The Grammar Police

Writerly Rant #19

Uninvited Editing

CC - Flikr/

CC – Flikr/

By M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor. Freelance Writer.

Have you ever met one of those individuals who is so immersed in their understanding of grammar and their native language that they feel the need to correct people even in casual conversation?

I used to be one.

In my first two years of university I was taking so many English and writing related courses that I had proper grammar on my brain nearly 24/7.  This did not bode well for my friends and family.  Needless to say, I learned that my uninvited over-correcting was a novelty that fast wore off.  Since then, I am conscious not to correct grammar in casual conversation.

But now-a-days we don’t just converse in person or over the phone.  Social Media, email, and texting have ruled the modern communication forum for some time now.  Most users tend to self-police.  I see this most often with facebook or a fast email (texting doesn’t count since a new lingo was created to avoid putting the time in to proper spelling and sentence structure on purpose).  We’ve all seen it: a friend will post a quick message and there’s a letter missing in one word or the wrong letter put into another word, an extra space in the middle of a word, or improper use of punctuation – usually apostrophes.  Then a quick second post with the self-corrected word in quotes or accompanying the word ‘sorry.’

I know they didn’t mean to make a mistake.

But some people get self-conscious of anything that appears in print – even casual conversation.  I say, unless you’re writing an essay, business correspondence (memo/resume/etc.), or formal letter don’t worry about it.  We all make mistakes.  When I see a “speed error” like those mentioned above, I just smile and read on.  Daily life doesn’t often allow us to self-edit, and I don’t expect people to just because I’m an English teacher and an Editor.

Yet, precisely because I belong to these two professions I am constantly being held to higher standards.  I find this frustrating to no end for three reasons: one, I’m a regular person and I will make typos in my casual correspondence like everyone else; two, I stress time and again that writers can only edit their own work up to a point – by design we read what we expect to see on the page/screen and not what is actually there… thus the reason why we need others to help edit our work; and three, when someone has ‘caught me’ in a grammatical error there is occasional gloating or an ‘in-your-face’ attitude that goes along with it – because apparently I should know better.

Bet you didn’t know I’m mildly dyslexic.

It’s true.  I’ve loved words, reading and writing my whole life but certain writing skills never quite caught up to the As and Bs I made in school.  In fact, it wasn’t until I attended Broadcasting Journalism at Humber College that this was caught.  My writing professor called me to his office at the end of the first week (we’d been handing in unedited hand-written work at the end of each period).  He told me of his suspicions and had me tested at the resource centre.  Sure enough, I’d slipped through the cracks in the education system because I wasn’t a ‘severe’ or ‘standard’ case.

I didn’t let this handicap get in the way of going after my dreams.  I am an English teacher.  I am an editor.  I am also human.  So if I respond to a conversation in a post, on a message board, or via email in a casual capacity I don’t expect to be jumped on for minor typing errors.  It’s rude and unprofessional.  Keep an open mind and remember, no one is perfetc.

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Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you ought to publish
    more about this subject matter, it might not be a taboo subject but
    typically people don’t speak about such issues.
    To the next! Cheers!!


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