I try to be a knuckle dragging Neanderthal yet I wind up doing a fair amount of editing. I rationalize that I edit at least as well as I can fell a tree and far better than I can fix a tractor so why not?
Sometimes I encounter writing that is truly awful. In that case I mark up the page with so many red marks that the writer starts to question their sanity, intellect, and role in the universe. This has gotten me a reputation as a “grammar Nazi”. I disagree. I like to think I’m either honing greatness from uncut stone or polishing turds. I humbly I leave it to the writer to suss out which one they might be.
Pages I mark up particularly harshly were particularly obtuse when written. Why should this reflect poorly on me? Sadly, it’s 2014 and everyone is trained from birth to be a delicate flower of enhanced self esteem. Things occasionally go south. When that happens I open my heart to the poor wounded soul who has come to me for external validation. I gingerly take their hand, I look into their eyes to show my earnest concern, and then I gently explain that the best way to deal with someone like me is to quit writing like an illiterate monkey. This doesn’t always go over well but it’s important to enjoy the little things in life and it always amuses me.
Then I suggest an even better option. Ignore me. Perhaps I’ve just encountered a latter day Hemingway. Maybe I simply can’t grok the mastery before me. If they think they did their best work then by all means go forth and publish. The “Nazi” part of “Grammar Nazi” has to do with coercion. I laugh but do not coerce.
The best part of writing comes later. Once one can construct a sentence; or rather, construct the coherent thought that will lead to a sentence, it’s time to bend rules. English is neither locked in iron nor the property of pointy headed academics. It’s meant to be used hard, flogged relentlessly, and crashed into the ditch after a night’s drinking. Bend it, break it, and twist it. Why not? Aside from the NSA, there is no “permanent record” and adults should express themselves to the fullest of their ability.
Hat tip to Silicon Graybeard.