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Okay, the offending passage was a Facebook post, I’ll give you that. But the content had the writer grinding her teeth.

“…with their daddy’s” the poster wrote. This was a college-educated professional who posted. A person who should have known better. As should we all.

Carelessness is a bear trap, waiting to snap the ankle of the inattentive. Sometimes it’s a simple failure to go back and read what we’ve laid to the page. Sometimes it’s ignorance. I’m not sure which is worse.

Do I make those mistakes? Of course I do. Does it make me any more tolerant of them. Hell no. I’ve known way too many colleagues in the profession of communication who cannot spell, cannot write. Face it, this is like being a chef who cannot cook. I have known writers whose work has been redeemed only by the intervention of great editors and proofreaders. I’ve known overly-eager editors who’ve nitpicked work within an inch of its life, yet who, in their zeal, have missed major errors.

Insert the sound of teeth-grinding here.

These are the capital crimes of fiction….The main character describing him/herself by looking into a mirror. Exhaustive descriptions of a character’s appearance packed into a single paragraph. Adverb saturation. The habit of noting a character’s every move.

Here’s the truth of me: I am not a formalist. Far from it. I believe that unconventional uses of language bring color and tempo and challenge to the reader. I’ll admit that I, too, have self-indulgencies and errors. I make up words. I stray into cliché territory from time to time, thinking that a change-up of the trite phrase will redeem it. I over-use certain punctuation, calling it personal style. Could I do without these crutches? Probably. Do I want to? I refer you back to the above Hell no.

In my earlier days as a writer-Fascist, mine was the habit of reverse graffiti. I would carry a bottle of Wite-Out in my purse, mercilessly painting out errant apostrophes on public signs. Sometimes I asked the sign owner; most of the time I didn’t. I asked then the questions that I continue to ask today:

Is it too much to ask that we strive for a rudimentary command of our native language? If we cannot all be Shakespeare (and let’s face it, who among us can?), might we not, at least, make an effort to make right the written us that we share with the world?

Where we are today would be amusing. If it weren’t so damned sad.

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