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Cheryl's Room

I have a lot of friends on Facebook and in life who cringe at every grammatical mistake. They post every instance of it they discover, post cartoons of people suffering harm from seeing bad apostrophes. There are even a couple of men who have made it their mission in life to go through the country with Sharpies allegedly correcting typos and grammar but in actuality defacing private and public property. They have a following. They were also fined for defacing historical signs in national parks.

Now, I consider myself to be fairly adept at grammar. Yes, typos and not diligently watching autocorrect have caused mistakes in posts. I edit them if I discover them, but I’m sure some are still out there.

Grammar is a set of rules and conventions many of which have evolved over time. A lot of people are experts at the rules, but their expertise in one field does not make them better or even smarter than those who are not as proficient. They just happen to be better at one thing in a world where there are infinitely many fields to accomplish.

I happen to be very good at math. I try to solve for x on at least a daily basis. I view it, not as something that makes me better than anyone else, but as my secret power. Yes, I have been forced to correct errors in basic arithmetic, such as when a former supervisor did not understand the commutative, association, or distributive properties, but I am sure (okay maybe not all that sure) that there were other things he knew more about than I did. But I never thought it made me superior, just better at math. I found his inability to grasp basic principles of arithmetic disturbing, but not offensive.

Even E. B. White, co-author of “The Elements of Style” wrote:”A schoolchild should be taught grammar–for the same reason that a medical student should study anatomy. Having learned about the exciting mysteries of an English sentence, the child can then go forth and speak and write any damn way he pleases.”

I’m not sure I agree with Mr. White, but neither do I obsess about grammatical mistakes.  Poor grammar is not the speech that I find offensive.  Speech filled with hate does.  Speech that resorts to nasty name calling when talking to people with different opinions offends me. Nastiness and purposely using speech to hurt others offends me. Using words that belittle the disadvantaged offends me.  Don’t worry if you misplace an apostrophe when talking to me.  I can translate if you say “their” when the correct word is “there.”  What matters to me is that you follow the guidelines expressed by Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: “I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.”

One Response to “Why I am not a member of the Grammar Police”

  • Claudia Mills wrote:

    I love this so much. It made me remember an author friend who told me, “Language was not invented so that people could sit around the campfire correcting other people’s grammar.”

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Quote of the Moment:

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”
by Amelia Earhart