I am a perfectionist when it comes to language. I speak very precisely and write even more so (since I have a chance to review before anyone sees it). I correct my children’s grammar constantly. Someday, my daughter will remember that it’s not “Me and Jennifer were talking.” There is constant grammar commentary running in my head. I mentally cringe at every mispoken word I hear or read. I have learned that people do not appreciate being corrected, however, so I’ve learned to bite my tongue.

An online friend who is aware of this aspect of my personality once sent me a T-shirt that said “I am silently correcting your grammar”. It’s true. I am. He also does me the tremendous service of sending me an email whenever he notices a mistake in my blog. Not because he cares – because he knows I’d die if it stayed there very long. In fact, I have actually received his email on my phone after retiring to bed and then jumped out of bed to go fix it. When I find myself needing to use lay or lie, I consult my favorite grammar resource just to make sure I have it right. Every time.

My children have become accustomed to me stopping in front of signs in public places and asking them to point out what is wrong. After they find the mistakes, they listen patiently as I rant about the state of American grammar and carelessness. Then they ask if we can move along.

Way back in the day, I had a Palm Pilot, as did several of my coworkers. It had a strange “writing” method – the precursor to today’s swiping, I suppose – that took some getting used to. A coworker came to the conclusion that as long as he could tell what he meant to write, there was no need to correct any of it. It made sense. It was logical. Practical. Time saving. And I couldn’t do it. I would fix every single mistake.

Today, I was adding some debug to my software. It initially looked something like this:

debug(“Collecting %d parts to path name\n”, argc-i);

As I verified that the math was right, it dawned on me that argc-i could possibly equal one, resulting in a print saying “Collecting 1 parts to path name”. And even though no one was likely to ever see this print besides me, I added parentheses around the ‘s’ in ‘parts’ so it would be correct even if the number of parts should happen to be one.

This brings me to my performance review this year – my first with this particular supervisor. At the conclusion of the review, as we signed the form acknowledging that we had discussed the review, he made a strange remark.

“Now,” he said, “I want you to understand that this is really the only formal interaction that you and I have with each other. Everything else can be laid back and relaxed, ok? I don’t want you to ever feel like you have to approach me in any sort of formal manner, ok? Sometimes when you communicate with me, it feels like you are having to present yourself very carefully. You don’t need to do that. No one else does.”

“Ok,” I said, slightly bewildered.

After deciding that night that I wasn’t sure what he meant, I returned to his office the next day for clarification. As he explained, I began to smile.

“I’m not crafting my emails to you that way because you are my supervisor,” I finally said. “That’s how all of my communication is. Even my text messages are complete sentences with proper grammar. I will always make sure I explain myself explicitly and I will always read over my email several times before sending it. It’s just who I am.”

He reiterated that it was fine but wasn’t necessary. I hope he can accept that it is necessary – to me. I’m honestly not sure how to communicate more casually and don’t think I’d want to even if I could.


6 thoughts on “Communication

    • Exactly! Precision. It’s an ongoing lighthearted argument with a coworker. When I grumble about someone’s mistake, he always says, “But you know what they mean!” And I’m always, “No, actually, I don’t. I *think* I know what they meant to say but since that’s not what they said, I’m not sure.” It plays well with my tendency to over-analyze. I can usually think of ways to interpret what was said in ways that other people wouldn’t think of, which compounds the problem of accurate interpretation of poor grammar.

  1. I am in agreement with you completely. I often question my own grammar, but feel the need to correct myself (and restrain the impulse to correct others) whenever possible. I also feel the need to use complete sentences in emails and texts. In fact, my emails nearly always reflect my training in high school office occupations class: businesslike and including all of the formal salutation and signoff language which I learned in an age of DOS and dictation. Don’t change your communication style to please someone else. It is not as if the style itself could be offensive, and some of us really appreciate full sentences with nouns and verbs and tenses in agreement…all of which are spelled and punctuated correctly.

    • It’s a major turn-off for me if I go look at someone’s allegedly popular blog and I find problems with voice, tense, noun/verb agreement, sentence structure. I truly trip over the words and it looses whatever magic for me that everyone else is experiencing when they read it.

      I’m not, however, very good at consistently using formal salutations and sign-offs in email. I’ve accepted that level of casual correspondence! đŸ™‚

  2. Pingback: Grammar Geek Leisure Time | mybrightspots

  3. Pingback: Oh, Yes I Did!: Doing More Than Keeping Up | The Monster in Your Closet

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