Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue

I want to live in a world where the content of written communication is more important than spelling and punctuation.

I want to live in a world where people are generous about typos and the accidental homonym-switcheroo.

I want to write in a world where readers value the risk of self-disclosure that goes into all writing, even blog comments, even Facebook status updates, more than grammatical accuracy.

I want to read in a world where voices very different from mine have access to being published, in their natural writing voices—whether or not they use “prestige English.”

I wish for a world where communication of all forms is regarded as self-expression, and the vibrant ever-changing shape of language is appreciated, not judged as good or bad or in need of protection or preservation.

I like language and people and varieties of spellings and deliberate and accidental misuses of grammar and creative punctuation.

I love seeing the explosion of self-expression that is the Internet—the spontaneous need to share and express and be heard. I love that that hunger overcomes the endless drum beat for perfectly edited copy.

I am less fond of the pride that stems from “being a grammar snob.” But I’m trying to love and understand that impulse, too. After all, I know it takes quite a bit of work to master the prestige form of English, and most people who do so are passionate about language, and have been rewarded for that effort.

If there is one soapbox that I still mount occasionally, it is the one that says, “There’s no officially right way to say or write anything. There is only custom and convention—and these evolve all the time. In the meantime, please—hear the content before you eviscerate the copy.”

Image by Quinn Anya (cc  polka dots added)

3 Responses to “Mother Tongue”

  1. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    Interesting perspective.

    It IS a great thing to see people writing more, but at the same time, when one sees the wrong use of an apostrophe on a business flyer or sign (sorry- it’s a pet peeve of mine :() or a misspelling of a prominent word, that is not the same thing. To me that says that someone just wouldn’t/didn’t take the time to care enough to proofread.

    I mean otherwise, why should we bother to teach conventions such as sentences start with capital letters? None of this would matter, then.
    I do see your point. I don’t know if I’d call myself a “grammar snob” but I do love grammar and think there needs to be a distinction between correct use of grammar versus self-expression and the joy of writing. I think there is a place for both.

    When one of my children (now almost 18) was younger, she had the most atrocious spelling. But she loved to write and so she would write for fun. I was careful about not over-correcting her writing, but when it was for a homeschool language arts lesson, we would correct it together. This paid off, and she now is a prolific writer and became an excellent speller. She loves to look through her box of old papers and laugh at the cuteness of her wrong spelling, but she is glad she learned the correct way!

  2. Julie Bogart says:

    Like I said, Nanci, published writing is held to a standard and it’s okay to “judge” some of it on that basis (for sure in business). But Facebook? Twitter? A little grace goes far. 🙂


  3. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    I agree…a little grace does go far. It never occurred to me until I heard you say it on one of your HECOA talks that there are now more people writing than ever before. That IS a good thing.