Grammar Police, You Are Under Arrest!

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Tired of having your typos corrected?

Have you been attacked by the Grammar Police?

Don’t let it kill your confidence. Here’s why content is king.

It drives me bonkers to see grumbly grammarians nitpicking everyone’s typos and simple mistakes. Absolutely, there are agreed upon rules for the written word that help us better read what a writer is trying to communicate. But that’s just it. Writing is a form of communication. The rules complement the communication, not the other way around. If someone has adequately communicated their message, it’s enough.

Yesterday, I read a message from a guy in one of my writing groups about how demoralized he was because every time he gave his writing to someone to review, they failed to mention his content and instead told him he misspelled a few words. That’d be like a reader getting his hands on the first draft of the Scarlet Letter and telling Nathaniel Hawthorne how he could better format his document instead of reacting to the religious and patriarchal themes of the story.

 B&W GIF from  the Scarlett Letter , 1926. Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne rips off the letter  A  on her chest as Lars Hanson as the Reverend Dimmesdale throws his head into his arms. | The Naked Page

Hey, beta reader, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!

If we look at the roles of editors within the world of story creation, it breaks down to something like this:

Beta Reader = Not an editor. Someone who READS content and gives the author a picture of what they understood or what was confusing to them about the writing. This is an introductory phase of the editing process with beta readers involved long before an author attempts to get an agent or publisher.

Developmental Editor = an editor who concerns themselves with big picture edits. The macro stuff of moving around and splicing story structure, solidifying characters, and clarifying the central message. 

Line Editor = an editor who tackles smaller, micro issues like continuity of verb tenses, sentence structure, and the clarity and flow of one sentence into the next.

Proofreader = not even the guy that puts the icing on the cake. The guy who puts the candle on the icing that’s on the cake. This editor shows up in the last phase of the editing process and checks for typos, mechanics, grammar, and spelling issues.

Dear beta reader,

If you’re polishing someone’s grammar and spelling before you’re reading to understand the basic story content, you, my friend, are jumping way into the future. We don’t need you for this responsibility. In short, it’s not your job. Stop it.  

And that’s just for publishing, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the Grammar Police on the hunt for mistakes among the word jungles created by a one-(wo)man show a.k.a. bloggers and online entrepreneurs. You know, the people who don’t have teams of editors available to perfect their writing, but must produce regular content.  

Let me be clear:

If you’re running a business solo, you’re going to have grammatical mistakes that pop up in your writing. Period.

Why?

Because there’s no way that your eyes moving over the same words again and again will catch every flaw. In days gone by, the only content that was available to us was from newspaper and magazine outlines and published books. Businesses that had whole teams of people to look over each step in the editing process. If one person didn’t filter out the mistakes, the next one certainly would catch it.

Today, there’s only you. And an expectation that you’ll produce great content weekly, even daily. There’s no possible way you can catch every mistake.

So, shouldn’t we be thankful to the people who are taking the time to correct our spelling and grammar mistakes?

It depends on why and how someone is pointing out the problem.  

To be fair, I don’t love reading all the text style messages I see online, either. If you ramble on for 20 sentences without a piece of punctuation, we have a problem. But only because your lack of grammar is hindering my ability to understand what you are saying. That’s the issue. If I don’t understand you, your message is rendered useless. Communication is lost.

On the other hand, if your message is clearly stated, but I don’t agree with you politically, so I aggressively hammer you about how you mixed up one homophone for another, I’m the asshole. I’m not trying to help you move your mode of communication along, I’m picking you apart publicly so I look smarter than you. This is always bad form.

And besides, people so hell bent on every. single. word. being perfect aren’t the kinds of folks I want interacting with my stories, anyway. Do those grammarians sound like interesting people who will be captivated by an inspiring story? I picture most in bed by 9pm after scrubbing each crevice of their tiny apartment alone, because, you know, no one’s good enough for partner material. (And yes, I was single and lived in a small apartment for years, so don’t send me your wrath of the single lady posts) Perfectionism leads to lack of creativity and frown lines, ladies.

Look, rules are important. They give us parameters to help communicate with others, but they aren’t the point. The point is your message. Do you have one? If so, speak it loud and proud! Forgive yourself for minor mistakes, but keep writing.

If you’re one of those grammarians who really wants to help someone correct a flaw in their writing, why not send them a PM? Kindly telling someone in private that they may want to fix a word or sentence while complimenting their writing content is a gentle way of saying you’re on their side. Please dispense with the public displays of apocalyptic apostrophe obsession. The world is not ending over excessive possession.

Don’t stop attacking writers for minor grammatical mistakes and we’re gonna make you wear a giant red “G” on all your clothing. You’ve been warned.