Grammar Shame

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.

11 thoughts on “Grammar Shame”

  1. I thought my kids were just being lazy when they said you don’t need to space twice after a period any more.

    Keep on writing – you’re doing a great job!

  2. Keep on writing! We love you no matter what accidental grammar mistake you might make.

  3. I face similar issues with speaking in French. I am not French and I am never going to even know all the grammar rules let alone be able to produce them in the spot. But I go back to the question “was communication achieved?” If the answer is yes, then I move on and don’t worry about it. But the single spacing after a period? I just can’t get on board with that!

  4. I have no confidence in my grammer. I tend to skip grammer rules and just use ellipses between thoughts because I am lazy and somehow intentionally screwing up feels better to me. I did get slammed once commenting on a blog and I remember how horrible I felt. I obviously take more effort in anything written at work, but commenting on blogs, I tend to just slap down ideas, as if I was having a conversation.

  5. I was trolling a FB page for a political candidate. Yes, I was trolling. One of his supporters posted a hateful anti-gay message where 1) He talked about how educated he was. 2) He had a grammatical error. I replied to him and just wrote that if he was going to write about how educated he was, he should watch his grammar. I provided the correction of the error, in case he did not know. He came back with an all-out attack on me with the same grammatical error. I replied that I was on the FB page to see how the candidate felt about education and not to be attacked. I also pointed out that if you had as many graduate degrees as he said he did, he should know how to write without errors.
    So, here’s my point. I do notice grammatical errors (usually). I don’t get offended or think the writer is an idiot, unless they write about how educated they are within the same paragraph, or are being a horrible person. I most likely have comma-spliced within this comment. It’s what I do. Was I wrong to troll? Yes and No.
    I love your writing and your style. Everyone makes mistakes–it is how we learn. Keep on doing all of it!

  6. I suck at grammar. And spelling. I have a few blogs that I occasionally post on, but the only people that read my stuff is family. When someone points out an error, all I can think is, “Yes, thank you, but what did you think about my kiddo having two teeth pulled?”

    And for the most part I try to not make a fool of myself when I post to other peoples blog, but like the video mentions, if you can understand what I am trying to say, who cares if I have a few grammatical errors. I’m not trying to win a grammar contest!

    Oh, and in general I gave up giving a crap what other people think of me about 5 years ago. I like who I have become and that is all that matters :0)

  7. Hey. Don’t hate me because I’m a spelling and grammar nut.

    My OCD is different than yours. They’re/their/there bugs me no end. Affect/Effect same deal. And on and on. But that’s my OCD, not yours…yourse.. your’s…..AGHAGHAGHAGHA.

    Love reading, despite my wont (NOT WANT) to correct.

  8. At first I couldn’t tell the direction this was going but I am glad I stuck around for the end. If the point of sharing grammar mistakes with such zest is too teach, well then people often fail. I think they are often rude and because I struggle with making common grammar mistakes often I usually will not leave comments for fear of making such an error. If the goal is to teach, explain the rule clearly and kindly. I just learned from you why their is no longer a need for two spaces at the end of a sentence. I too learned to type on a type writer. I find it frustrating that I finished my formal education on the cusp of major technological shift. Another thing that has annoyed me is people using the term “white balance” in photography because I took several photo classes in college and I never remember hearing it mentioned. I realized recently that it probably had to do with the fact that it was black and white 35mm film photography. Oh well!

  9. I get this, I totally do.

    I was born profoundly deaf so I have this incessant need to make sure my grammar is spot on and my writing, articulate less anyone has doubts re: my smarts. I cringe when I later spot an error on old posts or statuses. I do love to write, but it’s been VERY hard for me to update my blog or on Facebook because I worry about how I am coming across in my writing – it takes me hours, going over each sentence, making sure it’s pieced together correctly. Ugh. But it’s a fear I’m working on and like they say, practice makes (almost) perfect.

  10. You go girl!! I make all kind of mistakes, so they can chill out or move on.
    I love reading your blog, keep up the great work !

  11. Miss Zoot, I virtually <3 you, I swear I do. And I have my own host of Achilles heels. You write wonderfully and I so enjoy each post but one teeny, tiny thing? Not grammar; not punctuation. One teeny, tiny editorial suggestion from a fan…please don't capitalize possessive proper nouns, i.e. "my Dad". Nope. Just " my dad/mom/son/ daughter/aunt". You are a fabulous writer and fitter than– I dunno, something really fit –and oh, a really cool mom!, but not a "Cool Mom" ala Mean Girls and. … I'll shut up now 😉 as I think you get the gist. Thanks so much for all of your inspiration!!

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