Friday, November 30, 2007

Residents Speak: Katt Kongo


When I wrote a story for CNET News.com yesterday about a new National Football League initiative, one of the pieces of source material I used was a full-page ad the NFL had placed in The New York Times.

In the ad, I noticed, the league's copywriter had misspelled a word, using "complimentary" instead of "complementary."

Well, it wasn't that big a deal, but particularly because they made the error in such a prominent place, it made me think about something that Metaverse Messenger publisher Katt Kongo told me when I interviewed her for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

As you may know, the Messenger is one of the more popular Second Life publications, coming out each week and reaching a fairly wide audience. Big enough that Katt is able to live off of the money she makes from it.

And when I asked her for some suggestions that anyone wanting to run an SL blog as a business should be sure to follow, she had several to offer that covered a number of different bases.

But the one that the NFL's gaffe reminded me of was this: "Try to proofread carefully. You lose credibility when words are spelled wrong, etc."

Now, some may reject that notion out of hand as elitism, but I think Katt is spot-on. It's just like what my adviser in journalism school told us once: That encountering misspellings or egregious grammatical or punctuation errors in a story arrests your attention and pulls you away from the subject at hand in much the same way as when you spot something like a microphone sticking out of the top of the screen in a film.

I cite that wisdom often because I think it's such a great analogy, and because I find dumb errors in stories all the time. And the other day, when I was watching Richard Linklater's terrific film, Slacker, I even noticed at one point exactly the offending microphone out of the top of the screen that my adviser was referring to. And indeed, it grabbed my attention, just as he said it would.

The point here is that if you're trying to be a Second Life blogger, you really want to put as much emphasis on writing clean as you can. Your readers aren't reading your work for clean copy. They're reading it for good information. But believe me, they notice if you can't spell or if you consistently misuse commas or semicolons or apostrophes. They might not think they notice, but they do. And in spite of themselves, the more errors they find, the less they take the writer seriously.

So, with that, let me just conclude by opining on perhaps the most frequent such mistake that I find in the written word: the mistakenly used apostrophe in "its" or "it's." For some reason, writers of all stripes seem to be unable to get it right. Let me plead with you, if you're going to try to make a go of it as a blogger, to avoid the mistake. Study up on the proper usage. Your readers will appreciate you for it, even if they don't know they do.