Friday, May 14, 2010

On Grammar and Spelling

Recently I got very mad (as I usually do) after reading yet another misspelled, grammatically incorrect piece of writing from my mom. Some people evaluate others by the way they dress; I evaluate them by the way they write. To me, a misspelled and grammatically incorrect piece of writing either shows that you're a) ignorant of some of the rules involved, in which case I would say LEARN, or b) you don't care enough to use Spell-Check. I've found that for too many people, the answer is b.

The problem with my mom is that she makes the same mistakes, every time. Before I even sit down and edit her email for her, I can predict there will be a comma splice, an overly repetitious (and often incorrect) use of the word "to," a non-capitalized or non-italicized book title, or some other kind of heinous mistake. It's not hard to write an email and sound like my mom. All you have to do is use (at least) one comma splice, a "Hi ______" salutation on the same line as the body, and close with "Best, Joyce."

There is nothing so very wrong with this except that I do form my impressions of people from the way that they write, and much like any dutiful child would tell their parents, "You're not wearing THAT to go out--it's hideous," if they were wearing badly matched clothes, I take it personally when my mom misspells, comma splices, or under-capitalizes. Though I may grumble and form bad impressions of strangers who use bad grammar and spelling, I can't really go up to them and scold them, can I?

Last night I watched NBC's Marriage Ref with the rest of the family, and one of the stories was about a man who had devised a sock-sorting system. He numbered each one of his socks, which would then "match" with a corresponding number and letter to represent Left or Right. This was all very well, except that his poor wife had to sort them. In the end, the call (which I found very just) was that he could keep by his system, but he would have to sort the socks himself. I just thought of that because, if my mom wants to keep on using incorrect grammar, she can deal with that system herself. I'd be more than happy to teach her the correct rules--if she'll stick by them.

I did think of another thing from the Marriage Ref, though--one of the panelists was Howie Mandel, the "Deal or No Deal" host (who I personally think looks like a con-man because of the goatee, but that's just my opinion). Apparently he has an obsessive cleanliness problem. This is not to say that I have correct spelling and grammar a hundred percent of the time, but maybe I just have an obsessive correctness problem.

P.S. Jenny, thanks for the comment! I didn't mean the article as a serious comment on how I look at people, but a satirical post to make readers laugh. My mom thought it was pretty funny; sorry if it offended you.


  1. Wow, sweetheart. You're getting a little ahead of yourself. Yes, you may be a good writer, but to go as far to criticize and ridicule your mother on her writing abilities? With that mindset, don't ever expect a proper social life. If you just based on illiteracy, grammatical errors, or anything else pertaining to bad writing in your eyes.. well you're in a lot of trouble. Not everyone's going to be able to pick up a computer and write at eight years old, get real. I don't know what it's like in China, but what I just read has to be one of the most disrespectful things in a long time. Your gift went to the wrong person if this is how you act about it.

  2. Hi Adora, you are amazing! And I am like your mom when it comes to committing repeated grammatical mistakes. haha.

    Although I am in Canada right now, I would like to invite you and your family to Spiti Valley ( in India. It is situated on the Southwestern tip of the Tibetan Plateau. It would be great to have you live at the Kachen Dugyal Girls Hostel and may be teach English there!

  3. I'm an obssessive editor. I read and re-edit each blog post at least three times before I can finally leave the post and go to bed. I bet you carefully checked this post too, lest you end up looking the fool.

    If you had more time, you could always take up my hobby of Wikipedia editing. I call it 'Wikipediting'.

  4. Interesting post. Funnily enough, you made a grammar error of your own in this sentence:

    "I did think of another thing from the Marriage Ref, though--one of the panelists was Howie Mandel, the "Deal or No Deal" host (who I personally thinks like a con-man because of the goatee, but that's just my opinion)."


  5. Anonymous3:25 AM

    Jenny is right. Yeah... Language is just one part of life. There's Maths, Science and Art too. Why not try to learn another language like Chinese? It's not easy to master a foreign language eh.
    Good luck :)

  6. Why, you can expect an excellent social life regardless of any quirk you might have, given that you don't let it bother you too much.

    But try not to expect a "proper" social life, those are boring.

    I also tend to twitch when I encounter writing that isn't as clean as is expected from the medium, and especially from my own mother (who is a writer, translator and copy editor by profession, but lately has been suffering from horrible English spelling, probably related to age).

    I guess there's not much to do about it - same as I don't care how I'm dressed and expect people to look deeper when they judge me, so do some people with their writing, or their knowledge of classical music or European blue-blood table manners, or any other thing by which other people make judgements. Age also comes to mind, although we do not control it.

    -- Aur

  7. I, for one, found this post highly amusing. Keep up the good work, Adora (aka harassing your mom about her punctuation).

  8. I did laugh while reading this, and enjoy reading all your articles and posts. You are an inspiration to me, and I have learned more about writing just from researching you and corresponding with you!

  9. Anonymous1:37 PM

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jenny for you are in no position to criticize your mom despite the fact that you may be a great writer. Remember, you'll go nowhere if you take advantage of your talent. This was disrespectful and I am ashamed that you would think of using your mother as an example as "funny". Perhaps you could think of a better way to deal with this such as helping her fix her errors rather than posting this on your blog. Knowledge isn't everything.

  10. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I admire the way you and your mother interact; I am an engineer with an Asian background, so I'll have to admit that language especially grammar isn't a strength of mine. I am curious about the way you learned English grammar? Did you read grammar books or just through reading profusely? From your observation of other kids, what's the best way to learn grammar (for them)? Should grammar be taught as a separate course/subject at school?

  11. Anonymous12:28 PM

    This is funny, Adora. Remember, English is your mother's SECOND language. You cannot compare the first language to the second one. The first language is build into your blood and the second language is obtained through years of hard learning.

    My first language is Chinese. In term of writing, I don't think I am less capable as you ( I won the national Chinese essay competition in your age). However, when it came to the second language, it is totally a different story. I have learned English for 15 years and I have completed my Ph.D. dissertation in English. But to be honest, my writing IN ENGLISH is still full of grammatical errors. I am sorry, Adora, that is my best effort.

    Now I challenge you to learn Chinese and start to write a grammar free article in 15 years. Unless you do, you really don’t know what the SECOND language is.

  12. I take it none of the other posters here have ever had to correct their parents' grammar at a young age. It is indeed every bit as frustrating as she claims it to be.

    The judgments laced in some of these comments seem a great deal harsher than what Adora is doling out. Don't hiring managers dismiss potential hires based on misspellings and grammatical errors on their resumes? I hardly think Adora's judgment is any different.

  13. Girl, you need to get real. You got no business talking like a white man and looking down on your own mother. If you're into history, you know that this country has had enough of that white supremacy stuff going on without your help. Yes, I am referring to your "grammar obsession." Our grammatical rules are part of a dominating patriarchal structure, designed to oppress minorities and immigrants. This is why white, educated Americans make fun of the way African Americans talk. This is why African Americans and Latinos score low on standardized tests. They don't talk like you do; but that's because they have their own. Your mom does not adhere to grammatical rules for the same reason --- because they are not made for her. She is an immigrant. She has her own. They are not made for the oppressed people. You think about that before you get arrogant.

  14. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Jesus girl, that was kind of rude. And about your own mom too! Try learning a different language before you go and criticize the grammar of those whose second language is English. And anyways, as long as you get your message across, who cares about grammar? Who even writes in complete sentences these days when emailing or chatting or texting? no1 thats who & thats da reality:P

  15. Whoa, Adora. Back up a bit. No doubt you're a talented writer and some people just have this obsessive- compulsive thing that make them perfectionists. Everyone has their little quirks, but I wouldn't go about talking like that, whether about my mother or anyone else. I do get your point, grammar mistakes are exasperating sometimes, especially with you being a 11 (or 12?) year old who corrects her mother's work.

    I do get your point, and see that you're definitely slightly mad at Adora, but she wasn't talking about whites and blacks, was she? You have a valid point, but to say that she is a white man looking down on African Americans is racist on your part, not hers, as she didn't mention that.

    Well, okay, I don't know what I'm doing going around and saying things like that, because I'm not in any place to judge people. Being thirteen, I haven't seen much more of the world than you have, Adora. But with such talent as yours, you should use it properly and still uphold your values and morals.