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Should We Insist on Proper Grammar?

TRANSCRIPT:

Hi folks!  Erin from Matters of Grammar here, and this is my very first Matters of Grammar video so – hey! And thanks for watching.

So I’ll admit, sometimes when I’m wasting time, scrolling through the internet, I’ll come across a grammar error.  Maybe it’ll say your awesome – YOUR.  Or maybe it’ll be the dreaded “I seen."  And when I come across those things, my first reaction is to cringe because I know it’s, well, wrong.

And as someone who lives and breathes the English language, I’ll also often get tagged in those grammar shaming articles that find people’s spelling mistakes and then rip them apart. 

But here’s the thing – insisting on picture-perfect grammar and spelling is a result of privilege.  And it’s not okay.

Some people are born with natural abilities in sports, or math, or science.  For me, it was language – specifically, English.  I chose to hone that skill, seeking out additional education to really refine my knowledge.  My ability to do that is a direct result of my circumstance, and some of that circumstance is available to me simply because of who I was born. Of who I am.

If you are great at English, it’s a result of your education, your opportunities, your natural ability and probably? Your race and class.

Expecting everyone to have mastered the intricacies of our language is unrealistic and totally unfair.  English is hard, and just because it’s something you understand doesn’t mean it has to or even should be something that others understand.  I certainly can’t remember algebra to save my life, but I don’t see math enthusiasts mocking me for getting a calculation wrong.  And while I went to French Immersion, I have no faith in my ability to effectively conjugate French verbs.  

I haven’t even gotten into the fact that “Proper English” is something that white people decided a long time ago, and that there are many variations on words and phrases by numerous populations.  Who is to decide which one is correct?

If you can understand what someone was trying to say, that needs to be good enough.  Especially for trivial things like social media posts – if you get the gist, then their mission was accomplished. Let’s stop acting like using the wrong version of their somehow negates the entire message.  A person’s mastery of the white English is not an indicator of their overall intelligence – let’s stop perpetuating that type of discrimination, shall we?

Now I know what you’re thinking – how can I say this when I own a business Called matters of grammar? Well, the reality is that “Proper English” is still the standard that people hold others to, especially in their search for goods and services.  I offer writing and editing for things like websites, blogs, and resumes – the instances where not being professional and correct will cost you business.  But ensuring grammatical accuracy on a website is markedly different than scoffing at someone’s spelling error on social media.  And I’m lucky enough to be pretty good at this stuff, so I offer my talents to others who strengths lie in other areas.  Just don’t ask me to solve for X too, all right?

What do you think about society’s expectations on grammar and spelling? Leave a comment below!