I have a problem, I do.
Sending a text only to find my autocorrect has changed my proper selection of they’re/there/their to an incorrect one makes me cringe. I worry that people will mock me if I post a sentence fragment on Facebook. I confess, I quietly judge other people by their grammar when I’m reading online.
Like most people, I like to let my personality shine through in updates, posts, and other conversational statements posted online. When doing so, I try to let go of rigid grammatical rules in favor of playful meme-referencing soundbite-like statements and memorable turns of phrases that would make e.e. cummings proud.
Still, I am often struck by anxiety-riddled terror that someone will find a grammatical error in these posts (and this essay) and think less of me for it. Or even worse, just knowing in my heart that it’s wrong, and it’s Out There. This, in a nutshell, is the struggle of an aspiring grammarian in social media.
As a writer, I have a deep appreciation for the opportunities social media provides me. There is always compelling content to be written, a new challenge to be clever in a character-restricted space, and endless up-to-the-minute knowledge available that puts my stack of style and grammar textbooks to shame (yes, I have a stack). The Comma Queen is my writing patronus and I firmly believe that the use of excellent grammar and diction can only make us all better communicators and in turn, better people.
However, many a time, I have polished a sentence to make sure my participles are not dangling, and my adverbs are properly placed, only to find I sound like I belong in a corseted gown and fascinator, fanning myself on a chaise lounge. So, what is a young grammarian on the make to do?
In an age where one’s first draft is often one’s only draft, I have, on a regular basis, two options. One, I can be *that* narrow-minded person online who not-so-secretly judges other people by their grammar and look on from my lonely tower where no one talks to (or likes) me. Two, I can look at the facts and conclude, quite simply, that there is a time and a place to be 100% grammatically correct, and many times, that place is not in 140 characters or a likable Facebook post. Personality and clarity triumph over correctness, and that is part of social media’s beauty.
And you know what? There is something modern and freeing about ignoring rules in favor of a punchline. It gives our social media lives the same vivid color palette as our IRL interactions, and in a world of ever-expanding online experience, I think we can only benefit from a more technicolor online life.
[Image via NBC]