Accuracy matters, as we never tire of pointing out here at Mind Your Language. But what if you’re undertaking the NaNoWriMo challenge, where you have to produce a 50,000 word novel in a month? Does it make sense to worry about spelling when you’re trying to churn out 1700 words a day, or should you press on regardless?
Novelist picture from Shutterstock
Whether you’re writing a novel or a cover letter, the most important thing is this: make sure that you have built in checking for errors as part of your process. For some people, writing is a process of continual revision, and picking up errors as you go is part of that process. Others prefer to draft and then do an entirely separate run of error-checking. Both are reasonable approaches. Many people (myself included) do a little of both.
Some NaNoWriMo participants maintain that you don’t have time to edit during the challenge, so you shouldn’t worry about spelling or consistency during the writing process. Having completed the challenge twice (and having signed up again for it this year), I can’t say I agree. Indeed I can’t see how anyone can write 50,000 words without a certain amount of cross-referencing and editing. And while I accept that in reality a novel you have written in 30 days is only a first draft, I’m not sure something riddled with typos qualifies even as that.
However, writing processes differ. What doesn’t differ is this: you will have to go back and look for the mistakes at some point. Commit to that whenever it suits you — but don’t pretend it doesn’t matter at all.
Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.