The other day I was pissed off at a comment I read on another blog (not mine).

The commenter felt the author was either showing off or writing for personal satisfaction, because it was not fit for the common man. He chose to remain “Anonymous” which tells us everything we need to know about him / her.

We’ve already said that vanity does play a role in blogging. It’s the other part of the insinuation that annoyed me. A number of questions came bubbling up, therefore let’s discuss the issue of audience, and specifically, the common man.

1. Must the post be in proper, grammatically correct English?

The post in question was written well, using proper grammatical English. This seemed to offend the “Self-Appointed Keeper of the Common Man’s Sensibilities”. We all know (or should easily be able to guess correctly) my personal opinion. I’d like to hear yours.

2. Does the common man not deserve good English?

We’ve all heard about “writing for your audience”, but should we deliberately break the rules of grammar to appeal to people who can’t be bothered to learn the language? Now, you can argue that sometimes the common man’s lack of English skills is not out of choice but circumstance. And I would retort, then that is all the more reason to write proper English (or French, Marathi or Swahili for that matter), to help him learn. For how else does he grow?

3. Will the common man not read good English?

Yes, that is a possibility. If you are weak at a skill, you may be intimidated into not attempting it. My skill at rock climbing is negligible (read “non-existent”) and I’m definitely not attempting it any time soon. This is a real issue, one that needs attention, not least by the common man himself. It must be addressed by writers too, for who among us does not want more readers? There are things that can be done.

You can write good English and still be readable. You can evaluate your post against a number of Readability Indexes available freely over the internet.

An editor, Camille DeSalme, was kind enough to post links to two different websites which I used to evaluate one of the posts on this blog. and

Here are the results of this post, The Date of the Jackal.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 6.6, 6.6
Gunning-Fog Score: 8.9, 9.0
Coleman-Liau Index, 7.0, 9.1
SMOG Index: 6.8, 6.8
Automated Readability Index: 5.2, 5.2
Linsear Write Formula: 7
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 71.8, 71.8 (out of 100, the higher the score, the easier it is to read)

Really, what these scores indicate is that anyone in Grade 6-7 of US school system should be able to read the post.

How much more common must we get? Grade 1? Kindergarten? Preschoolers?

Anonymous, please, can you tell me what the error is in the picture below?
They never claimed to be the grammar club...
(If you’re a common “woman” and you choose to object to the “man” thing,  you should know that I don’t care for fake feminism and superficial sexism. In other words, go away and don’t bother me!)

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  1. Sakshi Nanda

    Superb. Totally agree with you. English is not an ‘exotic import’ any more. And I always believe that the language you choose to write in is the language you think in, and doing justice to that choice is the bare minimum. I admire the tone of the whole post. Now waiting for a day when contest winning posts will be grammatically correct. 🙂

    1. peevedpunjabi

      Ah, you’ve hit a nerve. I’ve tried reading so many of the blogs on IndiBlogger, for instance, and I find it hard to digest their ranks and the less said about some of the winning posts the better!
      Thanks for reading and your support!

      1. chakratirthatravels

        I totally agree! And some of them go on to write books and the books SELL!
        grrrrrrr (is that a bonafide English word?)

        1. TheLastWord

          I don’t have to read them, luckily. My biggest worry is that good writers are so hard to find. They are being drowned out. I don’t believe that I’m a good or even average writer ( see tagline “Learning to Write Rightly” ), but I do take some pride in my output.
          I don’t think I write particularly difficult English. Like I said, all those readability tests indicate that I should be understood by most Grade 6-7 kids. It’s a shame.
          Thanks for reading! Have look around through the rest of the blog also, please, who knows you may like some of what you read. Or not!

        2. TheLastWord

          Oh wait!!! I know you, Chakratirthatravels!!! I do! Howdy do, MLR? Good to see you here, I’m looking forward to seeing your comments on my steep ride to writing mediocrity! 🙂

          1. chakratirthatravels

            You write VERY well indeed. I greatly enjoyed this and I will be back with more.a
            Happy writing!

  2. ladyofthecakes

    I’ve just read that post which triggered the anonymous comment, and the language is very “literary”, but it’s a well-written piece, in my opinion. If you don’t like that style, go read something else, I say. I don’t like poetry, but I don’t go trolling round poetry blogs and criticise their work.
    Personally, I prefer well-written blogs. If they are littered with grammar and spelling errors, it detracts from my reading enjoyment, even if the content is good. Though I can live with a few typos.
    OMG, that picture! I think I need to sit in a dark corner now and rock gently back and forth for an hour.
    BTW – and this is a complete tangent, I realise. The expression “the common man” is something I’ve only ever seen Indian writers use. Is there a corresponding expression in Hindi/Marathi/etc? I’m just curious…

    1. peevedpunjabi

      Dunno about the “Common Man”. There was a various famous cartoonist, RK Laxman, who did some very biting, satirical drawings and always had the same ‘common man’ looking bemused in the corner. Laxman’s brother, RK Narayanan is a well respected author and a very good read.
      Which picture? The grammar pic or the real estate one? As for rocking back and forth, I sympathasize. So “their, their”!!

      1. peevedpunjabi

        Now that I think about, “aam admi” is the Hindi expression. I guess “aam” = common and “admi” = man so that’s how it started, as a translation.
        There is now a political party, I believe, called the “Aam Admi Party” dedicated to fighting corruption in politics.

      2. ladyofthecakes

        LOL, the real estate one 😉
        Interesting snippet of info there, re RKN, must look that one up!

  3. anjanadee

    The ‘common man’ who wrote the comment has, obviously an uncommonly poor hold on the English language…If one writes in a grammatically correct manner, without using too many pedantic BIG words, one has every right to expect the common man to be able to comprehend…but let it also be said, that the common man though is aware that his/her grasp of the language is poor, and would therefore put him/her at a disadvantage in today’s India, he/she is also resentful of the fact that he/she cannot get ahead in life because of it…so, he rails against people who have a better hold on the language.
    OMG! that was one long sentence! But you get what I mean!

    1. peevedpunjabi

      I do indeed get what you mean. That’s fairly normal human nature, to condemn at worst and criticize at best what you don’t understand. Such people tend not to be the world’s “learners”. See the Slo-Man’s post on learning issues.
      I will check my readability index from time and continue to write.

  4. Priyanka

    This definitely is a very significant point for discussion and gad that you brought this up. Leaving aside the anonymous comment , the fact remains that anybody can write. Concept is paramount, sanity of language is important but secondary and if both concept and sanity is present then i will call it “sone pe suhaga” ! Keep up the good work. Cheers!

    1. peevedpunjabi

      Yes. I’d like to hear from more people on this, get different perspectives. I’d love to start a discussion on this.
      I believe that a blogger initiates a discussion and when people comment what we have is a conversation. How do we expect to have a meaningful conversation when we cannot understand each other? A concept that cannot be expressed in a meaningful way does not really add any value to me because I won’t be able to understand it. I’ll only interact when I (a) see value in it for me (b) I have special interest in it, possibly due to training or experience or (c) I’m altruistic (or arrogant) enough to want to share my thoughts.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  5. nileshginamdar

    Well, perhaps some people take extra advantage of freebies. Even if it is commenting upon a piece of writing nobody forced them to read. I quite agree with you, Slo Word. You have taken great pains to make your point. But as one of my gurus used to tell me, ‘Gadhe ko ghoda banane ki koshish mat karo.’ The guy who made that comment is an ass and whether you whip him once or a thousand times, he’s still going to remain an ass.

    1. TheLastWord

      True. Nothing can be done about that ass. The disturbing thing is that so many “authors” seem to believe that writing well is unnecessary…