First, the bad news: tomorrow is my last day working at BlogMutt. 🙁
I feel a lot of different things about this: I’m sad to be leaving my super-cool and talented colleagues, and nervous about what’s coming next, which is graduate school to become an English teacher. But I’m also incredibly excited about this new adventure, not least because BlogMutt has done a lot to prepare me for it. One of my primary duties over my time at BlogMutt has been interacting with our fabulous writer base, helping them submit consistently great content to our customers. Of course, this isn’t exactly the same as wrangling high school students into appreciating The Scarlet Letter. This is going to be a whole new kind of challenge, one that it’s probably not possible to be completely ready for. But there are definitely some broad lessons that I’ll take with me into the teaching profession, and hopefully they’ll mean something to my future students.
1. Good writing is always in demand.
Robots may be getting better and better at imitating us, but they’re not taking over anytime soon. If there’s anything I’ve learned over my time at this company, it’s that writing has real, monetary value. That’s because it’s hard to do, and even harder to do well.
Good writers—who can draw parallels, make interesting connections, explain complex things in accessible ways, and make a joke or two—provide a service that I believe others will always need. Not everyone is a writer, and even those who are good at it won’t always have time to do it themselves. If you’re good at writing, you can probably make some money doing it.
Seeing as I’m about to be a broke student again, I am very thankful that this is the case!
And even if you don’t want to write for a living, knowing how to compose an effective cover letter that is free of grammatical errors and correctly punctuated will put you way ahead of your competition.
Those who can express themselves well in writing have a very powerful advantage in work and life.
2. Grammar matters.
Really. Really really. Learn to use a semicolon. Avoid comma splices. Drill into your head the difference between “it’s” and “its,” “less” and “fewer,” “although” and “however.” Know a sentence fragment when you see one. Do the work.
As much as we might like to think that our engaging prose and unique observations will always make up for grammatical slips and sloppy construction (don’t get me wrong—sometimes they will), someone will notice eventually. And when they do, at best, they’ll take you a little less seriously. At worst, they’ll have a hard time understanding what you’re trying to say.
We have grammatical rules for the purpose of communicating with one another without undue confusion. Whether you’re writing a cover letter, blog post, term paper, or email to your boss, if your reader stumbles over a sentence or has to stop and consider what you mean, you’ve already lost them.
Take the time to go over your work with a fine-tooth comb. And for the love of God, if you’re unsure about a rule, GOOGLE IT. I guarantee you that someone else on some forum somewhere has had the same question that you have right now.
All that being said…
3. It’s also okay to loosen up sometimes.
Once you know the rules, it’s okay to break them sometimes—as long as it’s for a good reason.
It’s best to default to following the rules, but it’s okay sometimes to begin a sentence with a conjunction like “but” or “and,” especially in less formal writing. Sometimes a sentence fragment works to convey the effect you’re going for. Sometimes using passive voice makes more sense than active.
Don’t just go around breaking rules willy-nilly because you don’t believe they matter. In writing, everything should be intentional, and an intentionally broken grammar rule can be highly effective in creating more engaging, flowing prose.
4. Have fun every day.
All of my colleagues at BlogMutt are thoughtful, dedicated, tireless workers, and the office is a head-down, power-through kind of place most of the time. On the other hand, we all also genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and delight in sending around dumb Game of Thrones memes and weird stock photos to give everyone a good chuckle. We have fun conversations about podcasts we like and what we’re doing on the weekends. Bad puns abound.
And I doubt I’ll ever work another place where my boss will do something like Photoshop my face onto Daenerys Targaryan’s body for my going-away card:
(Yes, we really like Game of Thrones.)
This lesson applies to work, school, and everything else: find the fun. Whether you’re a high school student struggling through Homer’s Odyssey or a freelance writer trying to make the ins and outs of car insurance sound fascinating, if you can’t figure out a way to have a good time while you’re doing what needs to be done, life is going to be a whole lot harder.
I am incredibly grateful for my time at BlogMutt, which has reinforced for me the lasting importance of words and the impact of good writing. I’ll so miss everyone here—my colleagues and especially our incredible freelance writer base. The whole team is an inspiration. I can only hope to pass a little bit of their passion, skill, and warmth on to my future students.