Wednesday, January 15, 2014
why i retired from the grammar police
I used to be one of them.
If I read an article with a typo, I would scoff. "Someone needs a proofreader," I'd call out to everyone within earshot, so proud of my catch."This is so unprofessional."
And then three things happened.
1. I became an editor. And it's not actually that easy.
As copywriter at a non-profit, I'm also entrusted with editing basically every piece of copy the organization puts out. Which is fine. As a former member of the grammar police (and a lifelong reader), errors just pop out at me. Proofreading something is almost fun, kind of like a treasure hunt. (I am so fun.)
But the problem is, it's never just one something. It's an article that I wrote and, in the process of editing, read ten times. Then someone else changed the content, so I needed to read and edit it again. This happened five more times. By the twentieth time reading something, it's impossible to actually read something. You're skimming. On top of that, it's never the only thing on my desk to edit. Somewhere in that mess, I'm going to miss an errant apostrophe -- and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
2. I realized the smartest person I know can't spell.
Y is basically the smartest person I know. He can solve any problem, remember any fact, and debate academically on topics he knows nothing about. But grammar and spelling aren't his strong suit.
The reason spelling and grammar come naturally to me isn't because I'm smarter than anyone else. (I'm definitely not.) It's because, as an only child and semi-nerd, I spent a lot of my childhood reading. Eventually, my brain learned patterns, and it now automatically pops up a red flag when it sees a word spelled wrong, because it's probably seen that word spelled correctly in 100+ Babysitters Club books, the entire Goosebumps series, and the thousands of other books I've read in my life.
On the flip side, I don't watch a lot of movies or TV. Often, I've only seen a word and have no idea how to pronounce it. I've definitely been mocked for mispronouncing a word -- which is far more embarrassing than misspelling a word.
3. I started reading comments.
Don't ask me why I started doing this --it's bad for my health -- but anytime I read an online article or blog post, I continue scrolling down and read the comments until I'm ready to renounce my humanity. The comments section (on most sites) are where the saddest people in the world hang out, and the grammar police are some of the worst offenders. Here's a mock conversation that might happen in the comments of, let's, say, a house tour on a design blog:
Person A: Why are all kitchens white these days? It's so boring! Why can't people be more creative? Everyone is just controlled by Pinterest these days. I hate this blog.
Person B: Um, I've had a white kithen since WAY before Pinterest. Some people just like white, and if you don't like this post, you should just go read another blog.
Person C: Nice try, idiot, it's KITCHEN. Maybe learn how to spell the name of the room before you try to comment on a DESIGN blog.
There are a few cases where I still roll my eyes -- a billboard for a respected company has just six words on the sign and one of them is spelled wrong; people adding apostrophes to pluralize words; a few other random pet peeves -- but for the most part, I've turned in my badge. And I have to say I think I'm happier for it.