On Reading / On Writing / The English Teacher / The Social Network

I’m an English Teacher, and I’m Here to Help

I have a friend (trying to decide if I use the termly loosely) who considers himself a bit of a grammarian.His consideration is well-founded. (Dangit!) A few months ago, I too hastily posted an entry here at commonchapters that contained a typo. Of course the link to the entry goes immediately to Twitter. Of course my ‘friend’ points out the error by tweeting it at me. Of course you can now see why I might struggle to call him ‘friend.’ I mean, couldn’t he have simply overlooked the error? Couldn’t he have simply tweeted, ‘cheers!’?????

No. That wouldn’t do. Just as ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk,’ writing pals mustn’t let their compatriots’ usage errors slide. Chagrined (ah, there’s a word I don’t use often enough!), I hastily edited the post, favorited the tweet, and vowed to do better. I suddenly hear Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson crooning ‘that’s what friends are for…‘ (I actually tried to find a sound clip — you’ll thank me that I was unsuccessful)

Every writer needs some feedback, and sometimes it might be as mundane as an editing comment. But what, I ask you, is the protocol for helping a fellow writer when I just happen across a post marred by a rather blatant usage or mechanical error? When a writer offers a title like this one: “Novel writing and it’s challenges,” I cringe. I shudder. I figuratively pull out my trusty red editing pen. ‘Should I comment?’ I ask myself. No. For cryin’ out loud, settle down. But,  do I follow the blogger? Bigger No. Therein lies the problem for a blogger who wants a readership. While my English teacher self remains plenty busy editing her own foolish blunders, she can’t help but notice those alarming mistakes in others’ writing. The training and practice of years of English teaching. A blessing and a curse.

My friend, the ‘semantic wrangler,’ as he’s been known to call himself, helps my writing. First by reading it. Secondly, by pointing out my errors. I should catch them myself, ’tis true. When I don’t, I’m glad for someone else who does, and has the wherewithal to correct me.

Writers write for readers. Readers, most of them a rather persnickety, opinionated lot, won’t keep reading a carelessly written offering. I keep learning this bitter lesson the hard way. So thank-you, my grammarian friend, for pointing out my errors. And for you bloggers out there — please remember that ‘its’ shows possession. ‘It’s’ is simply the contraction for ‘it is.’ I’m an English teacher. I’m here to help.

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9 thoughts on “I’m an English Teacher, and I’m Here to Help

  1. I admit I cringe at others’ mistakes a lot too but it is more difficult to spot your own errors. I have mixed feelings when people point them out to me but I think I’d rather that than the mistake just hanging there being cringed at by some one else.

  2. South Dakota has a highway sign with “it’s/its” used in the wrong way. I’m tempted to take a picture and send it to the SD DOT.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. I’ve been fortunate – knock on wood – that nobody has ever mentioned any typos or grammatical errors in any of my posts. I’m not going to deny the fact that I’m sure there are some (if not plenty). In my own defense, being brought up in a French elementary school where English grammar wasn’t their primary focus and once you get to high school they just hope that you learned a thing or two about how to write, I’m always worried that I’m writing something wrong, or using the apostrophe or comma at the wrong place. I suppose I’ll find out the hard way one day, but for now I’ll just keep writing the way I always have 🙂

    • this is the thing, isn’t it? I’ve found my own errors only after hitting the publish button far too often. and it’s nearly impossible to tell someone I’ve never met, “pardon me, but you’re doing it wrong.” so then, ‘once more, unto the breach, dear friend…’ 🙂 Happy Writing!

  4. Quick story – in college I was student body president and decided to come out with a newsletter (of which I was editor). Our first issue contained a typo. One retired professor sent a multi-page hand-written letter bemoaning the fate of our dear college for now producing such flawed material and called for me to repent. In the next issue, I acknowledged his letter and started a “find the grammatical error” contest where the first person to find mistakes in the newsletter and return them to my office would win a free cup of coffee. I never heard from the retired prof again. My English advisor thought it was classic.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. You know the thing that often gets me about your posts? Your sentence fragments ;-). But then again, are they really errors or rather style choices in this venue?
    I tend to be a grammar snob at times too, but the more I teach, the more I realize that content, often, is more important. True, it’s, its, their, there, and the the like should be beaten out of us with wooden planks at the hands of nuns by the time we get to college…or really even halfway through high school. But hey-things happen…aneurisms, narcolepsy, apathy, or just old-fashioned “Oops.” It’s my job to grade students, and so to some degree, not commenting on grammar errors means I have failed a bit. Conversely, it’s my pleasure to read the work of colleagues and friends, and why mix business with pleasure? When commenting on the work of others who have the courage to put their thoughts out there on the interwebs for all to see, I always try to think of something positive. I think its (haha..purposely used incorrectly-take that grammarian!!!) more important, especially since I guarantee this man KNOWS that you know the correct usage, and just simply had a typo. End novel.

    • I don’t know how I can possibly respond to this wonderfully witty, wholly delightful rant. So I will only say this: I am confident that using fragments is a stylistic rite of passage that I’ve earned through long years of marking up papers filled (sometimes) with rather thoughtless errors, and blessedly also punctuated with stunning moments of greatness. Ah, to be a teacher… 🙂

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