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Four Moments When You Should Never Publish on the Internet

March 20, 2012
Ashton Kutcher at Time 100 Gala

It’s not a defense of Joe Paterno that offends me; it’s that he tried to tweet it in 140 characters or less!- Ashton Kutcher at Time 100 Gala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most real writers understand that writing is a process.  True writers go through several steps before letting anybody else read their work.  There might be some brainstorming (which I always ignored), a rough draft, lots and lots of revisions, careful inspection of the final draft, and much banging of the head over an opening sentence. 

But with emails, texts, blogs, Facebooks, and tweets, many people who have never appreciated the writing process now write a lot (sometimes way too much).  Some of these internet writers don’t realize that there are rules to writing, and I’m not talking about grammar (I already learned my lesson with Dysfunctional Grammar a few months ago). 

With inexperienced writers on the internet come disastrous tweets, emails which need retracting, texts that need explaining, Facebook blunders, and incomprehensible blogs.  In order to avoid humiliation, the inexperienced writer should follow a few simple rules.  You don’t have to be a grammarian (please… don’t be a grammarian), but for your own good, please follow this advice. 


The Four Circumstances Where You Should Never Publish What You Write 

1.  When you are emotional

It’s okay to write stuff when you’re angry, or sad, or aroused, or in any other extreme emotion.  But you’d be better off waiting until you’re in the right frame of mind before you actually publish it.  Extremely emotional tweets can be very entertaining, but most people don’t write emotional stuff to entertain; they write extremely emotional stuff to vent. 

Venting should be done in private.  Then when you’re calm, go over it (delete all the adjectives and insults), and then… maybe… think about publishing it. 

2.  When you are drunk (or in a similar condition) 

When you’re drunk (or in a similar condition), you don’t have control over your faculties (or is it “facilities”?), so obviously you shouldn’t be writing.  The problem is that people who aren’t in control of their faculties often don’t realize they aren’t in control of their faculties.  I once wrote (what I thought was) an awesome joke when I wasn’t in control of my faculties and the next morning realized it said something like: “Lkomp gmbpg  ju  tyggdew bjklr!” 

One commenter said it was the best joke I had ever written. 

3.  When you are in a hurry 

Always take a moment to think through your writing before you publish it.  I once had a writing instructor say that a writer should leave a rough draft alone for six months before proofreading it.  Unfortunately, I did that with my tweets, and got stuck with a bunch of 140 character Michelle Bachmann jokes that are out of date. 

Still, if you’re tweeting or texting, at least look them over closely before you send them.  Think about the appropriateness of what you wrote and make sure the automatic spell check didn’t mess anything up. 

4.  When you are multi-tasking 

Some activities can be multi-tasked, and others can’t.  I can fold my laundry and watch football at the same time.  But there are at least three things you shouldn’t multi-task during:  driving, reading legal documents, and writing. 

Writing while doing something else can lead to disastrous mistakes.  Yeah, it might just be a missing word, but it could also mean sending the wrong message to the wrong people.  And that’s way worse than using the wrong form of  “their” or “two.” 


The great thing about this internet thing is that more people are writing.  I’m not a snob that thinks only true professional writers should write (otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing).  Also, I love an entertaining meltdown just as much as anyone else.  I just want to make sure the entertaining internet meltdown happens to somebody else, and not to me or to you.

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