Grammar On My Mind

Grammar is hot. During a recent presentation on social media, I learned that the Grammar Girl site has one of the most popular podcasts in the U.S. and each weekly episode is downloaded more than 150,000 times. Then there’s the Facebook group “I judge you when you use poor grammar” (a fan site for the book of the same name, to be released Sept. 2009).  This group has more than 380,000 members.

Alphabet. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®Now I’m preoccupied with grammar.

Many years ago, a family member mentioned that my profession (writing and editing) sometimes made her nervous when it came to sending me written communication. She didn’t want me to judge any spelling or grammar mistakes she made. I don’t. I love hearing from her and the rest of my family. I’m interested in my family’s news – not our overall spelling and grammar skills.

However, I realized today that I do judge my fellow writers and editors. Like many who wield a sharp red pencil, I can’t stand to find errors in the print and online books, magazines and newspapers I read. That goes for professional blogs, too – especially professional blogs about writing.

We all make mistakes. I’ve cringed upon finding a typo in a blog and fixed it immediately. Whenever possible, I get someone to proofread my posts for me, although I realize not everyone has that luxury. So the first time I caught the typo in a professional writing blog (which will rename nameless here), I excused it. The second time, I thought, hmm… this person is paid to blog? And the third time, when there were multiple typos and grammar mistakes in the first paragraph, I decided to cancel my FeedBurner subscription to the blog.

Is that too harsh? If I’m reading advice on writing and freelancing, especially from someone paid to share his or her expertise, I expect it to be clean and well edited.

What do you think? Would you quit reading a blog because of typos and grammar glitches?

3 thoughts on “Grammar On My Mind

  1. @David: It is more shocking to see mistakes in books, especially when so much work goes into them. I’m reading Columbine by Dave Cullen and was floored to see a mistake. After all the years the author poured into the book, I would hope (expect, even) an editor to catch things like that. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    @Susan: No, it was definitely not your blog! I agree that it’s not possible to spend an afternoon on a blog post, so mistakes are bound to happen. You have a great point with the silly errors – that’s definitely what got to me today!

    Both of you helped me realize something. I didn’t find the content of the blog to be that insightful or compelling, which is probably why I noticed the mistakes. So, ultimately, my unsubscribe decision was probably based more on content than grammar.

  2. Yikes – I hope that wasn’t my blog! I know I’m sometimes guilty of missing words, because my brain processes faster than my fingers. I do proofread blog posts, but I can’t spend a whole afternoon on a blog post. For articles I would usually print it out, read it out loud, and let it marinate before sending, but since blogging moves at a faster pace, I like to get the ideas out there and not obsess over them. If I find an error later, I’ll fix it. I admit that I sometimes judge bloggers when they have lots of silly little errors (for instance, writers instead of writer’s), but I probably wouldn’t unsubscribe if it had good content. Grammar is one aspect of writing, but a strong voice and solid ideas also make interesting blog posts even if there’s an occasional typo.

  3. I wouldn’t stop reading. As you said, we all make mistakes. I do think we should correct them when they crop up though. I’m a little more shocked when I see them in books, particularly when the book has been through several editions. I spotted one last night in Besty Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees and another in Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon. It makes me wonder if once a book is in print, is it possible to correct these errors?

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