My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Question: Did you know about ____________ grammar mistake? (F.A.Q.)

Short Answer: 

No. Thanks for pointing it out.  

Long answer:

If you're asking me if I know I make grammar mistakes...IN GENERAL, that is a bit like asking Kareem Abdul Jabar if he knows he's tall. I make a lot of mistakes, actually. Copy editing is a skill with a learning curve and I have A.D.D. and mild dyslexia, so I have to work very hard for limited returns. I'm slowly getting better, but it's like tacking through the Cape of Good Hope. (Hey, I'm not too lowbrow for a sailing metaphor!) You should have seen me ten years ago. I had a hard time spelling "teh." But, I know that even though I'm better and even though I can edit my own copy if I really try, I almost always publish an article with a couple of real doozies.

In a perfect world I could afford a copy editor, but I have yet to entice one with an offer of the dollar a day I could maybe sort of afford.

I could put something here about how creative writing and copy editing are actually very different skill sets. I could match the snide tone of the emails I get (almost weekly) that say I'm not really a writer because I used the wrong team/teem (or some such error) by pointing out--with equal snidility--that proofreading is the one of the only parts of writing that can be farmed out to someone with no creative input, and how common it is for most grammar police to end up copy editing other people's creative work and scratching their heads about why their error-free prose just isn't getting them a book deal.

I could, but I won't. I'm totally a better person than that.

If you're asking me about a specific mistake, chances are I did not know about it, or it wouldn't be there. For all my problems with people being obnoxious religious zealots about grammar, my main problem is that they are obnoxious religious zealots about it--not that they are wrong. In fact, they are usually right. So
 if you're pointing out something that I've done wrong, I will be properly mortified and fix it. I might even thank you if you didn't point it out like I was committing a Cardinal sin.

Of course there are some exceptions. If you try to get me to say "persons" instead of "people,"* I'm going to make a joke about how the forties called and they want their grammar back. (Or maybe not exactly that joke, but trust me, it'll be funny and cutting.) This blog is hip and trendy....except for its use of words like "hip" and "trendy." There are also a few rules that are contested (like the Oxford comma*, putting apostrophes to pluralize single characters*, or putting S's after words like toward or afterward*) and I'm not really going to be to emotionally invested in jumping into the fray on those.  I'll let pedantic-er minds than mine fill the forums of the world with gagillions of pixels about how that's totally important stuff worth arguing about. 

I should also mention that I cut my teeth on typewriters and learned two spaces between sentences for like twenty YEARS, so I'm sorry to all you one-spacers out there. I've mostly fixed the habit, but I still double space when I'm really on a tear. I'm not saying I'm right; I'm just asking you to forgive a long learning curve.*

Oh, and I totally end sentences with prepositions* and split infinitives*. To boldly write those "mistakes" is something I'm completely unapologetic about.  

Generally, I am happy to have any mistakes pointed out. One of the main advantages of this medium is that I can go back and change mistakes. So thank you! 

*None of these are arbitrary examples. I have gotten messaged at some point about each.


  1. Zelot is more commonly spelled "zealot" in English, although "zelot" is standard in German.
    (shrug) I care about spelling and grammar mostly when sloppiness produces semantic ambiguity. Good enough for precise communication is good enough for me.

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