The Door To Writing Should Not Be Guarded

OpenTheDoorI’ve had a few run-ins with the grammar police, but more often, I read comments filled with criticisms of the writer’s ability and mistakes written by those who don’t agree with author’s argument, as though pointing out a verb tense is an argument in itself. As though good writers are the only ones allowed to express their opinions and only then in a grammatically correct, not a single errant comma or misspelled homonyms, way.

Those haha you can’t spell, write or think comments are the easy way out of coherent conversations. The privileged guard mocking those brave enough to put words to paper and screen.

Should we proofread? Of course. Although I believe a novel even more so than a blog post because there is no going back and no push to publish breaking stories or quick content daily or weekly.

I proofread the heck of my pieces, and I break grammar rules all the time. My motto has been: I learned the rules so I earned the right to break them. Plus, my background is in poetry and not prose. I like to control where people pause. And think. And hear. And listen.

To my words.

So I abuse periods and paragraph breaks. I try to avoid the hanging prepositions, but if a sentence sounds more lovely to my ear when leaving a preposition hanging for all the world to scoff at? I do. I am brave and stupid.

The flow of the words and the meaning of the phrases matter more to me than the perfect grammatical decisions. I don’t even like the word grammatical. It’s clunky like a platform shoe without a bell-bottom to hide it.

I attempt to stay within reason. I avoid passive voice as best I can. I will rephrase to remove an adverb, and I will use a thesaurus to attempt elusive alliteration.

We should all want to understand the appropriateness of a comma and the difference between their, there and they’re. The more we master language, the easier we are to understand, unless we consider mastery to only occur in three syllable archaic words and Shakespearian clichés.

I want my writing to improve. I wish knowing the rules and breaking them to get what I want off the paper, the post and the reader was not necessary. Perhaps, if I broadened my reading and writing knowledge or if I had been an English major and not a philosophy major more inclined to focus on the argument rather than the prose used to express whether the molecule of a chair can become a table or if they are always essentially chairs, I would be more willing to turn up my nose at the mistakes of others and be more afraid to break the rules myself.

Instead, I worry that so much snobbery makes people afraid to express themselves. I think expression should come first and grammar second.

Writing could go like this:

I have an idea that I think is important enough for everyone to read. I write it down in a flourish of excitement. I proofread it. I have other’s proofread it if I’m lucky enough. I double-check some grammar questions and learn to use hyphens. I make mistake,s but they passionate ones. I keep writing. I get better. I begin to make mistakes on purpose to control my writing and my readers. I learn more about hyphens and which and that and so. I begin to pull back on my purposeful mistake because I have mastered enough of the language to need less control of my readers and more control of my writing. I am not so much consumed by passion as driven by compassion and purpose and beauty.

One day, I write from my heart and from my head. I break some rules, and I obsess over others. I discover my voice is mine, and the critics and the compliments be damned.

The door is open.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Grammarly, a grammar checker program. I was compensated for my work, but I was not told what to write except for the overall theme to be on writing or grammar, which worked out well after my grammar police blitz.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

22 thoughts to “The Door To Writing Should Not Be Guarded”

  1. I break the rules all the time too. My 11th grade English teacher would probably have a conniption (had to look up on how to spell it) if she read my blog posts. But then again, many of them feature images of Rick Santorum’s face photoshopped on a naked man’s body, so I’m guessing she wouldn’t be reading them in the first place.

  2. Oh Alex your snarkiness is such a breath of fresh air. I, too, break AP style and grammar rules and I have a Journalism degree. The pen is a weapon and rules are meant to be broken.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I’m a writer and have always erred on the side of creativity and argument rather than focusing on petty issues such as grammar, spelling, or punctuation. They matter to me, of course, but if we are airing ideas and encouraging discussion, shouldn’t that be the focus?

    But then, as you said, it’s as much about being able to effectively communicate your point of view. Proper grammar and spelling and punctuation are inherent components of articulating a viewpoint. It’s a bit of a catch-22.

  4. I saw the grammar police zing you and yeah, what a copout. How convenient to dismiss everything a person says because she split an infinitive or missplaced a comma. (And for the record, I’m a way more gooder grammar police than that guy and I never stumbled over a thing in that piece so pfffffft.)

    Grammar exists to make it possible for us to understand each other, and sometimes ideas are better expressed outside those rules.

  5. I’d like a hall pass please.

    I went to French school and studied science, I don’t understand what preposition means. Or how to use a comma. Is there a remedial class?

  6. Man, how much do I love this, I can’t even tell you.

    I have seen conversations on twitter that really are subtweets: slamming someone’s writing. Things beings said that sound arrogant and are judgmental. People can write the way they want to. It’s their space, their lives, their blogs, their life.

    Their journey in life.

    Read, if something pains you to much because of all the its and its’ and it’s…then click out. But respect that person’s right to live and breathe and put a piece of themselves out there.

    This was wonderful, A.

  7. Oh, I love this!

    While I’ve been known to see certain grammar mistakes and die a little inside(former LA teacher- it’s ingrained), I think that the content is more important.

    I hate when I see a post where someone has spilled their heart on the page and then see a comment that talks about how a certain word or phrase was unnecessary, and nothing about what was actually written.

  8. I agree. I often knowingly use grammar errors because I’m not an English professor and I don’t speak like one when I tell a story. But every now and then I’ll look at a post two days later and wonder, how on earth did I not only do that but miss it in proofreading? How embarrassing. In the end though, my main focus is getting my point across.

  9. I love this post, Alex. I break the rules all the time, too. I’m not above inventing words. I’m hyphen-crazy. And I use way too many paragraph breaks. My background is in newspaper journalism, so I tend to write that way, even without meaning to. Good for you for standing up to the grammar police!!

  10. Oh no…I must have missed the grammar police blitz! (Which post?!?)

    Your posts are so thoughtful, CONSCIOUS, stirring – I’m relieved to see that you plan to stick by your unguarded, passionate words (and punctuation paragraphing spacing fragments run-ons etc.)

    I stand firmly in the camp of “breaking the rules on purpose” and remain a steadfast (overabuser) user of sentence fragments.

    I’ll admit to slaving over the details of my posts. I can’t pretend I write in a passionate heat and hit publish on the spot; and if my editing drains some of the life of my words, I plead guilty.

    But I would never (have never will never) correct someone publicly in any forum and I find it weak to resort to “policing” a minor grammar issue in the face of a content disagreement.

    I’ve written posts myself about “grammar fails” in general, but always with the goal of humor. I never (EVER!) seek to embarrass someone or call him or her out individually; partly because it would show that I missed the point of the post entirely and also because GOOD GRIEF everyone makes mistakes.

    Including me.

    I was/am an English teacher. But my job is to teach not to humiliate.

    So you go, girl. Stay unguarded.


    (See what I did there? Oh yeah.)

  11. Since my background is in elementary education, I agree with you. Self-expression first and then worry about grammar. You can’t become a better writer if you are too afraid to write anything down (for fear of the grammar police).
    I also misuse grammar on purpose. I love parentheses. I also love pausing a thought and then someone connecting it to another (sometimes random) thought by… using 3 periods. It is hard to portray my random thinking any other way.

  12. This is exactly how I teach writing. Grammar should be secondary…and really? comes with doing a LOT of writing. Without having to necessarily teach the rules.

    This post rocks my face.

  13. “I try to avoid the hanging prepositions, but if a sentence sounds more lovely to my ear when leaving a preposition hanging for all the world to scoff at?”

    This made me smile. Have you heard the old joke about prepositions ending a sentence? I’ll tell you anyway. I grew up in Montana, but I’m sure there are similar versions for different regions:

    A new student from Montana was attending his first day at Harvard. He was a little lost, and late for class, so he got the attention of one of the passing students and asked for his assistance.

    “Excuse me,” he said, “This is my first day on campus. Would you please tell me where the Chemistry building’s at?”

    The student rolled his eyes and sneered, “I don’t know where you’re from, but here at Harvard we don’t end our sentences with prepositions.”

    The new student blinked in surprise before replying, “Sorry. Would you please tell me where the Chemistry building’s at, asshole?”

  14. Oh I loved this! I often break the rules myself; I’m such a rebel. Mostly, as you said, to control my readers.

    What can I say?

    I have control issues.

  15. Love this! Sometimes I break them on purpose and sometimes I just make mistakes. When I read a post I like when it takes me on a journey with the writer, and grammer is always secondary. My philosophy is simply that the grammar police can go eff themselves.

  16. Lovely post. And isn’t this the beauty of blogging? We are not writing term papers here, we are using our voices and our words to tell our stories. Words are powerful, grammar is important, but the way we use our voice in our writing is what makes a statement.

  17. I proofread mine like crazy too but sometimes there are posts that are just mine, that have so much emotion that I don’t really care if I have run on sentences or should have added a comma. They just are what they are, you know?

  18. I’m pro-grammar, for sure (is that a bumper sticker yet?),
    but, dude… chill. We all love a well-composed sentence with our morning coffee, sure. But isn’t there a universal understanding that for better and worse, personal blogs do NOT HAVE AN EDITOR?

    Blog writers (grammar junkie/English teacher blogs excluded) are more often finding their creative groove, seeking self expression, addressing issues, and/or getting-stuff-out-there than spending hours + hours or days + days on proofing and rewrites… and that’s why we love to read them, no?

    Ugh. Apparently there are people out there looking for opportunities to feel superior in every little corner of the universe. Let the King of Grammarland have his moment…No biggie. You’ll undoubtedly kick ass when you meet up again in Coolhairville, Awesomemomville or the Land of Thought Provoking Post Content.

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