My first name, Stirling, isn't necessarily unusual, but what is unusual is the way I spell it. No "e"s and just "i"s (I know some of you are looking again). As far back as I can remember, I found that most people - adults or children - would automatically spell my name with an "e" at the beginning. Common mistake; Sterling is definitely more common than Stirling whether it's a last name, first name, or a university in Scotland.
But this all opened up a door for me in how I, you, all of us transfer thought into written form. I have found that in any method of communication (and especially as we communicate more and more through Social Media), a lot of people all too often listen, read, and write with their opinions and assumptions instead of with their eyes, ears, and thoughts. I separate opinions and thoughts because an opinion is a thought, but a thought is not necessarily an opinion.
I see this problem progressively getting worse in Social Media. Not only is spelling worsening but also people's abbreviating any and every word they can or misinterpreting anything written. It's not just about missing (or unnessarily adding) punctuation that can change the meaning of thought, but also the issues of oral versus written forms of communication.
So what are some steps that will help us understand how to improve what we write:
1. "Thought is nested in speech". When it comes to interpersonal communication, be aware. Develop an appreciation of the idea that if it's difficult to communicate orally (even leaving some non-verbal cues open for interpretation), that it is even more difficult to translate thought into written form. This is a notion initially addressed by the late Walter J. Ong, priest / professor / historian / and philosopher.
2. "The rule is: don't use commas like a stupid person." - Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves - The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Which is correct? Read: "from the 1980's" or "from the 1980s". If you had to reread the two quotes, you should probably read Lynne's book. Everyone should probably read it anyway.
3. Clear, Concise, Complete and Correct. This is a general philosophy of the Construction Specifications Institute when creating any construction documentation, but it can certainly be applied to anywhere we write. This is especially true in longer, more personal writing tasks like emails. How many times do you find people writing their name at the end of their email but above their automatic e-signature? I just want to scream every time I see this.