You might look at the title of this post and then higher up at the masthead of this blog and think, “Duh!” Well, yes, a literary agency blog post that states something as obvious as “writing well is important,” would seem to indicate that its author is either (a) simple minded or (b) really, really struggling to find a subject for her weekly rant.
In fact, while idly catching up on my online news, I came across this post by Kim Brooks, who teaches college composition courses. As I read about Ms. Brooks’ frustration with the papers her students turn in, which show a complete lack of understanding of or even appreciation for correctly written English, I started musing about the countless queries my colleagues and I receive which are peppered with awkward at best, ungrammatical and nonsensical prose at worst. Then, there are the proposals and manuscripts turned in by journalists and other professionals whose livelihood depends on their writing skills and which make us pound our heads on our desks in desperation. One can ascribe these sloppy, sometimes undecipherable texts to laziness or haste, but perhaps, as Ms. Brooks suggests, we should be looking at how English is taught in this country and why it is that so many kids are graduating high school without knowing what to do with a comma, much less a semi-colon.
Call me old-fashioned, a geek, or a more colorful epithet, but I think it’s shameful that we are not more invested in knowing how to write well—not imaginatively, creatively, or poetically, mind you, just technically well. Can you enjoy a piece of writing when the punctuation is off and there are misspellings or malapropisms throughout, even if the subject matter is compelling?