Do you think people who become writers are those who are naturally inclined to be grammar police types? Or is it more likely to be the other way around?
I’ve considered myself a writer for as long as I can remember. But it has only been in recent years that I’ve felt a building irritation whenever I see statements ending in question marks (“I thought this was a question? Maybe in some universe it is?”), questions ending in periods, or – God help us all – the wrong too, to, there or their.
I blame the fast pace of social media, and the inconvenience of switching over to symbols mode from alphabet mode on a mobile device. It’s not really inconvenient but it is another step. I think people figure everyone is going to know what they mean anyway and life is short. They don’t want to throw away valuable moments on strict adherence to the laws of grammar.
I think the only reason everyone is going to know what they mean anyway is because it is becoming the norm.
It probably stands out to me more because, while I do use social media quite a bit, I do not use a mobile device.
Not at all.
I’m dead serious.
I went through a phase years back when I was making it my life’s work to point out everybody’s infractions with to and too and there and their, etc.
I’m not proud of it. Just being honest.
And right in the middle of all of this, out of the blue I started catching myself doing the very same things. It was humbling.
Then recently, I started noticing an increasing popularity of question marks where they don’t belong and missing question marks where they did belong. I was legitimately baffled. And I started letting people know about it.
And then the question mark button on my computer got stuck and I couldn’t use it. I knew what was happening, on a karmic level. For a while I would type out “question mark” where the punctuation should have been. I guess I was doing my best to be accurate, but I was also probably doing penance of some sort, going through all those extra keystrokes.
Then my keyboard started working the way it was meant to.
Though I hope being so serious about these things makes me a better freelance writer, or if nothing else a better editor, it does not keep me from writing in a casual, informal style when the job calls for it. And there are a ton of other grammatical rules I am probably very lax about. Like commas. I put them wherever I bloody well feel they belong.
Let’s call my approach uptight informality.