Poor Me, I’m a Grammar Guru


Part of my new Grammar Monday feature–because who doesn’t want to wake up on Monday morning to grammar?

In sixth grade, I learned how to diagram sentences. We cut apart all the independent clauses, identified subjects and predicates, and circled parts of speech. For some reason, this all came very easily to me. I openly read a novel and when my teacher (hoping to embarrass me in front of the class) asked me a question, I looked up from my book, answered her, and went back to reading. Finally, she gave up and handed me a suggested reading list.

Currently, as a teacher myself, I shudder to think what my brazen action said to that teacher about my scorn for her teaching of grammar. Nonetheless, to this day I am very good at spotting errors in capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling (also known as CUPS). People have affectionately (mostly) called me Grammar Nazi, Grammar Guru, and Grammar Cop. Let me tell you, it is not easy to have that reputation.

First of all, people constantly ask you for advice. My husband wants me to proof emails about technical stuff I know nothing about. Author friends seek my advice on editing their novels. Former students email me with questions. While I don’t mind helping others, especially because it’s easy for me, this has the drawback of putting an incredible amount of pressure on me to be right all the time.

That leads to my next issue with being a Grammar Guru. People are always looking for me to make errors. Parents email me with mistakes in report card comments. Students crow when they find an error on a Daily Oral Language exercise. My first novel is 310 pages. When it was first published, I eagerly awaited the editor’s feedback. She found 51 errors in the whole book. I was very proud of that. Then a student pointed out that most of the errors were commas in compound sentences and shouldn’t I know that since I expected them to do it right?

Finally, a drawback to being good at grammar is the physical pain it causes when you see errors in advertising or public signs. An old advertisement for tires claimed Something special rides on Michelin’s. I wanted to run a campaign of painting out those apostrophes on every billboard in town. For five years, Apple computer ran a series of ads that advised people to Think Different. Umm if you are telling people how to think, that’s an adverb and should be Think Differently.

So please look with kindness on Grammar Gurus you may know. We are human. We may feel different pain than you do, but it is pain. Don’t hate.

2 responses to “Poor Me, I’m a Grammar Guru”

  1. Grammar Gurus Unite! 🙂
    It’s one thing to know the rules, and another to have the sort of focus (bordering on OCD) that allows a person to do a good cleaning edit. I’m good at catching other people’s errors on the first read-through, but I won’t catch everything, especially if the story sucks me in.

    1. That’s true! If the story engages me, it’s hard to edit. 🙂 Students, are you listening?

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