Seeking tall non-smoker with GSOH and dictionary
Looking for love? You’d know, then, that most people have a subconscious list of attributes that his or her ideal partner must possess: ‘Must be tall’, maybe. ‘Good looking’. ‘Generous’. ‘Noble of spirit’. ‘Kind to puppies’. Some people’s lists are flexible. Most aren’t. It’s tough out there.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s a new one: ‘Must be able to write’.
In an era where so much of our communication happens via the written word, writing has become as much if not more of an aphrodisiac than a fat bank balance or supermodel measurements.
Haphazardly applying capital letters, rambling senselessly in emails or posting poorly-spelt Facebook updates puts you at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to attracting a mate or cementing a relationship. It becomes increasingly difficult to remind a potential suitor that you look like Jessica Simpson in real life if you sound like her on paper.
Pre-internet, this wasn’t a problem. Unless you were courting an author (or, god help you, a journalist) you’d be unlikely to see much of anything a partner or potential partner wrote beyond the odd birthday card. Now all of us are writing to each other, via dozens of different methods, daily.
So how are you meant to compete? Problem is, the web is heaving with good writing. It’s like porn for word nerds. And it’s so accessible that we’re becoming dangerously desensitised to it. As a consequence, our expectations of our partners’ real-life writing skills are becoming unrealistic.
If, like me, you regularly find yourself lying awake at night, feverishly thumbing your iPhone as you follow the Twitter updates of writers like @caitlinmoran, @indiaknight or those from @thedailybeast you’ll know how addictive top shelf, black label writing is. These people are verbal gymnasts. Every syllable is tight. Every phrase flawless. Each joke climaxes in a wave of 140 perfectly punctuated characters. “Wish my girlfriend would do that,” one of my male friends gasped raggedly after one acrobatic exchange between Caitlin and India the other day.
Too much of that sort of thing and a text reading “Did u pick up spaggeti for dinner” becomes a turn-off. Even a perfectly serviceable email like “Morning darling, get to work okay?” starts to look yawningly vanilla.
But you need to remember that these people are professionals. They’re paid to do it. Many of them write for publications with paywalls, so you need a credit card before you can get off on their work. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife mightn’t be in line for a Pulitzer. But at least you can touch them.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a few simple tricks from the experts to spice things up every now and again. No one can help you much with actual content, but even a bit of sexy spelling can do wonders:
Form the plural of ‘bureau’ with an ‘x’ instead of an ‘s’ (optional but how hot is the ‘x’?). Learn the difference between ‘advise’ and ‘advice’ (mmmm). And I’m shocking myself that I’m exposing such a personal fetish in a public forum but…make a plural into a possessive with an apostrophe following the ‘s’ (I can barely breathe).
Last resort, use a spellcheck. It’s cosmetic surgery for the written word. Sure it’s unnatural, it’s deceptive, and too many Americanisms will reveal you’ve had some work, but if you need just a little tweak to perfect what your mama gave you, it might be the answer.
Finally, remember that everyone gets better if they practise. That’s the verb ‘practise’. ‘Practise’ with an ‘s’. Oh god. I’m off to have a cold shower.
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