It’s closing in on the end of this module of the MBA, which means that it’s time for group projects to start amalgamating individuals’ contributions into final documents suitable for markup with red ink. On the one hand, I love the process of putting something together, smoothing out the “voice” of the document and creating something that not only sounds professional, but also looks professional. On the other hand, I hate dealing with writing by people who choose to torture the rules of grammar and formatting for their own sick pleasure.
First offender: the “two spaces” format. You know the format: two spaces after a period. Two! ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH! I know, I know, we all learned to write papers on typewriters, and so it was acceptable at the time, what with the lack of variable-width fonts. But come on people! Computer word-processing has been around for ages! Fixed-width fonts are out, hence there is no need to blow the finite number of keypresses left in your wrists on an extra unnecessary character. Don’t believe me? Then here: check out what the Chicago Manual of Style says on the subject.
Second offender: custom styles applied on-the-fly. I think some people spend literally hours deciding the format they want to use for a heading. Italic? Bold? Fourteen-point underlined Century Gothic? Here’s a hint: choose the preset styles from Word’s dropdown Style menu (“Heading 1”, “Heading 2”, etc.) – if you want to change it later, fine, at least it’ll be easy to apply the change to the whole paper. Stop your procrastination, your formatting masturbation, and get back to writing some, uh, whaddayacallit? Oh, that’s right: content.
And the list goes on: fictitious words (“irregardless”, I’m looking at you!), paragraphs that span several pages, changes in tense, et cetera, et cetera.
Of course, being married to a copywriter has a tendency to oversensitize one to poor English usage, spelling and grammar. Then again, I’m an engineer – if the stereotypes are to be believed, I’m expected to have poor written communication skills! So why is it that everyone else’s writing seems worse than mine?