I know that, from time to time, I make some grammatical mistakes. I start too many sentences with And and So. I have tense issues. I use the wrong pronouns. And sometimes, sometimes, I even use the wrong “their.” There are three to choose from. It’s going to happen.
And if this matters to you, then you should unsubscribe immediately because here at Outdriving My Headlights, we value story–your story, my story, the stories we’re sharing with each other.
“But you’re a writer,” I hear you saying. “Isn’t grammar important to you? Don’t we need grammar to be able to communicate?”
Well, yes, we do. That’s true. The better we can wield the tools of grammar, syntax, vocabulary and spelling, the better we can craft our story.
But here’s my problem: when we’re all standing in line at the post office, tentatively chatting each other up to pass the slowed-to-a-crawl time, and the lovely lady in the green dress begins to captivate us with tales of her family’s recent safari in South Africa, you do not stop her to correct her pronoun usage.
I mean, you understood that she meant that her daughter and her were left on the bank by the boat, right? You didn’t think she meant her daughter and a lawn chair? Or her daughter and an eggplant?
I didn’t think so. So why are you correcting her?
a) You’re insecure enough to judge the sweet, well-traveled lady who was brave enough to share her story with you.
b) You’re selfish enough not to care that you’ve made her uncomfortable.
c) You’re a jackass.
d) All of the above.
And so here’s my point: if you’re already understanding the story, if you’re already communicating, and you’re still correcting grammar, then your primary goal isn’t to improve the communication at all. It’s to assert your own superiority and draw attention to yourself.
This provokes me to start a movement–a movement against the Grammar Police. This is for everyone I’ve ever met in my life who has stopped me right in the middle of my story to say, “No, it’s whom,” for all the writers I’ve known who use the rules of grammar to judge others, for that dumbass in the post office for stopping the nice lady’s story because I wanted to hear what happened with the snake and the sunglasses and now I’ll never know.
If you’d like to join my movement, consider yourself a member. We shall call ourselves The Grammar Mafia.
To all the Grammar Police out there, here is our letter to you.
Dear Grammar Police,
We see you. We’ve met you. We know you.
You correct your grandmother at the Thanksgiving table. You scoff at the television. You laugh at “supposeably.”
You judge us by our typos. You use silly words like “masticate” and “utilize.” You never use “lie” when you mean “lay.”
We are not impressed.
We are not impressed by technical knowledge spewed out by rote. We do not value the judgment of others and we do not care for your self-righteous superiority. We believe that meaningful human communication depends more on honesty, transparency, and earnestness than on the correct conjugation of “to swim.”
As long as communication is made with respect, kindness, and a genuine willingness to share, we will honor it. We will value it. We will reach out to it so that it can bring us closer together, regardless of whether or not someone says “less” when he or she meant “fewer.”
And if you show up here with your judgment and superiority, we will fight you with Tommy guns loaded with self-acceptance and tolerance. We will bootleg compassionate curiosity. We will beat clever metaphors to death.
Consider yourself warned.
Just know that we are out here, waiting on you to out yourself at a party when someone says “irregardless.” We won’t take kindly to your grammatical suggestions. We will stand up for everyone who has ever made a silly mistake because they were caught up in the story.
And (in the Godfather voice, lightly scratching our chins) we just might make you an offer you can’t refuse.
Diane “Bugsy” Whiddon
Head of the Denver Outfit
The Grammar Mafia