You. Yes, you.
It’s time to hand in your self-bestowed grammar police badge.
Quit writing snarky posts about other people’s command of Standard English.
This past week, I encountered a Facebook post where the person said that a major percentage of social media users needed remedial English classes.
Normally I would just keep on scrolling, but I stopped and made a comment because, oh the irony, the post had errors within it. I softened the blow with “Would you hate me forever if I…” and then proceeded to point out that sentences should never start with numerals (and patted myself on the back for not also pointing out that he should be using one space instead of two after a period). He responded with a sentence where nearly every word was used incorrectly and that he would have never guessed that I would have been so offended by numerals. I “haha”-ed his comment, but the original post still left a sour taste in my mouth.
I saw multiple posts last week decrying, “It’s the Capitol Building–not the capital building facepalm emoji.”
And posts about the differences among there, their, and they’re will probably never go out of grammar shaming vogue.
Because I am the grammar police, like have gotten paid for 15 years to read terrible writing by middle schoolers and high schoolers, let me let you in on a little secret—your weird sense of pride in being better at syntax, capitalization, and spelling than your peers makes me uncomfortable. Does pointing out grammar mistakes make you feel better about yourself? Are you trying to belittle the point the other person is trying to make? Do you recognize that your behavior is more than a little elitist?
First of all. It’s social media. Get over it. People don’t capitalize proper nouns and punctuation is optional. Who cares if someone you haven’t seen since high school uses its when they mean to use it’s?
Autocorrect and predictive texts can ruin comments too. Have a little grace.
Some people give zero fucks about proofreading.
I diligently proofread, and errors still make their way onto Facebook. And on my blog–even after several reads, merry-go-rounds of spell checks, etc. I’m my own editor because I’m not paying anybody to do it and trying to solicit your friends to proofread something is akin to asking them for money that they know you’ll never pay back. It’s way easier to point out errors in someone else’s writing than your own. Having this blog has humbled my grammar policing because I know how hard it is to produce an error-free piece of writing. I am thrilled when I go back after a few weeks to revisit a post and realize there are no typos.
Some people write how they speak, particularly in informal writing, and there is nothing wrong with the way that ANYBODY speaks. When you are mocking the way a person is writing, you might be mocking how they talk, and now you’re inadvertently casting judgements about spoken language. There is nothing wrong with anybody’s dialect of English.
Go pick up any work of fiction. ANY WORK OF FICTION. Run-on sentences and fragments abound. Commas are used whenever the author wants to use the little guy. Hell, I’ve even read books where there are no quotation marks for dialogue. Language rules are meant to be broken.
Learning those Standard English rules are freaking hard. And while you might have mastered them, lots of people haven’t. And who knows if Twitter Thomas was even taught them after elementary school.
Let’s throw it back twenty years. How much writing by your friends were you seeing daily? Maybe something on AIM, but nowhere near the amount you’re consuming now. Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have been making these judgements about other people’s writing because you wouldn’t have even been exposed to it.
You know what I look for anymore as an English teacher–meaning. If I sat and marked every knowledge of language and conventions error on every big writing assignment that I gave my students, I WOULD NEVER FINISH GRADING THEM. EVER. I ask myself, do these sentences make sense? Do I understand the point the student is trying to make? I pretty much only point out sentence construction issues because meaning will always be more important than modifiers being misplaced, words being left out, and misspelled words–especially since most writing is timed anymore. Our rubrics don’t even place that much emphasis on grammar anymore because meaning IS more important.
When’s the last time you took a look at “The Declaration of Independence”? There. Are. Common. Nouns. Capitalized. Throughout. Its. Entirety. Thomas Jefferson himself capitalized words to the beat of his own founding-father’s heart.
So ask yourself, do I know what my fourth cousin’s husband meant when he wrote a post about killing the Biggest Buck of his life or are you going to let those capital Bs ruin your day? He’s probably just using them for emphasis. And killing an 18-pointer is freaking badass. I’d be capitalizing the shit out of that post too. And if he spells it dear instead of deer? Take a page out of Elsa’s book and let it doe. (Let it doe! Let it doe!)
I’ll leave a box out on my sticky-note strewn teacher’s desk. I expect your imaginary grammar police badge to be in it by the end of the day, or I’m going to have to write you up for being MEAN instead of looking for MEANING. Hopefully my student-given sign sitting atop my desk that reads World’s Goodest Teacher makes you pause in humor and not contempt on your way out.
(But also, if you find any typos in this–HELP A GIRL OUT!)