I have a not-so-secret compulsive disorder. I admit it. I can’t help myself. If you hand me a piece of paper with writing on it, I will automatically check it for spelling errors, grammatical issues and general literary coherency. And then I will mark it and return it. I may also correct pronunciation or suggest better vocabulary options during conversations. I have been told that this is annoying. Very annoying. And that I should stop it. But I can’t help myself. It is a disorder, you see. A condition that I picked up in Mexico. After all, for six years, that was all I did. Day in, day out. Correcting people in their use of the English language.
It’s not that I am perfect. I’m not. I could be, perhaps. Well, almost perfect. If I tried a little harder. I do know the rules of English grammar, mas o menos. But still, I’m not perfect. My blog posts would frequently benefit from a little proofreading, for example. I regularly refuse to use the possessive apostrophe correctly. I often start sentences with ‘and’, which is technically a no-no. And I am as prone to the odd typo as anyone. That my keyboard is getting a bit sticky, especially the letter ‘d’, doesn’t help.
I also waffle. This is clearly in evidence with my blog posts. I should just leave them unpublished for 24 hours, come back to them, re-read them and then make further corrections. They would end up half the length, twice as informative and free from any linguistic faux pas. I understand that this is how a real author would work. First draft, second draft etc etc. But I don’t do that. I don’t have the time or patience. Perhaps I just don’t care. I go tappity tappity tap on the keyboard, hit the publish button and then face palm myself, quite vigorously, later in the day when I spot the glaring mistake.
Some grammatical errors do get my goat though. I will never let someone get away with writing ‘should of‘ instead of ‘should have‘. Or at the very least, ‘should’ve‘. I mastered this at the age of seven. My English teacher would throw a stick of chalk at the head of an offender. A teaching method that was effective. I was never on the receiving end of the chalk, but it looked painful enough when it hit someone else. It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s even better to learn from someone else’s. I understand that throwing chalk is these days considered assault, rather than a teaching aid.
I must confess that, as much as I approve the throwing of chalk, I did not do so during my time as an English teacher. I preferred sarcasm. In a nice way. I still utilise sarcasm, sometimes borderline mockery, when correcting errors. As I mentioned earlier, I’m told that this is annoying. That I should stop. Maybe I should. Or maybe my friends and colleagues should brush up on their language skills. There’s the solution! If they stop making mistakes, I’ll stop correcting them. Everyone will be happy. Alternatively, perhaps I should simply start charging for my linguistic services again…