How Different Forms Of Communication Can Drive Me Nuts

Photo by Mike Hindle on Unsplash

What bugs me about writing is the difference between it and speech. When we write in the same way we speak, editors infer wrong tones, and PC Police accuse us of being bigots. Then when we talk in the same way we write, others ridicule us for being intimidating and intelligent. No matter how we communicate, we cannot win for losing. It is enough to drive you crazy if you let it, especially when speaking and writing are how you earn your living.

English was mandatory through the twelfth grade. But my maternal grandmother excelled in the subject and did not have to attend the class. She was proud, and for the next seventy-three years, did boast about it a little to her close family and friends. Her husband — my (biological) grandfather was the son and grandson of schoolteachers. My mother was also a teacher, and she was a journalist. Dad was a newspaper journalist, editor, and photographer.

Out of the gate, I learned there was no silent G in nothing, fishing, going, and other words ending in that letter. And, if you want to talk about pronouns since they seem to be all the rage today, I was rarely allowed to speak them at home. People have names, so my elders required me to address and refer to people by their names, not their pronouns. Proper diction and enunciation were my elders’ goals, and they succeeded.

I do not talk the way I do because I fancy myself better than anyone else. I speak the way I do because it is my norm. Even if I were as rich as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bernard Arnault, I would not look down upon a soul. My elders taught me better than that. I do not care about your skin color, where you or your ancestors came from, or how much education you have. You are not ignorant or less of a human being because our speech differs.

Yes, there will be times one of us will say something the other does not understand. That is normal and happens all the time in communication. Once, in college, I answered a phone call in my English professor’s office and asked who was calling. The caller said, “Abba hubba,” six times before I realized he was saying, “I am her husband.” I worked as that professor’s student aid. That call and the year spent working for her taught me a lot about listening beyond what you hear.

A few years later, a sixteen-year-old coworker asked for help with a customer. She had a question my coworker could not understand. “No anal fee? No anal fee?” I said, “Yes, Ma’am, there is no annual fee.” My coworker breathed a sigh of relief, and her customer signed up for the card.

Throughout my life, I experienced countless situations like those. I worked as a call center representative because other employers refused to hire me. They claimed my voice was too intimidating. My native Philadelphian was thick with New Hampshire (where I went to college). I was living in Florida at the time.

At the age of twenty, I applied for a job at Yankee Publishing. My resume landed on the desks of all the right people. They were ready to hire me. But a competitor laid off some employees, and they had the in-house experience I lacked. It was devastating, and I shut down and stopped writing for seventeen years as a result. But whenever anyone received a letter from me, they asked if I had ever considered becoming a writer.

Of course, I had. My parents were journalists, and James Fenimore Cooper was my first cousin, six times removed. James A. Michener was also a cousin. And I blame the Michener in me when someone complains about a lengthy text, instant message, or email. But, my son does not believe me. He says it is because I am a Boomer, Yet, I was not born until 1968. But I digress. And, I do that a lot when speaking and when writing. It seems to be my pet phrase.

When I began to write again, I joined Writing.com, FaithWriters, AuthorsDen, and others. I enjoyed the connections I made and the critique I received. That is until the PC Police hit the Net. When Writing.com flagged one of my poems for vulgarity because of the phrase “where the stools spin round,” I lost it. It was a poem about a luncheonette in a drugstore, and the stools were the seats along the counter. But, the poor lost soul who reported me thought I was referring to feces in a flush. And that same individual also had this poem flagged for promoting drug use. Yet, no drugs existed in the edible foods and drinks I mentioned. And the word drug only appeared once, and that was in the title. The poem was “The Drugstore Soda Fountain.”

I disputed the 18+ rating placed on my poem, and a moderator agreed and went to bat for me. We won, and they changed the rating back to E (for everyone). But the discrimination remained and continues to this day. And it does not only happen on Writing.com. But it is the only site where I engaged in such a dispute.

On Writing.com, authors can place content ratings on their submissions themselves. But, they do not have the final say. If Writing.com decides a rating is improper, they will adjust. And they will not argue with the author. That cannot be a good thing regardless of the principle. It causes luncheonette stools to become feces and pharmacies to become crack houses. Reaching out to an author and asking about meaning and intent is better than assumption. But (again), I digress.

I do not write for people who make up plots to my stories as they read along, then complain instead of moving on. I write for people who understand and enjoy what they are reading. And, it has been a while since I wrote on a steady basis. But many authors have found success after forty, so what do I have to lose? I may never have another opportunity like the one I almost had at Yankee Publishing. But the world is a different place now. I could become a publisher on my own or stay right here. Only time, effort, and success will tell. Either way, I would be content because writing is in my blood.

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