Learning Good Grammar Is a Nightmare: A Satirical Story
My Grammar Diagnosis
It has come to my attention that I have become a tad careless with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and taking the necessary time to edit thoroughly. It is so easy to let your guard down when you are in a hurry for people to read your brilliant work. "What's a few grammar and spelling errors, " I used to think, "when my content is so captivating?" But grammar Nazi's are stalking me and calling me out. It's making me feel so inferior. It sent me running to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with GDD - Grammar Dysfunction Disorder. It's so humiliating. But, I was heartened to discover recently that even the great writer and poet Carl Sandburg was not impervious to an occasional grammar faux pas. Listen to what he had to say:
I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life, and as soon as I done it, I seen it."— Carl Sandburg - Poet
Applying For a Writing Job
Recently one particular grammar Nazi viciously attacked me and it wasn't pretty. I am now in recovery lest I lose my good standing with Hubpages. Following is my story. I tell it in hopes that you will find hope and recovery as well.
It all began the other day when I applied for a writing job at another online media outlet. When I applied they had me take a twenty question quiz on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Following that, I had to submit a one hundred word paragraph on a product to promote. They gave me the product keywords, and a few rules to use while writing. So the product they gave me was...are you ready? Black cupboard knobs. No kidding. They even provided a picture of a boring little black knob. Actually, I tip my hat to them for giving applicants this kind of challenge. If you can make black cupboard knobs sound enticing and interesting, you can convince anyone of anything. More importantly, you will know you have writing skills that dazzle.
On the quiz, I got sixteen out of twenty right. However, combined with my sample paragraph, I didn't pass. It seems the problem was grammar and possibly sentence structure. I will say this, the sample writing exercise was a ten-pointer on the challenge Richter scale. I spent thirty-five minutes perusing black cupboard knob websites (they really do have them) to get information on various kinds. Then I sat at my computer for an hour, head on my hands, elbows on my desk, eyes squinched tight, and tongue lolling to the side, racking my brain to find a creative and fun way to promote black cupboard knobs.
Grammar Nazi's Strike
After I received the bad news that I did not pass, I realized that this media outlet has an extensive staff of grammar Nazi's. I could just imagine them in their cubicles, giant red pencils in hand, tearing into my hard work, breaking their pencils with a heavy-handedness unprecedented in online media history. Next thing I knew, the grammar police were knocking at my door. I talked them out of arresting me by promising to get remedial instruction.
It Starts With Google
I hit pay dirt when I found a website offering a free online grammar course. Before I got started, though, I thought perhaps I ought to search Google for a glossary of grammar terms. This is what I found:
Adjective - a word that describes.
Nouns - a person, place, or thing.
Verb - an action word.
Got it. I blew into my hands and rubbed them together with zeal. Bring it on, baby, I am on a roll. I went on to look at pronouns. Gulp! My roll came to an abrupt halt. You would not believe the avalanche of grammar lingo I came up against.
Pronouns From Hell
I said to myself, "Well, maybe this course will explain pronouns more simply." But I have to say, I just didn't get it and I still don't. Why did whoever created English grammar make so many different types of pronouns and rules of usage? I was given a ridiculous list of the many kinds of pronouns and had to define them. I thought my answers were brilliant but they didn't.
- Demonstrative pronouns. These demonstrate what a pronoun ignoramus you are.
- Indefinite pronouns: Learning pronouns is an indefinite process.
- Interrogative pronouns. This is where the grammar Nazi - oops, I mean instructor - interrogates you on your pronoun knowledge (or lack thereof).
- Negative pronouns: Pronouns can have a very negative effect on your self-esteem.
- Personal pronouns: It gets personal when grammar Nazi's start making your life miserable with their complicated list of pronoun types.
- Possessive pronouns. Grammar Nazi's are very possessive of their pronoun expertise.
- Pronouns: "Pro" means "for", so pronouns are nouns you are for.
- Reciprocal pronouns. These little buggers reciprocate your efforts at learning them by causing you to flunk their quizzes.
- Reflexive pronouns. Pronouns make your brain reflex over and over and over...
So I asked myself, "Is it really going to transform my writing if I know the difference between a reflexive pronoun and an interrogative pronoun?" My heart shouted a big, resounding "No!"
Rocky Smeels Manely on His Rendevoos
When a thought takes one's breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence."— Thomas W. Higgins
Formal Writing Styles Complicate Things More
To add insult to injury, not only is grammar a struggle, but writing styles are a challenge also. In the past, I have liked the challenge of writing for other online venues but it can get quite confusing if each one uses a different writing style. Here is a list:
- Chicago style
Can you believe there is a Yahoo writing style? I am dead serious. Since when did the yahoo's at Yahoo become experts on writing style? The media company I applied to uses it, so I checked it out on Amazon. Very impressive.
Some online venues want you to formally provide citations of sources, and others do not want you to at all, or at least do not require it. As long as you do not plagiarize, that is all they care about. Some want subheadings, some do not care. Some want all words in the title, except articles, to be capitalized, and the subheadings only the first word capitalized. I am telling you, it can drive you batty. And with all of my online writing experience, I have made enough money to keep me going for maybe a week. The place I applied to actually pays a flat price for each one hundred or two hundred fifty word article. Fortunately, I can try again anytime, but I wanted to go into grammar education armed for battle before I applied again.
Institute For the Grammar Impaired
Because of all this stress and my dysfunctional grammar, my online instructor referred me to the IGI - Institute for the Grammar Impaired.
I applied and obtained a grant which funded books and other class materials, free room and board, and all food expenses. What a deal! I am going to learn to write properly so I can make the big bucks in the future. The grant people say I must participate in a twelve-step grammar recovery program for added security. I found a sponsor who advised me to attend ninety grammar recovery meetings in ninety days. I've started the steps but am stuck on step three (see below). Surrendering to a Grammar Nazi is a huge humiliation I can't yet bring myself to do. If you ask me, the grammar Nazi's need a little recovery themselves. Snoopy has a brilliant strategy on how to calm a rabid grammar Nazi down.
Join Me in Recovery
I love Snoopy's style. Instead of making restitution, he makes retribution. There's no surprise that he's not working his program, but he seems to be thriving nonetheless.
I am desperate, however. If you are struggling to overcome bad grammar like me, try this Twelve-step grammar recovery program.
The 12 Steps of Grammatical Recovery
- Admitted we were powerless over grammatical errors, and our editors had become unmanageable.
- Came to see that a grammar tutor greater than ourselves could restore us to perfect English.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our grammar over to the care of a Grammar Nazi, even though we didn't understand him.
- Made a careless and abnormal inventory of our sentence structure.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another grammar flunky, the exact nature of our word usage.
- Were entirely ready to have the grammar fairy remove all our grammatical defects.
- Humbly asked her to remove our ineptitude.
- Made a list of all the editors we had harmed and became willing to make corrections to them all.
- Made direct corrections to such editors wherever possible, except when to do so would get us or them fired.
- Continued to take remedial grammar quizzes, and when wrong, promptly corrected them.
- Sought through prayer and recitation to improve our conscious contact with grammar instructors, as we try to understand them, praying only for the knowledge of proper use of pronouns, and the ability to use them correctly.
- Having had a grammatical awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other grammar flunky's and to practice our pronouns in all our affairs.
Grammar Serenity Prayer
Before you write anything or work a step, it's a good idea to say the Grammar Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity
to accept the grammar I cannot understand,
to change the grammar I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs."— Jack Lynch
A Hopeful Future
As you can see, I am on my way. It's a hard, uphill battle every time I pick up a pen or finger a keyboard, but I know I can do it. One day I may actually go on to Grammar Nazi University. It would be so cool to walk across the stage and get my diploma and a big red pencil. Mwahaha.
- Free Grammar Checker | Grammarly
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- English Grammar 101 - Online Grammar Lessons
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© 2012 Lori Colbo