Grace triumphs over grammar policing

I’m one of those people who care about correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage, particularly in writing.

I’ve gone through phases concerning grammar in speech. When I first worked at a newspaper, on the copy desk, I consciously changed my speech, removing audible pauses, slang, colloquialisms, lazy language. Sometimes now, when I’m tired, I speak in near-baby talk, intentionally failing to pronounce words correctly, using plurals when they make no sense. Referencing myself in third person.

When I was in high school I used to correct my parents’ grammar whenever they made a mistake, in front of them and their peers, even. I know it bothered Dad.

I read copyblogger‘s post about “Grammatical errors that make you look dumb” today, and I agree with him. Anyone writing anything should make an effort to avoid such mistakes. Eliminating errors from a person’s communications will help his or her credibility.

Some of the people who responded to his popular post, however, act like and even refer to themselves as “grammar nazis.” This behavior — and attitude — it would seem, also can injure the perpetrator’s reputation in the marketplace.

It does not help to present oneself as mean and overbearing and a know-it-all.

In the end, both can be lived out: Write correctly and give grace when you find someone else’s mistake(s). If you must offer a correction, do it tactfully, pleasantly and out of a helpful spirit that takes into account that good ol’ Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I may not always succeed at offering grace to others, but I have long-since stopped correcting individuals’ spoken grammar in public. I understand that I have weaknesses, too, and I don’t want them thrown in my face all the time.


9 responses to “Grace triumphs over grammar policing

  1. How far do u go? Sentence fragments? Use ’em all da time myself. Dangling prepositions? Thumbs down, they should go away. Spelling? Well, since I’m teh sux at spelling and thus insecure, I try to be careful, but it slows me down alot;) Thinking does too, now that I think of it.

    Seriously, I like writing that is clear and conversational. I mostly follow the standard rules (suggestions) of grammar but ignore the foolish ones like dangling preps, double negatives, and split infinitives. I’m also attracted to gimmicks like made-up words and creative punctuation and spelling. And sentence fragments. Really.

  2. How far do I go in what respect? Sentence fragments can be used effectively (and are not a gimmick); I agree with Brian over at copyblogger on that one, as long as they’re not overdone, and done well. Sentence fragments have been used by writers for years.

    Like you said, thinking slows you down. Well, your writing/communication would not be worth reading (probably) if thought were not part of the creative process. The same could be said, I think, about grammatical accuracy in writing. Even if it takes some time, it’s worth it.

    I’m not against gimmicks. I was going to mention made-up words here, but then I realized those have been employed for ages, too. SOMETIMES gimmicks can be effective. But I’d caution against using them willy-nilly.

  3. What I mean is, what do you think the real rules of grammar are? That’s why I brought up dangling prepositions, split infinitives, and double negatives; what do you think of these? What do you think when you hear “hopefully” or “different than” or “anyways” or “it’s green like it should be”.

    As for gimmicks, I do tend to over use them, and I recognize my weakness. But you got it just right. The ALL CAPS is very humorous, and your semicolon is perfect (unlike mine, which should be a hyphen).

  4. I guess I meant dash instead of hyphen, right? A hyphen is like in “willy-nilly”, while a dash is more like “I don’t not like double negatives — what do you think?”.

    Of course I also put question marks inside end-quotes. That’s wrong writing, right?

  5. Actually, question marks (and exclamation points, for that matter) go inside quote marks if the quote is a question. (Commas always go inside quotation marks, at least in the United States.)

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  8. I mostly feel the same way, but I love slang and colloquialisms. I also have a tendency to verb nouns, noun verbs and in general play with language.

  9. Yeah. Slang, colloquialisims — so fascinating. Playing with language is fun!

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