Tag Archives: red pen

Correctile dysfunction

When it comes to matters of grammar and pronunciation, I observe two kinds of people:  those who appreciate being corrected so they can learn from their mistakes and those who are offended by being corrected.

One might argue that it depends on the tone and context of the correction. Certainly, most people would not care to be schooled in a harsh or a humiliating manner. My experience is that some people are open to learning and some are not. Somewhere in between are those who say they appreciate being reminded of the correct way to write and speak, but turn around and resort to old habits. I guess that’s why they’re called habits.

I put myself in the first category. While it is never fun to learn I’ve committed a grammatical error or mispronunciation, especially as someone who claims to know a fair amount about such things, I desire to learn and improve. I admit there are rules I don’t understand. There are several I have trouble remembering. This is one reason for the Red Pen Invitation I extend on this blog’s About page and also why I confess to being on a lifelong journey to get it right. I admit it stings a bit when a reader calls me on an error or challenges a statement, but I’m grateful for the lesson.

When I choose to correct others—usually family members or close friends—I try to be judicious and kind. As much as I’d like, I don’t correct anyone’s children but my own. Believe me, for every time I hear or read a loved one’s error, I let slide another nine. Where I step on shaky ground is in assuming everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about getting it right.

What about those in the second category? Those who say, essentially, “I’ve pronounced it that way since I was seven and there’s no way I’m going to start changing now.” Or “I know that’s the rule but it doesn’t make sense to me, so I am going to keep saying it incorrectly.” Or “Frankly, I don’t care what the difference is between ‘who’ and ‘whom,’ ‘its’ and ‘it’s,’ or when to use ‘I’ and when to use ‘me.’” “I don’t care.”

What I’d ask readers to consider is:  which kind of person are you when it comes to being corrected? Provided the corrector is polite and judicious, are you open or are you offended?

If you’re in the former group, do you have a process for remembering what you’ve learned? Do you write it down or come up with a clever mnemonic? Create an occasion to use it in a sentence?

If you’re in the latter group, what’s your reasoning for closed ears? Do you consider critique a nuisance or a blow to the ego? Are you apathetic about such matters? Or do you believe correct grammar and proper speech are unimportant?

My eyes and ears are open. Tell me and maybe I’ll stand corrected.


Filed under All Things Wordish

The girl with the red pen

A couple of years ago, before grownups were allowed on Facebook, I set about finding my childhood BFF.  More aptly Best Friends for Then, she and I lost touch after high school, much to my profound disappointment.  Thirty years after graduation, my search eventually led me to her.  She was living several states away.  I contacted her via e-mail and we arranged to speak by phone one evening.

We got the life updates out of the way, shared information about our parents and kids and quickly returned to the past.  She reminded me of something that brought me tremendous remorse.  It must have been equally painful for her but at the time I was unaware.   

She remembered that back in middle school, she’d pass me notes during class.  And she remembered (gasp!) that I would correct her spelling and grammatical mistakes with a red pen before passing the notes back. 

As we chatted on the phone that night, her daughter walked in and asked who was on the phone.  She said, “I am talking with Monica.”  Her daughter said, “oh, isn’t she the girl with the red pen who used to correct your notes?”  Ouch.

To my friend I offer my deepest apologies.  I give myself an F for my overzealous behavior and hope to some day earn back that second F in BFF.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends