The Problem with Online Writing (and how to deal with it)

As books, newspapers, magazines, and diaries make the shift from paper to online documents, the informal atmosphere of the World Wide Web takes over. The efficacy of the Internet results in a quick turnaround: with the click of a button, what we have written is instantaneously available to the public eye. Millions can view our work within seconds of it being typed up, and the speed of this business—whether it’s journalism or personal writings—makes us sloppy. Herein lies the problem with online writing.

Writing online doesn't have to mean a steady stream of typos and grammatical errors! This article explores what we can do to combat the problem with online writing.

It’s easy to miss spelling mistakes or grammar errors when we are looking at a screen rather than a paper document. The fast pace does not help; we are less likely to properly edit or think about and re-read what we have written before publishing it. Fact-checking goes by the wayside so that there is a lot of misinformation circulating around.

Other technologies such as cell phones present an equally pressing issue. It is much easier and quicker to ignore capitalization of letters and to shorten words. “You” becomes “u,” exclamation marks are used ad nauseam, and emoticons punctuate sentences to excess. We no longer take the time to broaden our minds and our vocabulary by poring over dictionaries; instead, we rely upon the Spell Check feature to automatically correct our mistakes for us. It’s through these ingenious features that we can go an entire lifetime without bothering to learn when the letter “e” comes before the letter “i,” or if a word is spelt with a “c” or an “s.”

What can we do to prevent the general demise and disintegration of the beautiful English language? Should we be actively trying to “save it” from the pitfalls of shorthand, or has shorthand become a new language in and of itself?

I am absolutely guilty of the overuse of exclamation marks to emphasize my point and the playful insertion of smiley faces in much of my informal writing. Though I try to avoid using shorthand, sometimes it slips out. We have arrived at an age in which the style of texting has really taken on it’s own dialect. But does this mean that we should lazily abstain from looking up words in the dictionary or proofreading our work?

It begins with us. Regular people. When we start getting lazy, online mediums of journalism will begin to think that we don’t care, and they will become sloppy as well. The future will be a bleak place indeed if it is full of newspapers written with the reliability of a tabloid and the grammatical structure of a five-year-old!

Check your facts. Proofread your writing. Ask someone for a second opinion and another set of eyes. Take the time to look in the dictionary and to really think about what you are writing. Once it’s out there, it isn’t so easy to reel it back in. Make sure that you write what you believe in and present all the facts for the reader to form their own conclusions about the subject. Let’s solve the problem with online writing! We will all become better writers and better thinkers because of it.


  1. Sagan – very well said. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I love the English language in all it’s convoluted contortions! I, too, have a tendency to use smiley faces in my personal emails, but I do attempt to control that habit in other compositions (….ummm, whilst blogging!)

    Thanks for this post, and I am really looking forward to reading more on your fabulous new blog!

  2. So true about proof reading, especially for me as a journalist who is used to a second… and sometimes third set of eyes on all my scripts! But I find reading what I write out loud definitely helps catch spelling and grammar errors. Once in awhile, I still catch a mistake when I look back, though – I hate that!

  3. OK, I’ve taken the journey’s first step. Thanks for all the great information!

  4. So very true. I’ve found that my ability to spell has gone down since I started writing exclusively on the computer because of auto correct and spellcheck.

  5. So true, and business emails are another on-line piece that can get sloppy and informal. Instant communication is nice but bad spelling, grammar, and lack of proof reading can make or break business communication at times…

  6. Well said Sagan. And I have to agree with FatFighterTV – I’ve re-read a post after I published it, only to find an error along the way (and I try to take the time to proofread too!). In fact, this happened just yesterday, a missed word in a sentence. Fixed now, but much better to have not had this happen at all.

    What are we stepping up to, or down to? Let’s step up to quality…

  7. Bag Lady- the informality of e-mailing and blogging just lends itself to smiley faces, doesn’t it?

    FatFighterTV- reading out loud definitely makes a very big difference.

    Dr. J- and I am so glad that you have done so!

    Spring Girl- it’s amazing how many words we don’t actually know how to spell just because we assume the computer will do the work for us.

    Jolene- absolutely. There has to be some level of professionalism remaining.

    Lance- hear hear!

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