Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Grammar Police

Earlier this week, I received the latest draft of a document to which a number of colleagues have contributed. Some grammatical problems remain from earlier revisions, but they are minor. I am going to leave them alone.

Be it curse or blessing, grammatical errors jump out and make me crazy. I suppose it's (its its its) to be expected that grammar seems to matter less and less, judging by many newspapers these days. And those who write actual letters and send them in the mail are seen as dinosaurs by those who only e-mail or text, writing words reduced to shortcuts (RU4 sure?).

Instinctively, I still want to fix every mistake I notice (and I no longer catch as many as I once did). In part, I'd like to fix poorly penned sentences because I've sensed that the more bad writing that we read, the more removed we as readers are from how good writing works. What if we, then, gradually lose the ability to write well?

My decision not to correct the document to which I referred earlier has more to do with recognizing my own pride and judgment when spotting what to me are maddening errors. What, I wonder, makes reading ghastly punctuation maddening for me? What does it say about my need to be around those who write vividly and speak articulately, judging others as though they are less worthy?

On the other hand, some of us have got to stand up for excellence in writing, before that excellence diminishes even more. But for now, I am going to let the errors I noted rest, putting aside perfectionism and turning my eye to more basic needs of those for whose souls I care.