I have always been rather obsessive about spelling, and grammar to a far less degree.
I was so turned off by diagramming sentences in high school, so alienated by all of these technical terms they wanted me to learn…gerund (sounded like a rare species of squirrel), conjunctive phrase (conjunctivitis, anyone?), run-on sentences (run, sentences, RUN!)…I simply could not bring myself to give a damn.
As a writer, I know how important it is to have both excellent spelling AND grammar, which has left me in a bit of a conundrum. I even purchased the complete high school series of Warriner’s English Composition to try to compensate. I made it in a couple of pages and had that instant visceral reaction I had in high school – “Screw this!”
The four books sit on a shelf directly to my right, along with all of my other writing-esque books. In total, I have three of my smallish shelves in my library filled with books on writing, or on the business of writing.
I tried mucking my way through Eats, Shoots and Leaves and couldn’t even manage that.
I guess you could say I’m grammar-conflicted.
However, it was quite nice to see the following response from one of my former high school teachers as I relayed an adventure I had yesterday.
I wrote on Facebook…
Such a colorful area I live in. A couple of hours ago I was heading out to go buy an Eastlake chair in Overland Park. I didn’t get far, just two blocks away, as I was about to turn right onto 12th and head towards 70, I saw a woman laying in the middle of the street.
So I put my blinkers on, got out, and another guy stopped too. Together we helped her up and got her to the side of the road. I was back in my car and getting ready to get back on my way when she came to my side of the car and asked for a ride.
What was I going to do? I’d just picked the lady up out of the street, after all. So I gave her a ride to 17th and Hardesty. She told me her life story along the way, told me she was very blessed, and said thank you about a dozen times. As she got out, I squeezed her hand and told her to take care, and to avoid laying down in streets for a while.
Afterwards I suspected I had used the wrong form of lay and asked in a comment after the post what the correct form was. My former high school teacher wrote this…
She was lying in the street, but it doesn’t matter that you’re not sure of the correct form, what matters is that you helped her.
Thank you Rachel.
I will continue to hone those little grammar rules so that, hopefully, my books are as free of them as possible so that my readers can instead focus on the story in front of them. I’ll do that and keep in mind that, whether they are or not is less important than the fact that we all need a little help sometimes. Whether we are lying in the street or just asking for a small favor like a ride a few blocks away!