The other day I realized I accidentally used “their” instead of “they’re” in something online and I could NOT DELETE IT FAST ENOUGH. And then I sat there, falling down a shame spiral, wondering: Who saw what I did? Did they make fun of me? Do they think I’m dumb? Am I now on they’re – no, THEIR (DAMMIT!) – list of idiost who they have to periodically mock? Will they think if me every time someone makes fun of people who don’t know the difference? I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE! IT WAS A MISTAKE!
I mean, that’s not verbatim, BUT IT IS DAMN CLOSE to the thoughts that followed the error.
You know what else I sometimes do? I sometimes double-space after a period. YES. YES, I DO. And YES. I understand it’s not necessary thanks to modern typefaces. I’ve read that article you posted about it 100 million times now. But I learned typing ON A TYPEWRITER in 10th grade and sometimes the old habits come out and when I catch myself I’m mortified.
Why do I fall down a pit of shame at the smallest error in language? Because every day there are 14 million memes making fun of people who make mistakes in language. Or there are 12 thousand articles proclaiming in exasperation to PLEASE STOP MAKING THAT ERROR that you keep making. Now, full disclosure: Major publications or signs or advertisements with grammatical errors because some copy editor didn’t get enough sleep the night before? Yeah. I laugh at those too. But the general, “Stop Making This Mistake!” articles that clutter my feed or the, “Every time someone uses ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’, a puppy dies!” type of humorous memes, make me feel Bust-My-As-In-Front-Of-My-10th-Grade-Boyfriend levels of embarrassment whenever I make a mistake.
Let me give you some back history.
I’ve always been a reader. And I always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t know it. What I did know was that most of my writing/grammar type classes growing up were the ones I struggled with the most. Now, in college? I was better, but K-12 I tended to be the math/science girl and not the english/reading girl. Even though I was an avid reader, math and science came easy. Grammar did not.
When I started blogging in 2004 I always kept descriptions on my sidebar that said something like, “I know my grammar sucks! I’m not a writer!” But then I saw/heard this Stephen Fry talk and it changed my opinion on writing and language and grammar COMPLETELY.
I am a writer. I convey ideas with words and my stories and my ideas MAKE SENSE. Just because I sometimes (often) put commas in the wrong place or end a sentence in prepositions, doesn’t mean you can’t understand what I mean when I’m talking about boob sweat. My stories and thoughts are conveyed clearly, even if I used a colon instead of a semi-colon.
So I quit adding the disclaimer and I owned the title: WRITER.
When I need to now, I often say that my writing style is casual. I write how I speak. Filled with grammar errors and hopefully…joy.
Here’s what I don’t get.
Of the dozens/hundreds/thousands/millions of people that see the snarky meme about grammar errors (depending on where it’s posted and who the audience is) people post online, what percentage of the people who see the mocking meme or article actually DON’T KNOW the rule it’s teaching? I’d say it’s a very low percentage. Most of us active online know the differences between they’re/their/there. And those that still don’t? Probably need a bit more than a snarky meme to teach them. And they’re probably not going to read that annoying article because the tone is just RUDE. Instead, it makes those of us who just accidentally get it wrong sometimes feel complete and total embarrassment when we do. THANKS FOR THAT.
I left a comment on a YouTube video a few weeks ago. I never do that. Why? Because I can never be 100% certain my thoughts/comments are grammatically perfect. I’m the same way commenting on blogs. If it’s MY Facebook page or MY blog I don’t freak out because it’s my turf, but someone else’s turf and I’m totally paranoid about saying what I want to say incorrectly and WHAT IF PEOPLE THINK I’M STUPID?
And that is so sad.
How many other people are paranoid about their own grammar/language skills and terrified to leave their words somewhere on the off chance they end up making an embarrassing mistake. Does anyone else worry, What if they think I’m stupid?
Well. I’m sick of it. I’m done with worrying about if people think I’m stupid. My words aren’t for them. I have a hard time with some fake southern accents so I don’t watch movies or TV shows with actors delivering bad ones. (Michael Rappaport on Justified last season almost KILLED ME.) If someone gets twitches reading my writing and my grammar errors and misspellings, then they’ll go somewhere else for their stories about boob sweat. And if someone decides to direct their mocking at me on someone else’s forum (blog/video/article) then that’s ON THEM, not on me. I need to not be scared of sharing my ideas because of the fear of the shame of bad grammar or spelling.
I am a writer. I like sharing my words. My ideas are usually coherent, even if they are insane. That’s all that should matter to me – that I’m sharing my thoughts and stories in a way that makes sense. And if someone rolls their eyes because I end my sentence in a preposition? Then that’s okay. I rolled my eyes during 7 seasons of The Closer because I loved the show but HATED Kyra Sedgwick’s accent. Sometimes we suck up our annoyances for the greater experience, and hopefully my writing about my cats and bullet journals is just SO RIVETING, people will overlook my overuse of sentence fragments.