Grammar trolls, bad grammar and spelling, and ye Impperfectiones of ye Englisch

This blog’s basis is the life and situations of writing, professional and non-professional.  I find that area not well understood by most folks, but I can’t often put my finger on the right topic.  This is one.

Q: When I have bad grammar, do you look down your snout at me?

A: Mostly, no.

Why not?

Turn it around:  why? What can I gain from that? Maybe you’re brilliant but dyslexic.  Maybe you just suck at English. (If I can suck at math and be good at English, I’m sure others can arrange to suck at English and be good at other things.) Maybe you’re partly disabled and doing your damn best. I can’t know why you have bad grammar.  But the answer is the same:  why would I care? What can I gain from looking down my snout, picking on people for something they can’t help? That would benefit me how? Would I win friends and influence people? Would I effect change? Would it do any good, or would it just make me a snob? Surely there are enough literary snobs out there, and we don’t need another one in me?

When people deliberately or lazily use bad English, do you break into cold sweats of outrage? Start breaking stuff?

No.

But you should!  Why not?

For the same reason I don’t die of a massive stroke if they find a new source of spilled radioactive contamination at Hanford.  It already has so much mess that they can keep forever pretending to clean it up, a multi-generational non-work job they’ll assure that they never finish.  How does it matter if they find a little bit more? What will they do, get non-busy non-cleaning that up also? If your English isn’t good, oh, well; neither is most people’s.  Big deal; no one’s perfect.  Even if you hate smoking, does every discarded cigarette butt on the ground cause you to write indignantly to your Congressthief/MP/etc.? Do you accost every cigarette butt litterbug in anger? No? Why not? Is it because you have better things to do with your life?

Do you always strive for perfect grammar and spelling?

No.

But YOU’RE A WRITER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You noticed! (insert forty dippy emoticons and heart variations) Awesomecoolbeansaucelulzroflcopter!

Surely you want to sound as articulate as possible?

Why? This implies that I must care what someone thinks of my writing. Unless it’s an acquisitions editor in a position to hire/publish me, why? I take special care here, but not on a message board or in chat.

But it’s the principle! It’s your professional presentation, isn’t it?

Not always, it ain’t.  Sometimes I’m just being a person and don’t worry about it.  I live in the same world you do, with the same people and their (and my) English imperfections.  I do not work every hour of the day.  I sometimes sleep, watch TV, mow the yard, cuddle my wife, and at those times I do no work.  If you were an auto detailer, would you spend all your leisure time obsessively washing, waxing, vacuuming, q-tipping, armor-alling and spit-shining your car? What? Why not? Don’t you care what people think of your car? It’s your professional presentation! Surely you are too busy obsessing about its perfection to actually drive it anywhere?

But cars are for getting somewhere! Of course I would drive it!

And writing is for communicating.  Of course I would use it for a practical purpose.

You aren’t biologically compelled to proofread every word of English you see?

Evidently not.  Would anyone want to live that way? If you want me to proofread your English, please e-mail me and I’ll quote you my rates. (I am a really, really good proofreader.  Ask those who have worked with me.) Or, if you are a good friend, maybe I’ll give you a freebie. Some writers are not only not grammar and spelling snobs, but can be rather nice and helpful friends, just like your attorney friends will sometimes give you free guidance, or your computer nerd friends might help you figure out why your screen now looks all wrong. We might just be actual, average people.  Writing may just happen to be our line of work; we may be otherwise normal.

People often post deliberately contrived examples of English that is comically faulty.  Surely that, at least, must grate horribly on you?

No.

How can it not?

Because it’s generally lacking in comic merit, simple trolling. At what point in time has it ever made sense to encourage Internet trolls, especially when they don’t even amuse one?

Okay.  What DO you hate?

Stupid expressions and text-speak.  “Awesome sauce” inserted into decent English is like urine poured on otherwise good pizza.  And when you want to wish everyone a good night, ‘hagn e1’ is a lousy way to do it.

Sweet! I have found an area where I can taunt, tease, troll and provoke you over English!  Awesome sauce lol! Cool beans lol! R u mad @ me yet lol?

No.

But you have to be! You simply HAVE to be! I need a way to troll and annoy you!

Fortunately, you’re a good person in enough other ways and are allowed faults, just as I hope you’ll allow me my own (and they are plentiful).  As for this need to troll and provoke, that need is not my problem, so I should not take ownership of a problem I don’t own.  Do it deliberately once, I shrug my shoulders, hope it’s a flier.  Do it deliberately twice, the fuse’s wire burns through and I’m no longer paying attention to it.  Safety feature. Do it repeatedly, and I may wonder idly how this brings you joy, but I don’t wonder very hard, because wondering implies an interest in why you’d do that, and that wire burnt through.  If you want to sound that way on purpose just to try and make my day worse, do so.  When you stop, I’ll replace the fuse, and we’ll talk about something productive.

I simply don’t believe you.  Some aspect of all this must surely drive you insane.

If that were the case, I’d be insane by now: both passively from what people cannot help, and actively by both friends and enemies with a strange idea of fun.  If it drives you insane, well, I don’t blame you, but I suggest you refuse to allow that.  It worked for me.

It got you to write a long blog post on the subject. It did bother you! Neener, made you look!

No. It inspired me, made me want to write, explain, share. It motivated me to do some useful work, organize my thoughts a bit, think critically. It helped me realize that people can see why a mechanic doesn’t come home and immediately begin working on his or her own cars, but cannot see why a writer doesn’t necessarily critique everything he or she reads.

I think some writers do.

Then I’m sorry for them, but as I said before, we all have to own our own problems.  They’ll have to own that one.  I don’t want or need it–it would just be a hindrance to joy.

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2 thoughts on “Grammar trolls, bad grammar and spelling, and ye Impperfectiones of ye Englisch”

  1. as a friend who has a strange idea of fun *showing great restraint* i will not comment with a lolz text speak 😉

    Like

    1. If you did, Jenn, it’s okay. It’s likely to occur anyway. That’s why I wrote this, to explain the mental process as it happens from my side. People are always apologizing to me about spelling and grammar, for example, evidently in the assumption that I’m checking either. Understandable assumption, maybe, on the surface; but doesn’t actually occur. A writer who lived life that way would either go nuts, or might already be.

      Like

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