Good Grammar and Bad Manners

good grammar

Good grammar and good manners.

I’m a writer, but before I’m a writer, I’m a human being. And as a human being, sometimes I make mistakes.

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes–some big, some small. Today, I want to talk about what happens when we, as writers, make a mistake in our work: a typo, an incorrectly structured sentence, or a misspelling.

When writers make mistakes like these, it can be embarrassing. Occasionally, when I’m going through old posts here at Writing Forward, I’ll come across some typo or mistake and I’ll fix it. I do everything I can to ensure that this happens as rarely as possible; I proofread everything I write from my blog posts to my comments, tweets, and emails. But sometimes, mistakes slip past.

There was a time when I’d catch one of my own (published) mistakes and be completely horrified. I could feel my neck and face turning red from embarrassment and even though I’d fix the mistake, it would haunt me for hours. Did it cause me to lose a reader or a client? How many people noticed it? I just wanted to crawl under a rock — even if was just one little tiny typo.


In time, I learned to be more forgiving. After all, a typo is not the end of the world. I’ve found them in some of the most prestigious publications in print and online. And in the larger scope of the world, getting bent out of shape over a grammatical, orthographical, or typographical error seems pretty petty.

Good Grammar

Sometimes, my mistakes are brought to my attention by someone else — a friend, a friendly reader, or a complete stranger. These corrections have arrived via email or a comment on the post where the perceived mistake appeared.

The first time this happened in the comments here at Writing Forward, I didn’t know what to do. This was years ago, not long after I started blogging. Of course, I immediately made the correction but wondered whether I should delete the corresponding comment on the post. Did I want to leave permanent proof that I’d made a (gasp!) mistake?

I decided that yes, I would leave the comment in place, thank the person, and move on. Let that stand as evidence that to err is human and I’m okay with being a mere human.

To Err is Human

Usually, when someone tips me off to a mistake, the message is thoughtful; I get a clear sense that it’s just one writer trying to help another writer out, which I greatly appreciate. One email I received recently had the subject line “Because I’d want someone to tell me…” I appreciated this person’s tact, understanding, and most of all, his candid approach.

Since I started this site, I’ve received such corrections occasionally, maybe once or twice a year.

Not long ago, I started receiving an onslaught of corrections — several in a single week. Oddly, most of them were wrong. They were confused about the difference between grammar and style issues or were nitpicking over semantics. Very few of these had a helpful or thoughtful tone. In fact, they mostly came across as chastising (Ha! You made a mistake, and I found it. Therefore, I’m better than you!).

Um, aren’t we all writers here?

Bad Manners

To me, the whole reason for practicing good grammar is to show respect for the craft and for one’s readers. Publicly correcting other writers with a berating tone is contrary to that spirit. Why bother with good grammar if you’re going to run around insulting other people with bad manners?

The Internet provides anonymity that we’ve never seen before on public forums. Most impolite comments, tweets, and emails that I’ve received have definitely been anonymous. So, I get the feeling these people know they’re being rude.

Conversely, just about every time someone has sent me a thoughtful and friendly heads-up to let me know something was wrong with my site — whether it was a typo or a broken link — they’ve used their real name and email address and often included a link to their own website.

To Forgive is Divine

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, I think these situations will continue to arise more and more frequently, especially for writers and bloggers who put themselves and their work in front of the reading public.

As with any critiques, our initial response to a thoughtful or friendly correction might be defensive or emotional. You might think you didn’t make a mistake, or you might be offended that someone is criticizing your work even though you didn’t ask for their advice or feedback. And when the correction is wrong or the delivery is nasty, there’s an even bigger likelihood that you’ll be offended (and rightly so).

On the other hand, as you travel around the web, you might see mistakes on other people’s blogs or you might come across them when you’re reading books. Should you stay mum or help a fellow writer out?

Good Grammar Manners

How can we handle nasty or haughty criticisms that are incorrect, uninvited, or just plain rude? And what do we do when we are faced with the question of whether to let someone know that we’ve found a mistake in their work?

To answer some of these questions for myself, I did an online search, wondering if there were any protocols in place for this sort of thing. I was pleased to find that Grammar Girl has addressed the issue quite well in her post “Grammar Manners.” The first question is whether you should correct someone at all.

If the person whom you wish to correct is your child, student, or employee, you should, of course, feel comfortable (if not obligated) to correct his or her grammar…

That makes sense. But what if it’s someone you don’t know or barely know? What if it’s someone who is your peer or even your boss or teacher?

If you do wish to correct the grammar of someone whom you truly believe would welcome and appreciate the correction, then start by asking them if it is OK to offer a suggestion…

I think the key phrase here is “someone whom you truly believe would welcome and appreciate the correction.” Most sensible and serious writers want to know if they’ve made a mistake in their writing. But most people, especially non-writers, don’t particularly like to be criticized or corrected.

With writers, I don’t think it’s necessary to ask whether it’s OK to offer a suggestion. Actually, I think sending a friendly email (instead of leaving a comment or issuing a tweet) is the way to go. This keeps the matter private and will help you build a relationship with the person in question, who will likely appreciate your approach.

Grammar Girl makes another important point:

And of course, be certain that you understand the specific grammatical rules and how to apply them before making a correction.

Normally, I wouldn’t even mention this because it’s unimaginable to me that one would go around correcting people without being 100% sure of the rules. Yet, I’ve received several such corrections. I have also seen incorrect corrections in the comments sections of other blogs. I imagine the only thing more embarrassing than making a mistake is being wrong when you try to publicly correct someone else for making one.

Coping with Corrections

How can we deal with people who offer corrections and criticisms?

Personally, I always try to be polite, whether someone is friendly and heartfelt in their correction or rude and snobbish. Of course, if the correction is wrong (and I’ve looked it up to double-check that my usage was proper), I will defend my work and explain the rule and my source to my critic.

I’ll leave you with a few final words from Grammar Girl:

A more subtle approach can be just using correct grammar yourself—not in a pedantic way but just as a good example.

That’s my motto!

How do you feel about making public or uninvited corrections on other people’s writing? Has anyone ever corrected you or have you ever corrected someone else on a blog, social media, or public forum? How did you handle it? What do you think is more important — good grammar or good manners? Leave a comment and pitch in your two cents!

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

46 Responses to “Good Grammar and Bad Manners”

  1. barbara says:

    I want to be told when I’ve made a mistake. If the person with the correction is petty and self-congratulatory, well, that’s their problem.

  2. shaz says:

    good manners. I agree with Grammar girl, Send a private e-mail if possible

    • That definitely seems to be the consensus, Shaz. I think it boils down to doing what you’d want someone else to do if the shoe were on the other foot.

  3. Michael Doiley says:

    Dear Melissa,
    Thanks again for Writing Forward, it is a welcome service and anyone with even the slightest compassion would understand the time and energy that goes into maintaining a blog like yours. Not only should you be applauded for your work, all budding writers should light a candle and say your name at least once a day!
    Some people feel that insulting other people’s efforts makes them somehow superior than the person they are insulting; just like in abusive relationships. Nevertheless, It is they who have the problem and often they need help in areas of their lives more profound than their writing skills.
    Your visible and accesible point of contact is a ‘gift’ for many insecure souls who are searching for a vent for their own personal-private discomfort. When I get a venomous email I write my heartfelt sometimes explosive reply, save it for a day, then delete it the following day, when the heat has gone out of the moment.
    I see it as a test of my tenacity and faith in my direction. The overall message is always more important than ‘perfection’. A dictionary is perfect but I don’t know anyone who’s read it cover to cover.
    Your fans honour your presence but may sometimes be too shy or even fearful to articulate it because they would be presenting themselves to you in an arena where you regarded as a master. I’m a married man and so I’m used to being abused by my family memebers so you don’t scare me (joke!).
    A light that shines brightly can be annoying or it can illuminate the area where you stand. We all choose what that light will be for us. Do remember, yours is a light that really does shine and for 99.9999% of us that is just how we like it. The rest, can look away.
    Michael.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Michael. It’s interesting that you compare harsh comments and criticisms to abusive relationships. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Certainly there are abusive people out there who practice their cruelty by constantly berating others. Surely, these bullies are floating around on the web. I like your method of writing your reply and later deleting it. That’s probably a good way to vent your frustrations! Thanks again for your comment :)

  4. carol ritzel says:

    theres know wrong in correcting someone in writing, if the person is writing for tweeters or facebook for all to see , its our or your right to correct them.we are the people reading, who wants to read a bunch of mistakes , in a way your just telling them .please be your best ,i can help you. appreciation granted.

    • Hi Carol, I never said that people don’t have the right to correct other people. Obviously, they are free to do so. This discussion is about manners. You also have the “right” to go into someone’s house as a guest and start insulting them and berating their hosting skills. That doesn’t mean such behavior is polite or acceptable. I also wanted to share this post to encourage discussion about how to go about correcting a fellow writer who has made a mistake. Obviously, having a little tact will go a long way.

      Also, I feel that if more writers, tweeters, and bloggers would take a couple of minutes to proofread their work before they post or publish, readers wouldn’t have to suffer through so many mistakes, which is another discussion altogether.

  5. Michelle says:

    I like bad grammar when it is colloquial. I think it is much more human and real fun to write. If it is obviously done by mistake I would tell someone and not mind too much if others commented on mine . However criticism is only well received by me IF I am AT MYSELF !So if it grates on my nerves I do have to watch how my mind talk is and so I think depending on who is asking me to critique their work I wuld be sensitive as very often people do need approval and not perfection.
    I don’t like people asking me to edit stuff for them because if it is (as I might consider) poor writing then I haven’t the heart to tell them so . If it’s fab I will ! But then one has to look at why people write and to whose standards they should write to.
    Is all that a bit ‘waffly’………………………..I DO enjoy a good ‘waffle’.
    Michelle

    • Hi Michelle,

      Giving critiques is not for everyone. Some of us just don’t have the heart to tell another writer that their work needs work. I do think it gets easier with practice. If you want to strengthen your critique skills, you could always practice by writing critiques and keeping them to yourself. After doing a few of these, you might find that you’re more willing to share your suggestions with other writers, especially those who’ve asked for your feedback. But if you’re not comfortable, then you shouldn’t feel obligated (unless, of course, you’re in a workshop or other setting where critiques are required).

      I too get a kick out of colloquial phrases and expressions. Grammar is necessary because it gives us a framework, but breaking the rules (as long as you know the rules and why you are breaking them) can add a bit of spice to the writing.

  6. Kelly says:

    This is a wonderful article. I am one of those people to whom mistakes stand out glaringly. However, I learned early on that unless someone is asking me to proofread (which they do) or they might really want to fix something that is wrong, I need to focus on content, not mistakes.

    If a writer-friend, or another person who would appreciate feedback, makes a mistake in a post, I send them a private message. I believe the practice of correcting someone’s spelling or grammar publicly as a comment in a post is insensitive and rude.

    I will, however, correct factual information in a public post to clarify the author’s message or point out incorrect information that gives the reader the wrong idea.

    Thank you for the food for thought!

    Kelly

    • I’m with you 100% Kelly. I have learned to ignore typos and focus on content, especially on blogs and sites that aren’t writing- or grammar-related. Also, I get the feeling that if I made it a habit of sending a message every time I spotted a typo, I would lose a few hours a day. A couple of times, I have sent private messages, but only when I feel comfortable doing so. Debating the factual content is usually warranted as part of the overall discussion, which blogs are built for. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Fernanda says:

    Hi Melissa

    Thanks for the thoughtful posting. English is not my native language (this is Portuguese) but I do write in English sometimes and I have a bilingual blog. I always appreciate when friends suggest corections so I can learn. If this suggestion is about my Portuguese though I have the same feeling you had when you had your first correction suggestion.

    Cheers and keep writing nice postings like this.
    Fernanda Martins

    • Hi Fernanda, You have brought a whole new set of considerations to the discussion: what if the writer is not a native English speaker? Does that change how we approach corrections? I think that on a bilingual site or one that is about learning a new language, best practices are completely different. I think open corrections are probably more acceptable in cases like those because it’s understood that everyone is learning the language. It’s a much different scenario. Thanks for bringing it up :)

  8. RS Bohn says:

    What’s more important? Hm, not sure how to answer that. But I can say that if someone finds a flaw in my writing, they should contact me via email and be polite. And like anything, a bit of sugar makes it all go down better. :)

    “I really liked your story, and I just wanted to let you know that there is a comma out of place in this sentence: XXXX.”

    I would heartily thank them. However, I used to post fic to a site with a review function, and one reviewer used it to only leave corrections for authors. A writer could post a six-thousand-word short story and receive a public comment like this: “In this sentence, XXX, you should have written it like this: YYYY.” Over and over, on nearly everything that was posted, she would find a single mistake. No mistakes? She didn’t say anything at all.

    What did I do? I did send her an email asking her to privately contact the authors and not post a public comment, but got no response, and she continued to do this. So I simply stopped responding to her “reviews.”

    So, to sum up: If you see something that needs correcting, contact the author privately (there is almost always a link to their email or blog, which in turn leads to their email) and be polite.

    • This is why I’m not a fan of most online critique forums. The only one that I liked had strict rules and the commenter you’ve described would have been kicked out.

      I agree that if you see a mistake and feel compelled to correct the writer, the only polite way is to send a private message.

  9. Janice Hardy says:

    I make my share of mistakes on the blog for sure, and it kills me every time I realize it. I do my best to be typo-free, but stuff still slips though. Especially in titles where there is no spell check. I fix them as soon as I see them/am told about them and I appreciate it when someone lets me know. Most folks are nice about it.

    I ignore typos in other’s posts, unless it’s something like a link or a name, then I’ll let them know. I know blog posts are often written quickly and I’m not going to hold a typo against anyone. I don’t expect perfection in blogs. I’m much more interested in the content of the post than a typo here and there. If a blog entertains me, teaches me, or somehow engages me I’m happy.

    • Ugh, mistakes in titles and headings are the worst. I learned to triple-check those the hard way! I’m like you, I ignore typos in other people’s posts (with a few, rare exceptions), mostly because I see them all the time and I simply don’t have time to compose emails every time I come across one.

  10. Crystal Watts says:

    As writers, I believe there are many times we are often harder on ourselves about making mistakes. However, there are times when we might address a topic on best practice, tools, and tips and someone else is oh so eager to point out a missed flaw.

    I too have been guilty of wanting to crawl under a rock after realizing I missed some errors, but what can you do? What’s done is done. You fix it, thank the reader for catching what you missed and move on.

    “I decided that yes, I would leave the comment in place, thank the person, and move on. Let that stand as evidence that to err is human and I’m okay with being a mere human.”

    Excellent decision! From novice to expert, we all have to learn – were human and it happens.
    No one is perfect and we all have to start somewhere. Thanks Melissa for your transparency on this topic. It is greatly appreciated and will surely set someone free from shame.

    • Thanks Crystal! I agree that we are usually harder on ourselves, although sometimes I get comments and feedback on this blog that make me think there are folks out there surfing around in search of writing that they can criticize. What I find most curious are the comments that point out mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes. To be brutally honest, those bother me the most because I sense those folks are probably propagating bad grammar. And I’m curious as to where they’re getting their information. Anyway, thanks again for your comment :)

  11. Jess says:

    I’m generally thankful when someone points a mistake to me, whether it is typographical, grammatical, or spelling related. Most of the time, I read poetry. So, grammar and punctuation are a bit relative. However, there are certainly cases where thoughts were flowing faster than fingers were typing and excitement led to publishing without proofreading. I try to alert people of their mistakes in a helpful manner, anonymously if possible.

    I recognize that some mistakes are part of the creativity, such as incomplete sentences in poetry or colloquialisms in speech. Those things I usually enjoy for their added character to the work.

    Good manners is certainly important. If someone is correcting grammar mistake, they should be polite.

    • Hi Jess, I get all kinds of comments here at Writing Forward, and some of the anonymous ones are quite friendly and thoughtful. But I have noticed that pretty much all of the rude or harsh comments are anonymous, which tells me that the rude and harsh people know they are being tactless and don’t care. This actually fascinates me. I have mixed feelings about anonymity on the web. I do think there are times when it’s appropriate, but sometimes it’s unnecessary or people use anonymity so they can be cruel without having to answer for their behavior. I’m sure sociologists will eventually conduct studies about it (if they haven’t already). Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

  12. Shane says:

    A very useful post on good grammar. Great job Melissa !

  13. In the six or so years I’ve been blogging, I’ve received two comments that corrected my grammar mistakes in elaborate ways. Of course that doesn’t mean I’ve only made two errors, but for some reason these two readers left long, detailed comments about word choice specifically, I think, and why my word choice was wrong. Mind you, my blog is mainly a chatty homeschooling blog! It was very odd. Anyway, private emails are nice. Everyone makes mistakes, even grammar freaks.

    • Only two? You’re lucky. I would imagine a homeschooling blog would get those types of comments all the time. Yes, private emails are nice and are definitely the way to go. Reading through all the comments on this post has me reconsidering my policy of approving comments that correct or criticize. I wonder — if bloggers stopped publishing those types of comments, would those commentators be more likely to send their messages privately? Hm.

  14. John says:

    Excellent post. My own mistakes are the ones that bother me most; there’s always some anxiety when I click the “publish” button. And even if I’ve re-read my post fifty times, I still see something that bothers me when I go back and read it later. A few years ago I deleted an entire blog because I was embarrassed by the poor writing in one of my posts!

    • Thanks John. It takes practice to be forgiving of our own capacity for making mistakes. I hope you’re a little easier on yourself now than you were when you deleted an entire blog. The internet allows us to make knee-jerk reactions (like deleting an entire blog), which takes some getting used to.

  15. Kelvin Kao says:

    Really, unless it’s a blog about grammar or writing, where they need to set good examples for these things, I don’t really care if there’s a typo. Usually I sent them a tweet or private email. If it’s a blogger that’s pretty familiar with me (such as you, Melissa), I would probably proceed to tease him/her in the message as well, perhaps with some kind of pun. Of course, that’s not appropriate in all situations.

    Most of the time, I just don’t care.

    • I think you have punned me a correction in the past. But you and I have known each other for a while, and I think the rules of etiquette vary a bit when you know the person whom you’re correcting.

  16. Krissy Brady, Writer says:

    When revising posts for my blog especially, I do appreciate when someone posts to let me know there is either a grammar/spelling error, or if there is something that needs to be corrected in the information I have posted. I welcome this because it helps to maintain a good quality blog that others will find useful. However, I do not understand those who point it out and act like they are the epitome of perfection, like they’ve never made a mistake in their life. Aren’t we on the same team?

    All you can do (especially if you notice a mistake yourself), is laugh it off. I think it’s important to maintain a good attitude, because the fact is we WILL make mistakes. For example, I accidentally wrote “right” instead of “write” when I was posting in a LinkedIn writing group. For me, blog post commenting and group participation are the places where I can relax, chat with other like-minded writers, and make a mistake or two. I’d rather use my editing energy towards my WIP or my blog.

  17. Julie says:

    I never set out to become a writer. I’ve been blogging for five years now and becoming more serious about being a good writer. This blog is a welcome resource.

    Yesterday, someone corrected my grammar in a tweet by poking fun. This isn’t a person I know well and it was rather offensive to me. I am grateful for grammar correction when done nicely as opposed to poking fun.

    • Hi Julie, As much as I endorse the idea that writers should study grammar, I do not think it’s the end-all-be-all of good writing and I have less and less tolerance for people who go around pointing out little mistakes on everyone else’s blogs and social media sites. However, I do think it’s fair to harshly criticize the grammar in a published novel or book.

      Last week, someone left a nasty comment here, saying that my blog was like “a filthy doctor’s office” because I left the word “to” out of a sentence. I’m sure from context, it was obvious that I know the word and how to use it. I made a mistake, a very minor oversight. Hardly comparable to “a filthy doctor’s office.” People can be incredibly rude and insensitive. I think that finding someone else’s mistakes and pointing them out in a nasty rather than helpful way makes them feel better about themselves.

      Anyway, keep your chin up. You’ll find that some people are also sweet about letting you know you’ve made a typo. The same day last week, I received a thoughtful email from another reader, who much more politely and considerately pointed out the same mistake.

      As bad as grammar is in the world today, if I had to choose, I’d rather see manners improve.

  18. Rachael says:

    This is going to sound stupid, but what would you suggest for someone trying to understand grammar from the bottom up?

    My grammar is my weakest area in writing but I don’t know where to start. I have to admit that grammar terrifies me. I missed whatever grammar lessons that are taught in elementary because I’d been put into speech therapy (I had several solid years of terrible ear infections that left me deaf for most of that time.) When I was deemed fit, my classes had moved onto reading literature.

    I write a lot and read even more (and I mean a lot.) I rewrite all my stories and such like, but I’m told my grammar is still bad. I’ve gotten some style guides and grammar books but it’s very overwhelming (I’m certain this dreadful fear doesn’t help.) I find it hard to incorporate a thousand little rules and I’m certain it’s because I don’t have a frame of reference to hang them on. I read the post that says “if the sentences looks wrong, break it down” but I don’t even know how to do that. I mean, I can “feel” the sentence sounds wrong but I can’t explain the whys.

    Is there a good book to learn the basics and work your way up? And what’s the best way to learn (besides reading and writing — taking into consideration that I don’t know how to break sentences down)? Should I be busting out the flash cards and markers?

    I’m really sorry for the wall o’ text. I know how stupid this sounds. I don’t know how to write my mother tongue. But thanks regardless.

    • Based on what you’ve written here, I don’t think your grammar is too terrible. I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think. You should not be embarrassed or nervous about it. Many great writers struggle with grammar. It’s something we all have to learn, and it can take a lifetime. I would recommend that you start with Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. It’s fairly light and entertaining to read, but it covers all the basics and I think it’s a good starting place. Good luck to you!

  19. Nahiyan bin Asadullah says:

    Hello Melissa, I’m not a native speaker of English (it’s Bengali, Bangladesh). However, I do consider English as my native language (My dreams are in English!). The problem I have is I always have a hard time dealing with grammatical issues.

    I actually am a graduate in English language & literature. But I’m still not sure if I have a proper grammar. How do you find out your level of grammar? And if you see you need improvements, how do you go about polishing it?

    • Hi Nahiyan, Since you’re in an English program, your best bet would be to ask your instructors. Here in the U.S., our schools usually have counselors and writing centers, which are great resources to help you with your writing and to give you an idea of your level of achievement in writing and literature. I also recommend picking up some grammar resources. I’ve recommended several on my books page; you might find those helpful. Good luck to you!

  20. I still remember my first public typos — especially terrifying as I was making a name for myself as a book editor. (It’s like being an editor means waving a flag challenging people to find them!) I suppose it’s like any other aspect of a community: some people want to help because they’re kind and supportive, others want to show others how right they are. In any case, I’ve learned that all you can do is smile and be gracious. Meeting rude comments with kindness tends to baffle the heck out of anyone looking to get a rise. :)

  21. Mori says:

    Unfortunately, people like to have something to be right about. On the internet, bad behavior isn’t even always about anonymity – people behave badly with their legal name and photo attached on Facebook. It’s more about a sense of unreality – the people on the other side of the screen aren’t real. They’re just characters on the internet.

    And that allows many people to wallow in their desire to go forth and demonstrate how “right” they can be about anything. Generally this manifests as hostile negativity because many reason that most things are bad, therefore being negative is likely to be correct.

    But criticism put forth merely to demonstrate one’s own ego or show off a hostile personality isn’t useful. It’s just showing off and begging for some attention. Even if you do happen to be correct about something you’ll still look immature, foolish, or simply odious.

  22. Kimberly says:

    I am in an English graduate program. I have also been an English teacher for over 10 years. In my fiction class, there was a woman who would do line by line edits. She didn’t critique, she tried to just rewrite everything the way she thought it should sound, not taking individual style into account. She critiqued a story of mine two weeks in a row. Both times she made corrections that were wrong. She mixed up passed and past by not paying attention to how I had used “past” in the sentence (it was an adverb). She also told me that with a third person narrator you can’t just be in one character’s head. She said you have to be in all of them or write in first person. The first week I said nothing. The second week, I sent her links about point of view and the difference between past and passed. She said I was being a know it all and did not appreciate her help. She didn’t help me at all, especially since she did not check her information before posting it. Anyway, just wanted to share. Thanks for this great post!

    • I would say the problem in your fiction class was the instructor. It is the instructor’s job to teach students how to properly critique each other’s work and then act as a moderator of the critique sessions. Unfortunately, there are people who love to dish out criticism but who cannot take it at all. I was lucky because I didn’t experience anyone like that in the writing classes and workshops that I took, but I’ve encountered a few of them in life. They will never stop being critical and they will never accept criticism for others, so I just try to tune them out or look for nuggets of wisdom in their feedback. Take what they say with a nod and move on.

  23. Kay says:

    I think the more important question is, :”What constitutes “good” grammar? As the above graduate student in English can probably attest, grammar rules have gone in and out of style over hundreds of years. Thus, what is “in” today may be “out” in the near future (only to come back “in” later in time). What is more, who sets the grammar rules and deems them the “correct” way to communicate? For example, does, “I ain’t goNNa Do it” versus the arguably correct, “I will not do it” or “I am not doing it”, change the meaning of this statement or its understanding to the receiver? Probably not.

    • Good point, Kay. Some people use this argument as an excuse for shoddy writing and bad grammar. While the standards do change, they change over long periods of time, and grammar is based on logic and consistency. The argument against “I ain’t goNNa Do it” would be that the capitalization makes no sense and follows no discernible rules. There’s a quote about how grammar is consensus, something we collectively agree on, and I suppose we use our dollars and voices to elect the people who put forth grammar guides. Interesting stuff!