Let’s talk about something running rampantly throughout modern society. Elitism.
Professionals of any field know the burning rage conjured up when encountering the “elitist know-nothing,” but we can always take comfort in being able to sock them one in the face, if need be. Writers, editors, bloggers, and forum-goers have no such pleasure. This gets considerably worse when reputations are thought to be on the line. Yes, yes, I’m well-aware that internet reputations are scarcely what they seem — ever.
Arguably, the most odious of all seem to come from “role-playing communities,” of which I’ve had the great fortune to be part of on many occasions. In any sort of gathering, there are inevitably going to be those who want to show off. With swollen prides and bloated egos, role-players will brutalize the English language in countless ways, then judge others based upon self-designed criteria for “skill.” I could, in length, blabber away on all the things I believe are the fine points of role-playing; but in the end, I acknowledge only one thing as a genuine “rule.”
In using the imagination leisurely, there is no correct or wrong way to play a role; only creativity.
Not very many — that I have met, at least — would agree. In striving to demonstrate their superiority, elitists might argue concepts such as an absolute necessity for perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all the glorious rules of the English language. They will often demand such “levels” of skill be exemplified in the form of essay-sized posts, full of: beautiful, poetic terminology only seen in Old-English tomes — while also attempting to utilize the thesaurus so brutally, it becomes another language entirely.
Some of these things are very attractive to me, personally. I wouldn’t be entire opposed to using all of them, it would give me a wonderful opportunity to learn some new words, see what little tricks others employ when stringing words together, and also relax my compulsive need to correct every mistake I spot. Unfortunately, it is usual for the idealists that incorporate them to vehemently push the rules onto others like a religion, refusing to so much as acknowledge anybody else not a part of their fanaticism. That is something I will only partially be opposed to, and only because I hold a terrible grudge against proselytizing. I respect those who have a great passion for their hobbies, as long as they never insist theirs to be the only “proper” way to enjoy it.
So, why do I bring this up? Excuse me for digressing: in these communities, you have the elitists, and then you have what I refer to as the “pseudo-elite.” Pseudo-elitists are simply people who have become entirely blind to their own faults, and though they share the mentalities of the self-declared elite, they are scorned by both sides. These “false elite” can be compared to the bourgeoisie; also known as the French upper-middle class. They attempt to lord over others, pointing out everything wrong with someone’s works, while raising theirs upon pedestals of fools’ gold. While emulating the elite, they fail to actually replicate the skill of those they attempt to be.
A perfect example comes from another blogger; something I read a long time ago. Mind you, this is not their own writing, but a sample of something they-themselves have witnessed:
“You shouldn’t use said too often to say what a character has said when he is saying something, especially if you can identify the speaker in another way,” Ken said smugly.
“Is it better if find other words for said?” the editor pontificated questioningly.
“No,” said Ken knowingly, “it’ll just sound like you broke out a stegosaurus to try and help your writing; right after you mentioned the pecker shaker.”
“I guess I’ll just go back and try to figure out what followed the butt before the dick of the time travel clock,” the editor mused confusingly.
“Oh, and be careless when using adverbs because that’s not really showing, it’s still telling” Ken said approvingly.
–From the blog of Divertr Publishing, on “Proofreading”
Although not an exact depiction of what you find among the “pseudo-elite,” it does allude well to the kind of things they’ll do. If you’re not feeling rather dumbfounded after reading the quote, I want to shake your hand, slap you, and then shake your hand again. This particular article by Divertr Publishing demonstrated how spell-check can be heavily abused, as can the thesaurus, in order to create the illusion of “superb writing.” For those who are unfamiliar with the majority of terms, they might be impressed. For the educated eye, the first big word to be used — “pontificated” — is going to be as much a punch in the face as the worthless, repetitive filler-words in the first two lines.
What does it mean, to “pontificate?” Let’s have a quick look, over at our good friends, “www.dictionary.reference.com.” It looks like the closest definition to the use here, is “to speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner.” I see, so the editor in the quote above is asking the question quite insultingly?
Wait, but Ken doesn’t seem to notice the disrespectful tone, and presumably answered very listlessly. Now the editor is confused? What? Somebody hit rewind, I think I missed something.
You see, kind reader, how the confusion nigh-literally bleeds out of the script and leaves us all puzzled?
Another prime example, and something far more familiar, is the self-contradicting business letter Divertr Publishing shows to the blogger’s readers, found here.
Now, that one is the rage-inducer for me. I offer my sincerest sympathies to all of those who have been contacted by that business. As soon as the “pseudo-elite” begin to offer their “esteemed services,” I’m ready to foam at the mouth. I do bare some ill against the publishers, but I can do nothing but fully acknowledge their legitimacy. Those other editors, cited in the letter, I will completely ignore and likely forget the existence of, within a few days.
In concluding my lengthy rant, I implore the readers to never pontificate “the right way” to write. Offer corrections where they are wanted, or have a genuine education on how to before you make the claim of literary papacy. None of us are without mistakes, and under no circumstances should any of us be teaching others how to make mistakes.