I’ll admit I’ve been a bit of a Grammar Grouch in the past. I learned from the master: my dad. Always my greatest influence, he is well educated and well read. If he was a woman, people would say he has a ‘strong personality’ but because he’s a man, he is forthright and erudite.
I was an early reader and a gun at spelling. I could beat anyone at Boggle or Scrabble at the age of eight.
To this day I can be relied upon to proofread anything within an inch of its life, fix your grammar and spelling, and cut your word count by at least 10%.
As a human, this has been seen as a flaw at times.
People tend not to like it when you point out all the ways they are wrong. About everything… All the time…
Luckily for me, as a writer, this is something of a benefit. In the old days, before spell check and ProWritingAid, my peers only appreciated such pedantry the night before turning in a group project.
What am I trying to say? All this waffle is just frosting on the cake. I’ve mixed my dessert metaphors but bear with me. What I am trying to say is that other than for the important stuff, editing a book, or signing important documents, if everyone could just read past the typos and the dodgy grammar, I think we’d all be a lot happier. Who cares if there’s a comma missing in that meme? Will the world end if someone uses the wrong ‘your’ or ‘there?’
What happened to reading for meaning?
Before smart phones, only the important things were written. Books, letters, love notes, shopping lists. We only committed to paper those things we wished to remember or convey.
Sure, in the late 90s we sent emails and before that we sent letters and before that we sent telegrams, but before screens took over our lives, our first, our most frequent, and our most regular interactions, were verbal and mostly face to face.
Now we often interact with friends, family, and colleagues through the written word, through texts, the various messenger apps, even through memes or tagging or ‘@ing’ someone in a post. The pandemic has seen something of a return to verbal communication but many of us, if we’re being honest, see that phone buzzing beside us and groan, ‘why can’t they just send a text?’
For those of us old enough to remember the old analogue phones, we either ignored our calls or let them go through to the answering machine, a clunky device with a tiny cassette tape that self-destructed at least once a year. I had one in the 90s that would jam and emit a piercing squeal, usually in the middle of the night.
Maybe I’m misguided and what I’m suggesting is that we all run down this slippery slope to oblivion. Maybe these most basic elements are exactly the things we should focus on. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves? Stitches in the fabric of humanity, save nine? If people stopped diluting their message with poor spelling, all would be right with the world. All the children would be safe, all the animals free.
Or maybe… all this time stuck at home has me pondering far too much and what I really need a good night out on the town?
God I hope there are no typos in this…