I used to tell people that I was a grammar geek. The fact is, I’m really a grammar freak.
What’s the difference? It’s all a matter of degree. Grammar geeks follow good grammar rules. They argue among themselves about things like the Oxford comma or whether to end a sentence with a preposition. They smirk knowingly when they see an apostrophe misused. They may even try to convert the non-geek, but it is all very conscious and purposeful.
Grammar freaks, on the other hand, are compulsive when it comes to grammar. It affects our lives. Okay, I can hear you scoffing. “How can grammar affect someone’s life?”
Well, I had give up my subscription to the local, biweekly newspaper because I couldn’t stand the punctuation errors, run-ons, incomplete sentences, and misused words. Reading it drove me to distraction.
“Can’t they get a decent copy editor or even proofreader?!” I would cry.
Life’s too short to put up with such frustration and aggravation. I let my subscription lapse. I can’t watch television newscasts for the same reason. I read the news online, but at least there I can close out the page or play a game of solitaire if I feel my blood pressure rising.
Do you think it’s easy being a grammar freak? It’s a curse as well as a gift, I tell you! I’m possessed by an editorial voice that I can’t ignore.
Watching television produces corrections in my head. (“Subject and verb don’t agree; should be someone goes.”) I correct restaurant menus. I turn off Grammar Check in Microsoft Word because the squiggly green lines are wrong half the time. I edited the adoption form when I picked out my new kitten. Heck, I even mark up the books I read (not library books, of course)!
I know English is a constantly evolving language. I know that grammar rules are more like strong guidelines. I’ve even come to terms with things like the verbifying of “text.” (“Verbifying” itself is a noun turned into a verb!) What I can’t stand is lazy grammar which, while it sets off a klaxon in my head, can often affect anyone’s ability to understand what is written.
I’ve come to terms that this is my talent, but it carries with it a burden. You would think that a nickname like “Comma Queen” would evoke pride. Unfortunately, my reputation causes people to unnecessarily apologize for their “poor writing.” This makes me feel terrible and judgmental! I simply can’t help myself.
If I could get that blue pen-wielding gremlin inside my head to just shut up, my life might be a lot easier.