The Consequences of Poor Academic Writing
Those who attempt to write something constructive these days about the importance of using correct and effective spelling, punctuation and grammar run something of a gauntlet. More writers than ever argue that adhering to the intricate rules and patterns of written language has become pedantic, while readers have grown accustomed to ignoring the errors that seem to pop up with greater frequency each year, and not just in online, open-access and self-publishing contexts. Some tend to see the defenders of those rules and patterns as huddling behind the ivory walls of education and tradition, reaching out now and then to strike well-aimed blows at those positioned firmly on the other side of the grisly moat of language skills with little intention of trying to cross the divide. As mucky as this battleground may seem, however, professional and scholarly authors who wish to communicate effectively and have their writing and research taken seriously must make every possible effort to write clearly and correctly.
The consequences of poor writing are perhaps the most convincing arguments for writing correctly. Most obviously, if an author’s language is not adequate for accurately communicating his or her meaning, it is likely that readers will become confused or be completely misled, and consequently unlikely that any but the most determined individuals will persist in reading the text concerned. If, on the one hand, these readers are the editors and reviewers responsible for publishing decisions, it is probable that the text will not be published, or, in the best scenario, will only be considered for publication after careful proofreading, editing and rewriting. If, on the other hand, the readers are the end consumers of your work, whether they are reading for research, instruction or pleasure, it is entirely possible that they will not choose to purchase and read your writing after consulting an abstract or sample, and, if the work is scholarly, not bother to include it among their citations and references even if they do manage to slog through it.
Errors will, of course, always slip in – they are a fact of writing, and even careful written work that is repeatedly proofread and edited can retain errors – but these are accidents quite apart from truly poor writing that reveals little understanding of the rules and patterns of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Even if you believe that many other authors writing material similar to your own do not adhere to these rules and patterns, it is wise to stand out by being an author who does, whether you are composing an academic article, a novel or a blog post. If you find that you are unable to polish your prose to an acceptable standard, the services of a professional proofreader or editor can provide an excellent solution. Keep in mind that aiming for perfection will certainly not turn anyone away from your writing or prevent editors from publishing it, but it will engage, retain and even impress readers and editors who would quickly abandon through confusion or frustration the writing of authors that reveals how little its creators care for precise and effective communication.