The Internet can be a mine of information. It can also be a midden of disinformation. And that applies to all our research, not just to writing ‘rules’.
This is another post I thought worth reblogging – and not just for writers.
When I began writing fiction, I discovered that basics I thought I’d mastered at school had deserted me. But I also discovered that the answers (to life, the universe and all that) are out there somewhere.
A career in librarianship offers a good grounding to start sorting the diamonds from the dung. Here are three things to keep in mind while you’re searching the Internet.
Check the origin of your information.
Is the article written by a journalist, novelist, scriptwriter, copy-writer, editor or used car salesman? Whichever it is doesn’t necessarily make it less valid, but where does its authority lie? Even given the most honourable motives, writers coming from different angles may emphasise different aspects.
Does the writer have a drum to bang or a flag to wave to catch your attention? Is the article trying to sell you something? Whether that’s a product or an idea, it represents a bias.
For fellow-writers out there, be aware that UK English differs from American English in more than just spelling. American and British-based websites might disagree about style, punctuation, formatting, crochet patterns, but a good website will explain the differences.
Seek a second opinion – or four.
It’s always worth taking time to seek out different points of view.
Some pundits lay down the law. Others admit alternatives. Although these may seem more honest, they can still have a preference. (And, if so, why?)
Even where gurus agree, one article will speak to you more directly than the others. Maybe it offers more straighforward examples or invokes memorable images. We all have different ways of making sense of information.
Writing advice can differ as much as dietary advice (or even the weather report). For every blogger warning about adverbs and cliches, another writer will encourage you to flout the rules. The choice is yours. But we need to know what the conventions are – and why – before we can know why we are defying them.
Your memory may not be as good as you think.
I may be convinced I’ll remember that handy tip for differentiating licence and license. But when I need it again, I guarantee I’ll have forgotten. So will you.
It’s easy to delete a redundant bookmark, or unsubscribe from a blog that has nothing else to say to you. It isn’t so easy to find that useful website six months later when Google has moved on.
Make a record of it.
And be consistent with your recording or you may find your computer harder to search than the Internet.