On typos and humility

I will never be able to use your article to convince anyone until you proofread it properly. You lost me at the improper use of “their.” Please fix and have someone proofread the rest of your article. Once corrections are made, let me know so that I may share it with others.

Long, long ago, I saw this biting comment at the bottom of a blog post about why men should read Jane Austen. (A very worthy and valuable topic, I’d say.) I cringed when I read it. I cringed not just at its bitterness, but because I knew, deep down, that while I’d never dare write or say something like that, I had long been plagued with a similar condescending, self-righteous, grammar Nazi attitude. Always hidden, of course. But always present.

I, too, am bothered by the there/their/they’re misunderstanding. By apostrophes where they don’t belong. By comma splices and mixed metaphors and run-on sentences. Even passive voice really gets to me. As an English major, I feel somewhat entitled to this comfortable seat on my high grammar horse. Words matter. Language, constructed carefully and artfully and properly, has the power to convey such beauty. A well-written novel or newspaper or note can move its reader, can break a heart or heal it, can express a profound truth previously unknown.

I’ve been amazed to see blatant errors in published works. I’ve felt at once a sense of contempt and self-satisfaction at my finds. If only they had had me edit this first, I’d think to myself. Then all would somehow be set right. I’d restore some order to the written world. Justice would prevail. Dramatic? Yes. True? Somewhat.

But then I’ve encountered a disturbing problem. I, too, find typos in my own writing. I’ve spelled “dryer” wrong and used the wrong “principle” (or is it “principal”?) and have very possibly fallen into every grammar trap that I’ve found satisfaction in correcting. And I am wholly convinced there are many out there that I will never notice, even in this very blog of mine. I’ve come to learn that I, the self-processed expert in this minefield of grammatical complexity, am unmistakably imperfect.

It’s a call for humility, really. It’s a recognition (that I am coming to realize in more ways than one) that it is not “me versus them”; rather, I am them. I am just as flawed, just as unaware, just as worthy of patience and understanding and the benefit of the doubt. My grammatical errors do not detract from my legitimacy as a writer, they do not discount my ideas, and they do not determine my worth or lack thereof.

So, thanks for reading despite my imperfections. Thanks for being a part of the process as I wrestle my way through this lesson in humility. But, please, if you do find a typo? Tell me. Once corrections are made, I’ll let you know so that you may share this with others. ;)




Thanks for subscribing!