I read the most interesting blog. titled Do the ‘Grammar Police’ Lack Communication Skills? It was written by Dr. Peter Dewitt. I had no idea who this man was so I googled him like every other good cyberstalker would. His bio is very impressive! He has penned four books, runs a consulting agency, and has over 20,000 Twitter followers. I would consider him a leader in the education field.
His blog started strong right out of the gate. He writes:
We all have them in our lives. A few of them will be reading this blog with disdain. They have spent years perfecting their craft on correcting the way they…and everyone else around them…talk. And they want to be able to use their grammar intelligence on anyone they can.
I know these kinds of people. They correct you when you mispronounce a word. They hit you up when your blog has misspellings. They tell you the word you used didn’t exactly mean what you thought it meant. He calls them the… GRAMMAR POLICE! I use another name for them. English teachers. These are the people that dedicated their lives to the teaching and learning of a language that has been so bastardized by social media. One of them reading this right now will email me or comment that I use the word bastardized wrong but gosh it’s a funny word so I will sneak it in here twice!
Back to the blog. Dr. Dewitt goes on to state:
The truth is, I make many mistakes when writing blogs. Guilty as charged! On average I write two blogs a week, and I’m bound to make mistakes. I enjoy when my editor contacts me or even a friend to say some word is misused. Why? Even after reading and rereading the posts, we as writers, are bound to miss mistakes that we have made. However, because we write professionally we are fair game and should be corrected.
Yes, I am in total agreement. When we write multiple books, are an educational consultant, and publish blogs consistently we are held to a higher standard. (I use the proverbial we here. Although I don’t even know if I used proverbial in the previous sentence correctly.)
He then starts to lose me. He states:
If we focus on how well someone uses their words, don’t we miss out on the meaning they’re trying to convey? The grammar police are actually, in my mind, quite elitist…but I don’t know if all of them mean to be so elitist. Unfortunately, they seem more concerned about using big words and correcting some silly grammar instead of actually listening to what their family member or friend may be saying.
Isn’t that presumptuous to assume that they missed the message? Can’t an English teacher understand the message and be annoyed by the basic writing mistakes that a middle or high schooler would make?
His next statement completely flummoxes me. (had to make sure that was the right word there. Oh, no! Is that the right there! Is that the right right or is it write?)
We are sometimes the reason why parents don’t come to school to meet about their child. They hear the judgment when they can’t use the big educational words that the grammar police can use.
While someone who speaks eloquently may turn off the parent it is again bold to think this is the reason why they don’t show up to meetings. I would imagine it has to do more with acronyms, their association with school, or fear of being judged as a parent than our lexicon. Assuming that parents can’t understand our words is elitist in itself.
He gets me back on his train with his closing paragraph, though.
What I am saying is that there are more important things than just grammar, and we should think about that the next time we want to show our friends how important we are by using the right words or chastising them for not knowing the right words to use.
There are more important things than grammar. There is starvation, murder, abuse, and corruption. People of Color are still being discriminated against and women are still being underpaid for the same work as men. The LGBTQIA community is being harassed worse than ever before. Hate crimes seem to be appearing all over the country. There are many, many more important things than grammar.
It’s not that grammar is the most important it’s that it is important. It is significant to English teachers. That is what they do. They live it, eat it, and breathe it. (breath or breathe uh oh) People notice grammatical errors. In the end it is about how we are told that we are wrong that makes all the difference. Was it done to knock us down or help us?
Blogging is a very personal endeavor. I have done it faithfully every Sunday for over two years. This is on top of being a dad, a husband, working full time, working three extra jobs, being on the state board of NJ for health physical education recreation and dance, being on the EdCamp NJ planning committee, and presenting all over the country. My blogs are filled with errors because I write them, proofread once, and hit publish. The fact that anyone with a family and a job blogs at all is amazing. We do not need to put them down in order to feel better about ourselves. At the same time, we can not let our students believe that publishing to the world with mistakes is acceptable. I am grateful when people hit me up on the SIDE (hint) and tell me where my mistakes are. We are judged by the quality of our work and I would like mine to be as top notch as it can be.
If you want to avoid the Grammar Police I would recommend using Grammarly (thanks for that tip Dr. Stanec). It is the greatest writing tool out there. The free version is awesome. If I was a professional blogger who made a living on people reading my blog I would pay for the professional version. Think of it as the radar detector for Grammar Police. It has corrected 27,045 errors for me in this blog alone.
In the end, it is about pushing education forward. That can only be done when we are all respectful of each other as well as help push each other. So English teachers be nice and hit someone up on the side if you see a mistake (again another hint) and bloggers don’t get so defensive when someone calls you out. After all as Eric Sheniger says, “we are all in the same sandbox together.”