by Kirk Melson
It’s taken a while, but I’ve learned to listen very carefully to what she wants when she asks me to read something. So how about you? Have you ever made the mistake of correcting grammar when asked for an opinion, or am I the only dunce in the room?
As most of you know, I’m an engineer. It’s in my nature to appreciate things that fit within given parameters. So it’s probably no surprise to know that of all the English classes I’ve taken, I enjoyed grammar the most. All those hard and fast rules make writing correctly something easy and more importantly, success definable. It’s the closest someone can get to math in the English department.
And I have to say ignorance was bliss. I could have continued with my naïve belief, except one day my wife asked me to read something she’d written and give her an opinion.
|Be careful, opinion may not mean what you think!|
I thought opinion meant she wanted to know what was correct and what wasn’t. (Those of you who are writers please stop giggling.) And I wanted her to find success in the publishing industry, so I proceeded to mark up the article she’d given me. I showed her where commas were needed, where semi-colons should go, and places she’d left out necessary words—like the word THAT. (When did THAT become such a maligned word?) My grammar teacher would have been proud.
I took my time, even though she was in a rush for my opinion, and even used different colored ink so she could see my corrections. I really wanted to do a good job for her. And I was proud of my effort when I handed her back the paper.
So you can imagine my surprise at her response. First her face turned red, then tears gathered in her eyes. Now I can stand almost anything except when she cries. “What’s wrong?” I tried to give her a hug, but she backed away, paper clutched to her chest.
“You don’t like it!” I could hear the gathering storm in her voice.
I assured her that I did like it. I just wanted to help her with the grammar. Here, things began to go from bad to worse, as broken-hearted turned to insulted and just plain mad.
|Am I the only dunce in the room?|
I was treated to a diatribe of how the world of publishing viewed grammar. And undoubtedly the grammar teachers I’d had in school were not correct when they’d assured me grammar was a hard and fast science, not given to change or modification.
I also learned the writer’s definition of the words, opinion, critique, and edit. They are three very distinct and different things—NEVER to be confused. Turns out she only wanted to know whether I thought the piece flowed and made sense. She wasn’t even interested in the grammar!