Hi, I’m Erin and I’m the copy editor for Literally, Darling. This means that I read each article every day to correct typos, phrasing and grammatical mistakes. To some of you, this may sound like hell. Others may think I’m some kind of harsh schoolmarm who rages pointlessly from behind a computer screen. And then there’s the small but passionate lot of you who want to email me about that article last week that used “premiere” instead of “premier.”
This article is for you. Grammar nerds, unite.
1. You get irrationally angry at people who misspell nonwords.
“Woah!” “Awe!” “Ya’ll” “Damnit” “I don’t have 100$.” All of those send me into twitchy fits due to extreme wrongness. But how insane would I sound if I said, “Hey, so, the noise you make when you see a cute puppy—you’re spelling that wrong.”
For the record, it’s whoa, awwww (or however many w’s you would like to use, as opposed to awe, a state of wonder, the first part of awesome), y’all (contraction of “you” and “all,” keep the a in the second part of the word), $100, and dammit (look I know it doesn’t make sense but I didn’t invent the language).
2. People send you grammar quizzes or articles like it’s fucking amateur hour.
“Only 10% of people get all the answers right—see if you’re a grammar expert!” Are you sending this to me because you doubt my abilities? Do you think I need validation to prove how correct my language is? Look, this is my lifeblood—I don’t need a quiz to tell me I’m great. Oh, and an article on the most common grammar mistakes? Please, let me read for the tenth time about how everyone confuses nauseated and nauseous (which I’ve known for years), or how literally should not mean figuratively. I don’t care. Common usage, mofos.
(Related: Stop using memes to show that the Oxford comma is better or worse.)
3. The Fakes
By this I mean, people who trumpet their own perfect writing but are actually atrocious. Usually, the worst offenders are people who post their answers to grammar quizzes on Facebook. Bitch I saw you use ‘s to make something plural four posts ago, don’t act like you have any room to talk about the misuse of “your.”
Also disturbing: teachers. I know the vast majority of you are wonderful, intelligent, underappreciated human beings and I absolutely could never do your job…but sometimes I am legitimately frightened at the notion of how badly you are polluting the young minds under your tutelage given your callous attention to there/their/they’re.
4. When dictionaries/grammar resources give multiple correct answers.
Don’t tell me periods can go inside or outside quotations. DON’T YOU KNOW I HAVE A BET TO WIN? This is especially true when it turns out the discrepancy is an American/British English thing, and the British way makes more sense—what the fuck were you thinking with “traveling,” America? What. The. Fuck.
5. Someone showed you the light on a specific mistake that you can’t unsee.
Personally, double spaces are the bane of my existence. I, too, was taught to use them after periods and colons during typing class in middle school, but I understand the world has changed since then and there is a more efficient way to use space. It’s a common error but difficult to spot, so my eyes are extra-trained to pick up on them, no matter what I’m reading. I am thisclose to unsubscribing from chronic perpetrator The Skimm for my news because it makes me ragey first thing in the morning.
Another “can’t-unsee” error: our managing editor Haley taught me the difference between hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes, and now I have to google “em dash” every time I want to use one because there’s no easy keyboard shortcut. Given that the alternative is typing something I know is WRONG, you can guess how much of my time is spent on this.
6. People always think you are judging.
My Tinder profile notes that “we probably won’t get along if your grammar sucks” and a lot of people tell me that they’re intimidated by that. Sure, on Tinder that will lead to an instant unmatching (hey, you gotta cull the herd somehow), but it’s not like this is a strategy I would use with my friends in real life. I don’t even point out grammar mistakes unless they are exceptionally heinous! Look, everyone has bad days and autocorrect can be stupid. It’s fine. Unless you ask my advice, you’re actually publishing things, or you are a jerk about touting your grammar superiority (see #2), I’m not going to judge you.
7. …Meanwhile it is you who are being judged!
If there’s a mistake in any of my online articles, both my mom and my friend Brooke will message me within half an hour (I do want to know, so thanks guys!). I use proper capitalization and punctuation even while blackout drunk. Cover letters are an especially agonizing process for me. I am held to a completely different standard on typos and there is a lot of pressure to be perfect all the time.
8. It is not a source of joy.
It doesn’t make me really happy when an article is free of errors. It makes me feel nothing. It is what I expect. On the contrary, if an article is riddled with mistakes, I can feel a range of emotions from mild annoyance (delete that space, no big deal) to full-blown rage (WHY DO YOU THINK SHOULD OF IS A WORD??? DIE AN UNEDUCATED DEATH!!!!). Correcting people does not result in happy emotions.
9. You strive for perfection in a field that is constantly changing and becoming obsolete.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the meme (ugh, I hate you) about how spelling doesn’t matter—as long as you’re communicating the idea, who cares? OK sure—societal norms are meant to be broken. While you’re at it, why don’t you just stop wearing pants?
Language is a mutable beast, and definitions can change over time (see: “bad,” “weed,” and “literally”). The very reason I love language is because it allows for creativity, and different ways to express yourself. Fully embracing a language means accepting change as well as seeking perfection.
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