It’s May. The entire month of April has passed without a word from me. Clearly, I’m not to be relied upon for regular communication. Part of it is good old fashioned laziness. Why write when you don’t have to? And part of it is my usual excuse-making when I complain about my lack of productivity to my husband. “I really don’t have anything of value to say,” I whine.
That may be true, but other writers are adept at finding something humorous or insightful in the mundane happenings day to day. Why can’t I? Well, today, I can. It isn’t humorous. It’s a little sad, really. But it gave me a topic, and away I go:
My email recently contained a renewal notice from a writers’ organization that shall remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious. The notice urged me to renew now to “avoid loosing member benefits.” “Loosing!”
I know it sounds like it should have two “o”s, but it doesn’t. “To lose” means to misplace or, in this case, to forfeit something. “To loose,” were it used in a verb form, which it usually isn’t, means to set free or in my case, it might mean to unbuckle my belt. My fourth grade teacher Miss Lyons, for whom grammar and spelling were a religion, would have been horrified. I was, too. I sent them an email suggesting a correction.
Picky, picky, picky. I know. But for a writer’s organization to send out a notice that hasn’t been proofread by a person, not a computer program which doesn’t recognize such niceties (at least none that I’ve seen) is indefensible. Whatever else we writers can do, we should try to uphold the standards of the language.
Writers break the rules all the time, I can hear someone thinking. That’s true. Take James Joyce and William Faulkner, two names that spring immediately to mind. A more modern example would be Emma Donohue who invented a whole different syntax for an imprisoned child in The Room. If we changed media and took modern art as an example, we could see that early works by Pablo Picasso show highly developed “hand skills,” as my high school art instructor used to term them, before Picasso evolved into painting the more avant garde pictures we more commonly associate with him. In each case, the artist knew the rules before he or she was free to break them.
Of course, business forms do not fall into the category of creative writing. They should always demonstrate accepted standards of correctness. Just as a typo in a novel will stop the reader who notices it–and sometimes annoy him or her enough to send the author a nasty note–business organizations should strive to ensure their communications with members or potential members do not contain any glaring errors that distract the reader from the organization’s purpose.
Those who differ will argue that I’m tripping over safety pins, that language is flexible and changes over time. I acknowledge that–even though Miss Lyons must be spinning in her grave. Nevertheless, I am certain I can speak for the rotating Miss Lyons as well as myself when I say I dread the day “loose” is accepted for “lose” because we were all too lazy to ask for a correction when we saw the error, or worse, didn’t even recognize that it was wrong.