Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Grammar Police Are Watching You

This post will make me sound like a snotty bitch. I don't intend it that way, but I can't see a way to discuss this topic without that happening.

According to my mother, I began reading at approximately 2 1/2 years old. I learned to read by my parents reading to me - no "Your Baby Can Read" program. Since then, I've been a voracious reader and (sometimes) writer. I am fascinated by the nuances of language. I have been known to read the dictionary.

As you might expect, correct spelling and grammar has always come naturally to me. There are words that give me pause - does "recommend" have one "c" or two? - but in general, I don't have to think about how to spell a particular word. I realize that makes it really easy for me to say the following, but people who don't correct spelling and grammatical errors make me batshit crazy.

Please note that I did not say "people who MAKE spelling and grammatical errors." I realize that language does not come as easily to everyone as it does to me. There is nothing wrong with that; it does not mean a person is stupid if they can't spell. However, not correcting those mistakes makes them LOOK stupid (or lazy, which is equally bad). There is simply no excuse for not proofreading and/or using spell-check programs.

Of course, there are varying degrees of irritation caused by people who can't spell. I can deal with my friends who make typos when updating their status on Facebook. Yes, the "your" instead of "you're" makes me twitch, but it's Facebook. It's not a big deal. Errors on marquee-type signs at businesses raise my blood pressure, but I've been told that some will deliberately misspell words. People who come in to tell the manager about the typo inevitably buy something, so it can be a good marketing practice. However, professionally printed advertising that contains errors will cause me to not do business with a company - ever. I figure that no less than three people had to review the item before it was printed. If none of them caught the error, or thought it was important to correct it, that company is not detail-oriented enough to get my money.

The real issue with being the Grammar Police is in my personal life. There is a woman who participates in two online forums of which I am a member. She is a very nice young woman, from all I can tell. She offers good advice and ideas to other participants in the forum, and she's always very supportive of those who are struggling. She is also an atrocious writer. Inevitably, she uses the wrong "your." She also adds apostrophes where they shouldn't be, such as in "birthdays." And she capitalizes words for no apparent reason. Recently this woman asked for input because she's starting a business and trying to set up a website, etc. I seriously considered sending her a private email explaining my concerns about her writing. I genuinely like her, and I'd hate for her to lose business if she writes the content on her website and doesn't have it edited carefully. After all, I would judge her, and I know I'm not the only member of the Grammar Police.

In the end, I decided not to say anything. I could not think of a way to truly make the email sound the way I intended it, and I was horrified at the thought that I would hurt her feelings or embarrass her. Surely someone close to her will proof her written business documents and tell her if there's a problem. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


OutsidetheLinez said...

As you well know, since we were in the same "lab rat experiment" in school, that I, too, began to read around the age of two and have avidly worshiped books since. I am a smart woman. I have officially earned the right to wear that sticker on my shirt or stamp it on my forehead. Unfortunately, spelling, commas, and semicolons are my kryptonite. I will worry and fuss over anything that I've written and check and recheck every word on the page. I know grammar is my weakness and I do everything I can to not make this smart woman look like a giant lout when pounding out my thoughts into written words.
Notice what I said there: I do everything I can to make it right. I know I miss things and I write the way I speak (lots of pauses for emphasis) but good grief I TRY. I hope it shows, or rather, I hope the effort doesn't show. ::pause for more thinking::
Even though I am one of the sufferers of "gimpy grammar" I just don't run around willy-nilly not caring if I make an ass of myself. Use Word, use spell check, and for the love of all that is Gutenberg, reread what you have written. At least TRY. Luckily, I have a wonderful friend (please see OP) that will gladly let me know if I've fubared all over a page. She's cool like that and I'm not offended by it. I'm more often than not quite relieved to know she cares. ::insert silly emoticon that has replaced words here::

Carol said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this: "Use Word, use spell check, and for the love of all that is Gutenberg, reread what you have written. At least TRY."

That's my point. And I'm not offended by a semicolon in the wrong spot - but people who so obviously don't give a shit that they're making themselves look illiterate do, in fact, offend me. Deeply.

Thanks for the compliment. And for not being offended. :)

RoseAnn said...

You know where I fall on this topic. LOL I do my best to hold my tongue (fingers) but I also get twitchy when I see misspellings or misuses of words where they could easily be corrected.

Eerily, I also think I know who you're talking about with the online business. Maybe not. I had the same internal debate and opted for rare diplomacy on my part and hoped that someone closer to her would point out her need for grammatical guidance. ;)