The rules of grammar are a scientific description of how language works, a product of observation.
At my last dental appointment, my dental hygienist invited me to poke fun at people who make spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. “Doesn’t it bug you when…” I refused the invitation by talking about Marie’s severe learning disabilities.
Marie and my husband, Ralph, struggle with writing and spelling, but are very good at diagramming sentences and understanding the “rules” (scientific description) of grammar. They are both math minded. My mother couldn’t spell to save her life, but she did make the best white bread I have ever tasted. My sister struggled in school. She had an undiagnosed learning disability, and suffered for it all the way through school. So I get defensive for my people, when those who are language gifted throw stones at those who struggle.
I love to write and have been doing so since elementary school. However, even though my major in college was English literature with a minor in linguistics, I wasn’t very interested in grammar. I took an English grammar class in college, and struggled to get a B. It was BORING. I was good at writing, punctuation, and spelling due to all the reading I did as a young person, along with practice; but I wasn’t very interested in the scientific description of language. It wasn’t until I took a business English class when I was studying for my associate in legal office administration that I gained a firm grasp on the grammatical rules of the English language.
I do not judge anyone on their use of language, spelling, and punctuation. I am not a grammar Nazi, though I sometimes joke about it. I’ve known too many people for whom this is a life long struggle; and no matter how much they try, improvement is a very slow process. Language is so complicated.
For some of us, competency in writing comes easy. It’s a gift. But for others, it’s a struggle. It is possible to improve over the long haul. I’ve witnessed this with Marie. She never stops learning and she doesn’t give up easily. She told me this morning that she understands the rules of grammar very well, even though she struggles with writing and spelling.
One of the reasons Marie doesn’t use Facebook is due to her spelling deficit. That’s probably true of a lot of people who don’t use Facebook. Here’s the thing, though; it’s easy to throw shade toward those who struggle with language on Facebook because it’s all so very visible, and make the assumption that they’re stupid. But here’s another thing; Marie is kind and rarely complains about anything. Academically, her strengths are in math and logic related subjects like accounting, grammar, and programming. Her major in college was accounting. In high school she completed a two year computerized accounting class in one year. She is now working on a two year degree in programming at the community college, and she is getting straight A’s.
So don’t ask me to judge people based on their skill in using English. You’ll get a failing grade from me and an earful. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we all have something to contribute. And I complain too much and am not always kind.
Ann Kilter said:
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t work on their grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Marie has improved tremendously since she started college in 2005. She is also an expert in using the tools of Microsoft Word. She says, “at least Word gives me useful suggestions. That’s how much my spelling has improved.”