Sunday, June 8, 2014

English doesn't care what you do to her. She's a badass.

Sometimes people begin emails to me by explaining apologetically that they are not writers, and that what they're about to write will not be perfect or probably even good enough for my writerly eyeballs to behold.

To them I say: Relax, yo. I'm bad at many things, and good at only one. I do not expect everyone to be a writer, just as I do not expect me to be an actuary (say what?). I do not get all uppity about the finer points of writerliness in everyday communications. 

For that matter, I pretty much never get all uppity about the finer points of writerliness unless the topic is writing and the people are writers. (Which means about 5 percent of my life and 0 percent of most other people's lives.) If everyone could write, what use would I be to the people who employ me? No use at all. Which would be terrible for the checking account.

There are about 86 million ways to kindly and constructively communicate with people about how to write well. Every single one of those ways assumes it is more important to be kind and constructive than it is to smite the trembling ignorant among us with almighty writerly rightness.

But there are people out there who do not share my chillax on this topic. The indignant language scolds. You know them. You may have even been indignantly scolded by one. That's who hurt you. That's why you are afraid. And I'm really sorry about that. 

Don't listen to them. They suck. If it makes you feel any better, they always lose. Here's a column about why.


  1. Great one Mary. Wish I could pass out copies to a roomful of English students.

    1. Thanks, David. Really enjoying your work, too, and was mighty glad to see your words on Slate.