The Grammar Goddess “Fesses” Up

editorI had no idea I would become the Grammar Goddess. It just sort of happened.

One minute I was working as an executive assistant, then I was teaching topics I knew almost nothing about for an international seminar firm and being scolded for my lack of knowledge, then I was teaching American grammar (which was better, but not wonderful in the early days) for that same firm, and suddenly I was the Grammar Goddess!

It’s been 20 years since all that started, and I marvel constantly at how lucky I was each step of the way.

That leap has given me two distinct ways to help others: onsite corporate training with tailored workbooks and information, and copyediting / proofreading all sorts of fabulous articles and documents ranging from the banal to the sublime to the “I have NO idea what this is all about” topics.

What’s not to love? It’s been a wild ride, and I hope to continue for many more years.

But with all that said, let me “fess” up.

Confession #1: I don’t know all the rules for American grammar. No one does. No one memorizes every word of any of the various style guides that help us stay on track. I rely on The Gregg Reference Manual and The Chicago Manual of Style, and a few online sites that are updated regularly. The Gregg is a perfect guide for business professionals; it’s big enough to contain all the examples that show how the rules work, but it’s not overwhelmingly huge. It’s pretty approachable, and it’s my go-to guide most of the time.

The Chicago manual is HUGE. Seriously, it’s big and 3″ thick. There’s probably not a single rule missing from it, so I do struggle sometimes to find what I need. But it’s always there. And I love seeing that most of the time, these two guides agree on the main points of punctuation and usage, even if they do differ sometimes on the details.

Confesssion #2: Sometimes I need a copyeditor or a proofreader myself. Of course I do. Very few writers can successfully correct their own stuff; we know what we mean to say, and unless we’re really committed to reading everything we write out loud word for word, we’re going to miss things. Of course, since I push everyone to read what they’ve written so it accurately reflects their professionalism, I am obsessed with making sure my stuff is perfect, but it isn’t always.

I am grateful to those who have helped me out with a private message, alerting me to a missing word, a wrong word (drat that spellcheck anyway!), or a thought that sounded so good in my mind that didn’t translate well. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. And yes. Private messages are good for that; public shaming, not so much.

Confession #3: I wish more writers would hire copyeditors or proofreaders. I know it seems as though we should be able to write without needing anyone’s assistance (we’re smart, right?), but that’s not true. Yes, we’re all smart, but mostly in different ways!

Ask not “how smart is she?” 
Ask “how is she smart?”

My only goal is helping my clients look and sound as smart as they are. There’s no ego here; it’s all about making sure that a client’s words and tone are the ones that were intended.

And it doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, although it’s great when it is. I offer a one-page FREE assessment of anyone’s writing, and I am also willing to look at something longer (for a small fee) and show writers what their top issues are. Many of us make the same type of error constantly (we never did learn the rules for quotation marks in the American system, darn it), and just being aware of those issues can really elevate someone’s writing from not-so-good to excellent.

Confession #4: I can’t turn it off. I see errors everywhere. I struggle to read ideas, not words or punctuation. I have no problem reading something with just a few errors, but if a blog post is loaded with them, I can’t. Sad but true. And there are many who have admitted this is true for them as well.

But please understand this: I am NOT including those writers for whom English is a second, third, or tenth language. I honor those folks for their courage and ability to use a very tough language that isn’t their native tongue. I know only one language well; they may know half a dozen. I read their posts regularly and enjoy them tremendously.

Confession #5: I LOVE  MY JOB. I love seeing how smart all the writers are out there. You write about topics I honestly cannot imagine knowing about. (Fractals? Really,Milos?)

You help me be smarter every day. You expand my knowledge base and my horizons. You show humanity, heart, and brains, and you give me entree into worlds I might never otherwise experience. You widen my perspective, and allow me to see through your eyes. You shake me up, forcing me to rethink what I take for granted. I have become more of a world citizen thanks to all of you who share so generously.

You show us how we’re alike and how we’re different.

You show grit, determination, and dedication. You show us your strengths and your challenges. You make us laugh. You make us cry. You give us the courage to share those things about ourselves we never thought we would, but we did because you paved the way.

How can anyone who is part of this amazing world not be impressed with all that we share every day?

So from my heart to yours, thank you for reading this post. You have made a huge difference in my life. I am grateful.