To Error is Human

Friday, October 4, 2013


Ha ha, I know it's err; don't send the grammar police just yet - though I have a long history of offenses. When I was little my mom had a button that said "to err is human, to forgive is divine" and I was always perplexed why they left off the "or" in "error." I thought it was being cheeky. Before I started blogging I had a more critical eye for grammar. However, whatever wrongdoings I committed in my previous lives has burdened me in this one to only be able to edit and correct my grammatical mistakes once I have hit the post/reply/comment button. I am also a copy and paster and sentence re-arranger, so those crazy mystery comments I leave you - that's how that happens. I also use commas like it's new years eve and they are a handfuls of confetti. I just toss them everywhere. But, truth to be told, that's how my mind works. There are a lot of pauses. Sometimes I think backwards and have to sort it all out later. I think emotionally. Not technically.

But I am digressing. I am not writing this to air my dirty grammar laundry. You all see it everyday anyway. I am writing this because I read this and this, and I realized that I had somewhere in my years of blogging also taken on a similar viewpoint. While I still believe that proper grammar should be taught and used (and I know it's probably scary for everyone over 25 that we r goin 2 b riten like this n the near futr), I don't think that it all bothers me so much anymore. I love that people write and that there are so many opportunities for people to do so now.

I love language, which is why I used to be so stringent with grammar and spend evenings excitedly curled up on my sofa with the dictionary in my hand. And when I was in college and I would get a 20 page paper back with a the words "comma splice" written just once in that terrible red ink, I would get a belly ache. One of the reasons I love poetry is because there are so many lovely rules to follow. It can be like math with words and I adore that aspect of it (not to be confused with me loving math - i don't). Have you ever written a sonnet? It's exhilarating if you're into that sort of thing. On the flip side I also adore that it can be a place where you can break every rule and it's okay. Language isn't always best communicated with rules dictating it. Some of my favorite books and authors are writers who write lyrically, or write beautiful paragraphs of prose where when broken up with proper grammar would disrupt the lyricism and emotional artistry of the woven words. While I am still a stickler for commas and periods inside quotation marks and I cringe at the mix-up of they're/their/there, I know I am guilty of simple typing mistakes such as these here and there too. It just doesn't faze me quite so much because I realized I love learning about people through reading what they are saying (and I never loved seeing that my paper had to be written in MLA format anyway). Sometimes the mistakes, purposeful or intentional, give me a reason to pause and try to understand where exactly a person is coming from. This often gives me more insight into what they are saying, rather than how they are saying it. We all have our grammar opinions, what is yours?

22 comments:

  1. Ha! This is great. I think the best thing I learned from a grammar refresher course I took a few years ago when I was working on a style sheet for a school I worked for was that grammar, even in formal settings, is a fluid thing. Constantly changing. You mean you CAN end sentences with prepositions now? Cue the parade! I drill into Callum all the time to take it seriously so that his writing will be taken seriously...what he doesn't know is that now, on this side, he'll have to worry about it less and less.

    Some things definitely matter to me more than others, just like you, and what matters most right now is that you have a great weekend, dear! XO

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    1. i always edit fisher's papers with him sitting there and we go over everything so he can grow up with an understanding of proper grammar (they really don't spend enough time on this in school!). of course it's always much easier to edit other people than it is yourself. i am hoping to someday be able to do the latter with as much ease. happy weekend to you too! xo

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  2. I'll have to admit that I am kind of a grammar snob, I take grammar seriously, even in blogging. It's important that so many people are able to express themselves in this way, maybe it's more important to say what you need to say and not pay too much attention to using commas when necessary or if you use "it's" instead of "its" and vice-versa, but I will always appreciate a beautifully written sentence, it's educational, and I will try to do the same. It may not be important for the majority, but for me it counts that's important for those few.

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    1. i agree, i love a beautifully written sentence but in the end i think writing can still be moving/beautiful/important/funny even if grammar is askew a bit. and i think those that can write properly should! people learn from others.

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  3. I'm kind of a snob about this and I don't particularly care if I come off like an asshole, but I judge people to no end who misuse the language or the punctuation conventions or basic grammar. About nine years ago, at a backyard bbq with an ex-boyfriend, a friend of his, when describing her current work situation, said, "Oh, I don't work there no more." I was about six years younger than these people back then, and I laughed, thinking she was being funny, because what adult in their mid-twenties would say that seriously? She wasn't. She was an idiot. And it speaks to the type of stickler I am that I haven't been with that boyfriend for over 4 years and it's been twice as long since I've seen that girl, but I CAN'T LET IT GO. "No more." NO MORE! I had and have no interest in finding out or appreciating where she was coming from. There's no excuse for a lack of intelligence, sorry. And when you say things like that out loud, in public, to people with ears, I judge the shit out you. (not 'you' specifically, I meant her in this instance, obviously).

    I'm less forgiving than you are. I don't accept 'u' as a replacement for 'you' and I think people who don't take the time to use apostrophes correctly or learn the difference between there/they're/their should be taken out to a field and put out of their misery. You know who are really uptight about their language? The French, god bless them. There are so many rules about grammar and sentence structure that we're learning in class that have given me a heightened respect for them. Of course they're snobs. They take pride in their language, they don't want it abused. Why should we be any different? Sure, the meaning might still come across, but don't you want it presented in the cleanest, most thoughtful and correct way possible? It would be like a chef made a fancy lobster dinner, with hand-whipped mashed potatoes, and beautiful green beans julienned to perfection...and then he tossed everything in the blender and poured it onto your plate in a soupy mess. Sure, all the ingredients are there, but how nauseating. That's how I feel about people who misuse grammar through ignorance, either willful or inherent. There's no excuse for ignorance. Not sure how to differentiate between there/they're/their? Look it up. Read a book about it. Don't be a lazy cow. The reason that girl didn't "work there no more" was likely because she was as willfully negligent with her job responsibilities as her grasp on the English language.

    Sorry. I'm a little riled up now. ;) I'm going to go yoga-breathe in a quiet corner now. xo

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    1. the social worker in me is hyperventilating. but i like your blender metaphor. i do agree in that sense. i love language and i think being both artful and technical when using it in the written form is lovely.

      like i said i think everyone should have the opportunity to learn, but the fact is they don't. there are millions of people who can't be bothered with their/they're/there because they don't even know they are wrong when misusing them. maybe they didn't have an education that was focused on proper grammar? maybe they didn't get to finish school at all? maybe they were abused/neglected/working . . . maybe in their culture, in their demographic or region "i seen" is how people talk, so it is correct to them. is that proper? no? but it's no less real. do any of these offenses really lessen what someone says? should someone not speak up or write because they do not know all the rules to grammar in fear of judgement? i definitely don't think so. i don't like that world; that's a scary world. maybe they have something profound to say? maybe they are smart in other ways that we lack in because we didn't gain their skill-set in our experiences and we would learn something from them. as a social worker i have learned a great deal from people who didn't excel grammatically. really i think the solution is that everyone have their basic needs be met and receive a quality education; less stress living and making ends meet so we can focus on the good stuff. that would just solve this whole thing, dontcha think? wait, is dontcha a word? until then just remember to err is human, to forgive is divine ;) xoxo love you twinsy

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    2. Well I mean OF COURSE if people are misusing grammar because of socioeconomic barriers, or they had an absent parent and dropped out of school to provide for their younger siblings, genuinely had no exposure to what was correct, or were abused then obviously there are a whole host of issues that I'd be sympathetic towards without even worrying about their grammar. But my issue with that one specific girl was she was from a middle class family, with two parents, and who happened to be a good graphic artist. She was absolutely talented in other ways (and I don't mean to diminish the abilities of people who don't know there/they're/their, but I'm fully admitting I'm a jerk and don't honestly care if that person is talented at the piano. I'm a meanie, I know) but it's horribly off-putting to me. Again, I'm a minority when it comes to this, and I don't think she should never have opened her mouth again in this world, but honestly? Yeah, to me it does lessen what she had to say. But then I was blessed with a quality education and two overly involved parents (if there is such a thing) so my world view is skewed. And I get that. It's horrible but I never even considered in my answer people in low-income neighborhoods or without access to education. My frame of reference isn't those with legitimate barriers, but people with the ability to care but who don't. Does that make sense? In an ideal world everyone would have the same access to education AND the same encouragement and importance placed on the language. Am I going to step on some poor kid whose mother moved here illegally because he misused there? God no. Friends that went to college and still mess it up? Judge judge judge judge judge. xo

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    3. haha, i think we should be drinking whilst having this conversation. i can think of so many tangents we could off on (like people who had all of the luxuries of stability and education, yet try to talk like they were brought up on the other side of the tracks). i do agree to the extent that it is very important to have respect for language and writing. it's more enjoyable reading a book from an author who breaks the rules, but you know knows what they are.

      and, you, as a writer, and, me, as a (former) social worker - well, all the different viewpoints and perspectives, that's what makes the world go round, no? (and for a little confession: one of the reasons i rarely go on fb is because of all the sad uses of grammar and the woe-is-me acronyms that make my head spin ;)) xo

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  4. I used to get quite bent out of shape about this issue, but I've relaxed some over the years. I feel like grammar is designed to facilitate understanding of the text, and that provided the meaning is conveyed clearly, there's no need to fuss about a comma here vs. there. This does mean, however, that incorrect word usage still really bothers me. Someone above mentioned the their/there/they're issue as an example. When those are used incorrectly, it severely hampers the flow of the writing and the reader is forced to pause, even if only quite momentarily, to determine (from context) what the meaning is.

    I guess my opinion is it that it generally doesn't matter to me what style of writing you use, formal/informal/conversational, but if your word and grammar choices are routinely hampering the flow of meaning, I'm not likely to keep reading your work.

    Thanks for prompting a discussion of this!

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    1. you wrote that so eloquently. yes, that's what i was trying to say. thank you :)

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  5. Ha, I absolutely loved reading this. I, too am a grammar snob, although it also depends on the context. I write abhorrently when leaving comments, but when it comes to my own blog, it definitely matters. I think I'm not as concerned with prose; after all, it should be fluid. But let's just say, if I'm interested in a man, and he cannot differentiate between you're and your, it's a deal breaker!

    WWW.ROXTHEFOX.COM

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    1. ha, yes, bad politics and poor grammar equals deal breakers. and, oh! my grammar is the worst in comments! i leave out words, add mystery words, it's terrible. xo

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  6. i haven't read this and this yet (but I will) but I love this post. I love commas, too. I'm still trying to work out their use in English even tho people tell me not to bother and that I'm already using more than the average English speaker :) back in the day, when people still wrote postcards from their holidays, my friends didn't want me to sign joined cards we'd send because I'd add all the missing commas.

    I'm sometimes worried about how language is changing. but this is just a getting older = getting slightly more conservative thing. language has always changed. it's a living thing. it's changing faster now than it has ever before. but everything is faster these days, isn't it. and English is now used globally. there are bound to be some exciting new things to come. and I can't wait to see what they are :)

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    1. you bring up such a lovely point about english becoming more global. i love that addition. hopefully as that continues it will work out a lovely balance of the importance of being united in grammar and the unlimited range of language. xo

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  7. Sometimes I can't help but be the grammar police but also realize that sometimes the words just try to bust out of your head way too fast for your fingers to type or write them all out. And when someone is that excited about what they're writing, it's okay by me. :)

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    1. yes, the excited writing, or a category i, personally, fall into more often: the gah, i just need to finish this post writing.

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  8. I loved this post. My grammar sucks and I have to check and double my check my spelling, still...but I agree that it matters less to me now than before I started blogging. I so related to your sonnet writing - it was part of my major and I remember the thrill of making iambic pentameter work! Then I went into an e.e. cummings phase and never looked back. It's nice to know that there are other semi-tortured grammar souls out there :)

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    1. my early education was pretty terrible, so i didn't learn proper grammar until i was in college. and once you had a terrible education those self-doubts can stick with you - i think that's what hangs me up most often when i actually run into an issue with it. most of the time it's just me being lazy/tired/in a hurry . . .

      this btw is making me want to write some poetry!

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  9. I love your perspective on this. Lately I've been worried about how my grammar skills have digressed since my English Lit major, but I just really don't care that much about putting every comma and semicolon in the perfect place. Repeated, obvious errors, such as their/there/they're do bother me, but I do believe that once you know the rules, you can break them. :)

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    1. yes, i was just saying, i know the rules which absolves me any feelings of shame. though, once in awhile i write a comment and see a series of terrible mistakes and think "i hope they know that those are just a typing mistakes and they don't think i am an idiot!" xo

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