People have tried and failed to get between me and my besties before, and discovered that it’s an absolute deal-breaker with no chance of a comeback.

That’s what integrity in friendship is.

The friendships that never were.

I don’t understand why people push good friends away. 

Nobody needs bad friends – that’s a no-brainer.  I’ve had my share of backstabbers, gossips, control freaks and users that I’ve eventually woken up to and had to move on.  It hurts to know that another person doesn’t value you the way you value them, but it hurts more to stay in a friendship like that and let them keep doing it. That just reinforces and affirms their bad behaviour.  It’s asking for more. 
That’s never a good thing.

In the past six weeks, I’ve experienced something different than that. Two people, both of whom have been my friends for quite some time, have chosen to walk away from our friendship.  

Both have stunned me for a number of reasons. I’ve been a good, loyal and encouraging friend when their chips were down. I’ve sat up late listening and talking when they had problems. I’ve invested time, love and energy into our friendships. And both freely admit that it’s nothing I’ve done… they have simply chosen to move on, not spend time with me, and not maintain our friendship.

Since then, I have seen them try to manipulate people and situations for their own benefit, to control others and have them at their bidding, and deceive other mutual friends in one way or another. “Divide and conquer” seems to be the order of the day. They have certainly left a deliberate trail of emotional and social destruction in their wake.

What kind of person does that?

I recognise that they both fall into the “user” category.  I wish I had recognised them for what they are sooner. I wish I could protect the people that they are now attacking instead of me. 

The strange thing is that I am still grieving for those friendships. I miss them.  It hurts to know that neither of those people valued me as a friend the way that I valued them.  It hurts to know that they do not care that I am no longer in their lives.

In one way, I hope karma, or poetic justice, or divine retribution, or whatever you want to call it, bites them hard. It would be good to know they learned their lesson from someone else doing the same thing to them, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone could be better than they are at using and abusing friendships.

In another way, thinking like that makes me sad. I can’t maintain it.  I’d prefer to walk away with my integrity and character intact, understanding that some people only come into our lives for a season and then we both move on.  I’d like to wish them well. I hope they both eventually find happiness, security, love… whatever it is they are looking for.  

My choice is to walk away from people like that and invest my time, energy and love in my real friends.  I am so blessed to have a select few in my life that I can trust to share my life and my love.  Those people will always have the best of all I have to give them. 

Anyone else will just have to be willing to meet me halfway and be willing to accept my caution until I am sure of who and what they are. I’ve learned that much.