Dear Digital Grammar Nazis,
Hi. How are you doing? In the first place, I’d like to make it known that I understand where you are coming from because I used to be one of you. Almost every read on the internet provided an opportunity for me to put my grammar and spelling critiquing skills to use. After all, if people are going to write online, I would insist that they do so error-free. Especially on blogs, pop culture sites, and social media, I thought the writer could benefit from my feedback. It was hard to take people seriously who obviously did not take the time to read over their writings to perfection.
Then I began to write and edit online. My attitude towards writing and editing was given some much needed perspective. In my own writing I realized how incredibly imperfect my grammar and spelling was. No matter how many times I edited, I would always end up missing something. It was then I realized the value of an extra set of eyes. When you write your own pieces for a site or blog, unfortunately that is not a privilege you always get. This experience was useful when I edited others’ work and rather than getting frustrated by what I would have previously deemed as careless writing, I gained compassion because I knew the extra set of eyes that were mine would make a difference to their work.
Still, if a person is going to say he or she is a writer, they ought to be more careful. Poor grammar and spelling can affect an otherwise decent or really great piece. But during one of my premiere graduate classes last fall when one student had remarked that people who don’t know the difference between, “there” and “their” are stupid, I had another change in perspective. To the surprise of most of the class, the professor disagreed with the student. She said something like, “If you understand the message someone is trying to convey and it is a decent or good or beautiful message, will you really let a misspelled or incorrect word get in the way? If you know what someone meant to write or say, will you let the miniscule get in the way of the great? If you do, you might be the stupid one.”
It was a humbling message for all of us as we sat there and wondered what this meant for our own academic life. Of course my professor did not mean that she would all of a sudden cease to care about our grammar and spelling; she was saying that if the content quality is present, if the message is clear and concise, if you can understand and appreciate someone’s work even with errors, are those errors not insignificant enough that you don’t need to let them get in the way of your enjoyment of their work?
Lastly Grammar Nazis, I’d like you to know that I, like most writers do appreciates it when you point things out, I really do. But occasionally I wonder: Are you missing the importance of the pieces you read because of your longing to point out the insignificant imperfections? And don’t get me wrong, Grammar Nazis – we need you, we need you because you keep us seeking perfection in our work. But for your own sake, when you read something, notice the withering tree by all means, but not at the expense of missing out on the entire forest.
A Former Digital Grammar Nazi
P.S. I’m sorry for any grammar or spelling mistakes in this piece. Focus on the forest guys, focus on the forest.