practice proper grammar.

11 Aug

I’ve come to a fork in the road with writing You’re A Grown Man and I’m not entirely sure what direction to go.  You see, I get a lot of crap, criticism, and helpful advice from people who say my grammar is “sorta off”.  And you know what? They’re right.  In fact, and I don’t want you to miss the irony, I just spelled grammar, “grammer”, before spell check got me.  Truthfully, it’s incredibly frustrating.

So the decision before me is this: Do I continue to write Grown Man or do I simply fess up to the fact that I’m not a professional writer and leave my witty observations of modern masculinity for phone calls with my brother and trying to make my friends laugh?  Really, I’m not sure yet.  But what I do know is that this struggle is a teachable moment and one that all of us can learn from.  Let us now summon the spirit of Tony Robbins and allow the healing to begin…

You’re a Grown Man, proper grammar is important.

Oh yes, we love just writing in a train of thought, don’t we?  “Hay mom, just wanted too let you know that you’re cookies were sooooo good, all my frat brothers loved them.  Your now there favorite mom!” Do you see what happened there? A kind letter to your mom makes you come off as terribly inept even though you’re saying something wonderful, albeit monstrously lame, but still wonderful.

Source: LIFE Magazine

Grammar (and its BFF, spelling) is essentially the visual expression of who we are.  More than watches, suits, eye-contact or anything else, our written word communicates with great accuracy and efficiency the kind of men we are (or appear to be).  When we use the wrong to, too, and two, people assume that we’re a)not paying attention to detail and being lazy, b)not educated enough to know the difference, or c) both a and b.  All it takes is a sentence in an email, using the wrong you’re/your/Eeyore, to drop the perception of your intelligence down a notch.  This, Grown Men, is why it’s important to mind your p’s and q’s – because you want what you’re writing to speak louder than how you’re writing it.

But Grown Man, I really suck at this stuff!  What should I do?  Also, I hate your blog and hope you stop writing it!

First of all, no you don’t.  Second of all, here are some ways I’ve found helpful in improving grammar:

-Study: In my own writing, I’ve found that my common mistakes often come from some sort of mental block that I need to work on overcoming.  It’s not that I don’t know that there’s a difference between the theirs/yours/and too’s of this world, it’s that I just can’t seem to utilize them properly.  The best comparison I can draw is to (nailed it!) someone who’s bad at directions.  It’s really not their fault that ye ole’ brain doesn’t own North, South, East, and West like it should. Grammar, for many of us, is the same way.  However, those of us who aren’t default editors need to make a life long study of the rules that so vex us.

There are a number of resources that you can study.  One of my favorites is a tiny book called “The Elements of Style” – it’s really helpful.  Another good resource is called the Internet, be careful though – there’s weird stuff on that thing.

-Read: There’s no better way to see how the language is supposed to be crafted than by playing apprentice to the teachers.  Reading books will subconsciously teach you and consciously entertain you.   Plus, you should be reading books anyhow.

-Ask for help: Many people who’ve emailed me have typically tried to soften the “you’re stupid” blow with something like, “…but don’t worry about it, when you get a book deal they’ll give you an editor.”  And, while it’s insane that a book would be written when, clearly, everyone can just get my content for free on this blog, it’s equally nuts to me that I would wait until then to get good help.  Being teachable is important and, in the end, will make you a better person.  I’ve got my trusted team of advisers, you should get yours.

-Check your work: Then, check it again.  There’s no excuse for laziness.

That’s it for today, Grown Men.  If you promise to try, I’ll promise to try.  Together, we can collectively look a little less dumb, well, at least less dumb in the written word arena.  And now, let me leave you with a quote from an actual email I received…

It is my belief that every Grown Man should have an almost perfect command of their first language (I say almost perfect because there is always a small margin of creative licence with language and I am not one to begrudge a man a clever or particularly poignant remark even if it does break with traditional grammar). If failing this, however, they should at least know the difference between “too” and “to” and “you’re” and “your” etc – common little mistakes that a Grown Man (who should certainly count himself a ‘cut above the rest’) should never be making.

Ouch – but true.

28 Responses to “practice proper grammar.”

  1. Sholeh 11 August 2010 at 10:48 am #

    🙂 No one is perfect. I routinely struggle with grammar. English is NOT an easy language. I hope you take the advice that you are getting as well-meaning, and keep on writing!

    • You're a Grown Man 11 August 2010 at 11:05 am #

      Well put – nobody is perfect. And just so you know, you are one of the “trusted advisers” I was referencing You’ve been so helpful and kind about little fixes. You rule.

  2. Coco 11 August 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Keep writing, GM. I’ve noticed the slip-ups from time to time but your wit and humor make them easy to forgive.

    Plus, your style and yes, grammar, as a writer evolve as you keep writing. You’ve got something here…which includes some loyal readers and fans. Like me.

    You’re freind 4 evah,

    • You're a Grown Man 11 August 2010 at 11:09 am #

      You’re rad, Coco. No worries for now, I’ve plenty more ranting and raving to do. Thank you for reading the blog and always taking the time to add so much to the conversation!

      GM & Coco, friends 4-E, GM

  3. Aimee Piper 11 August 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Dear Grown Man,
    I appreciate your honesty in this regard – and your dedication to growth!
    Grammar was easily the hardest class I ever took, and I was an English major… funnily enough, those students who spoke English as a second (or third, etc.) language, typically had a finer command of English grammar. Go figure!

    • You're a Grown Man 11 August 2010 at 11:13 am #

      Thank you ever so much, Aimee.

      Also, you’re totally right about the second language students! I’ve got a number of Brazilian readers who read my English blog and talk about it on Twitter in Portuguese! It really puts me to shame.

  4. mikejmurray 11 August 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I remember my dear 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Reedy. I believe he’s dead now. Most kids hated ol’ Reedy, but I loved him. He was a stickler for grammar. He spent time teaching us things that most other teachers didn’t bother, and I loved it. He was stern and wasn’t afraid to call a student out. Despite this fact, he would tell us “never correct a person older than you. It’s disrespectful.”

    I’d take this idea even further. Don’t correct anyone for the sake of superiority. I played that role as a youngster. It’s obnoxious. Unless you are being helpful and actually want to offer your editing services to someone, don’t be a Grammar Cop.

    The alcoholic who is sober for a week is usually the person pointing his finger at a drunk and saying “shame on you…” Grown Men don’t make other people feel stupid in order to boost their own ego. There will always be someone with better grammar than you. At some point, we will all need grace for our grammar.

    Good grammar is a gift from God. There’s a time and place for correcting others, but make sure you’re offering help and now criticism. Don’t be a grammar bully.

    Here’s to you, Mr. Reedy.

  5. Speech 11 August 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Dear Grown Man,

    Please continue to write. I urge you to follow your own advice and proofread for grammatical mistakes (Their and they’re), but by no means should you change your writing style. Good grammar is important, but a clever writing style does not always have to be worded perfectly. Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’ (see what I did there?) and please continue to be the beacon of hope for the rest of us.

    Warmest regards,

    P.S. – Speech _is_ actually my nickname, not just an irritating joke based on today’s topic. See what a PS can do for you as well?

  6. mikejmurray 11 August 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Hahaha, and in keeping true to my story, I just noticed a mistake in my post. I meant to say “make sure you’re offering help and not criticism”!

  7. Ryan Wiedmaier 11 August 2010 at 11:27 am #

    My good Grown Man, whilst I do so love your call to old fashioned values, etiquette and true manliness, you must understand that language is an ever changing world. Chaucer’s spelling would have gotten him kicked out the college level courses I studied him in. Shakespeare made up a great deal of his words. With the advent of spellcheck, and even more dismaying, text messaging, spelling and slight grammatical nuances are secondary to content. Sadly, the very fact you write with full words, proper capitalization, punctuation and make an effort to spell puts you head and shoulders over so much of the internet.

    That isn’t to say that improper grammar won’t detract, but we’re drowning in a digital sea of words, blogs, editorials, thoughts, tweets, blurbs, and so forth. The hallmark of good writing today is not the technical merits, but those rare and beautiful voices that actually have something meaningful to say.

    Grown Man, you sir are a life raft in the sea of mindless dribble we know the as today’s internet. A needed call to arms and suits that stands above the rest not because of your ability to use, or not to use, a comma, but because you have something worth saying. Yours is a voice that needs to be heard.

    In this era when even the Bible is being translated into LOLcat, the very thought of you hanging up your pen is abhorrent.

  8. James 11 August 2010 at 11:42 am #

    This is one of my favorite GM posts so far. You’re writing (and we’re reading) about one of the biggest downfalls of our generation – something that most people ignore. Even the most basic gramatical and spelling errors are made ALL THE TIME, even though we all have the technology and resources to overcome it. Even though I studied English and hope to continue to in the future, I check my Elements of Style almost every time I write something. It’s just a matter of trying to not only follow the rules but also justify making your own. Language is something that is both rigid and flexible, but “Im trd after wrk…..txt me up tmorrow!!1!” is never OK.

    GM, thanks for realizing you’re mistakes and pressing forward to fix them. For anyone who wants to really nerd it up English-style, here is a really fantastic essay I read just yesterday talking about this very thing:

  9. Ryan Lewis 11 August 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    Grown Man, please continue writing! I appreciate the posts you write and the standards that you unforgivingly set for grown men, not to mention the wit with which you write :). Trying to improve is good, but don’t consider giving up.

  10. Jason Blair 11 August 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    Don’t let the imperfections get you down. In the long term, you’ll get a sense of joy and accomplishment from looking at your posts over time and seeing the improvement in both grammar and style.

    And if there is a sure mark of a grown man, it is the ability to acknowledge one’s imperfections while striving to be a little better each day.

  11. Bramanm 11 August 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    I had to take a summer school class in high school (GPA dropped too low for me to play football in the fall) and surprisingly the teacher was one of my coaches. I expected a cushy class focused around “football theory”. I was mistaken. It was something out of Dead Poet’s Society (great movie, I know) and he explained that the ability to communicate properly was a skill we would use for the rest of our lives. The entire summer course focused on the study and use of grammar. Here we were a bunch of high school kids, most of us sophmores, and a few freshman, who knew nothing about subjects, predicates, tense, conjugating verbs, etc. We were old enough to have learner’s permits to drive but we couldn’t use the english properly. I’m glad I screwed around that last semester because I would not have the grasp on the language that I do today.

    Thanks again Coach! And thank you GM for addressing such an issue

  12. Cameron Ticheli 11 August 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Grown Man,

    I find it hard to believe that you are not a “professional” writer.

    Perhaps “copy” writer? Creative director? Right-brained art director? There must be an ad agency connection. If there isn’t, you missed your calling my friend.

    I know a good recruiter if you’re ever in the market.

    In shock,


  13. Bobby Soto 11 August 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    Grown Guy:

    I’m a professional newspaper editor who traffics in the usage and abusage of language all day long. My advice to you: Just keep writing. You’ve already got your style, now all you need to do is perfect your technique. That comes with practice. And don’t be afraid to break the bounds of Spellcheck. Also, the biggest secret to writing well is editing well. Go back, read your stuff, make the fixes and it will al be fine.

    • You're a Grown Man 11 August 2010 at 6:08 pm #

      That’s tremendous advice. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to share with the class. Good luck with the newspaper – I hope your industry sees a big rebound soon.

  14. Layla 11 August 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    High five. Improper grammar jumps out at me like a Halloween creeper in a van looking for blond haired, blue eyed kids. I realize that just as not everyone has blond hair, not everyone is annoyed by improper grammar. But I do believe we should all at least try to get the basics down, especially if it is posted publicly.

    Even if you make grammatical mistakes (Who doesn’t? I do.) here and there, you have an interesting blog, a conversational style of writing and you’re interesting and funny. I like you.

  15. EmilyG 11 August 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    Way to go, GM!

    Yes, proper grammar is a skill that everyone should have. Unfortunately it doesnt seem to come easily to those of us for whom English is our first language. To be honest, nothing bothers me more than the feeling that I can’t read the grammatically-incorrect local newspaper without a red pen in my hand to correct mistakes as I go! However, there is also a time (2010) and place (an internet blog) where perfect grammar may not be quite as important. Certainly not important enough to quit writing over a few mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.

    As an aside, another resource you may find helpful is ‘The Little, Brown Handbook’. It’s a great and thorough tool. The companion website ( has a lot of great resources too.

    Keep up the great work and the good habits you’ve picked up to improve your writing.

    – EmilyG

  16. jordanhickman 12 August 2010 at 12:23 am #

    As an person with an English degree, nothing turns me off more than reading bad grammar. But, you have nothing to worry about. You actually care about perfecting your craft and not just getting laughs for your awesome writing. Keep it up, Grown Man. You’re doing an awesome job. If you’re interested, here are a few books you can read to make your writing even better: “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” is a REALLY good book focusing on punctuation, and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” is a great book about writing and perfecting your craft. And finally, as much as I despise Stephen King, his memoir “On Writing” is pretty much perfection. Reading fiction will definitely improve your writing, but non-fiction will help just the same. Don’t quit your blog. Your grammar has gotten much better and it is truly a joy to read.

  17. Leslie Rex 12 August 2010 at 9:56 am #

    This writing coming from a man….. The only word that comes to mind is Bravo! In a world that is trying to find the easy way out of everything it is refreshing to see someone striving for excellence with the written word. It’s an art that is being lost. Thank you!

  18. Amy 12 August 2010 at 10:30 am #

    You try and you care. That goes a long way. I was an English major and your grammar has never “turned me off.” Your content more than makes up for your few slips in grammar. Plus, if I am reading something for free, I give liberties. You are doing this for fun, unpaid, in your spare time. Mistakes are inevitable. When I buy a book or a magazine and see a glaring error, that’s when I get miffed.

    If it makes you feel any better, the commenter you quoted spelled license wrong. And I’m pretty sure they should have dropped the “if” in the sentence “If, failing this, however . . . “

  19. de.construct.ion 17 August 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Sorry Grown Man, I was on vacation and have wanted to reply to this but could not. Sorry if it’s too late, and sorry if I repeat what someone else said above me (I’m too lazy to read them all they were lengthy!). I am pretty horrible at grammar, I have never been ‘professionally’ trained (I’m an architect not a writer by trade, and believe it or not most architects are HORRIBLE at spelling and grammar, no idea why). That being said, I am no critic of yours. I love love love your blog. I love that you are obviously a normal guy who writes a great blog. Any flaws someone could find simply authenticate your work in my opinion. Your work important, funny, honest and endearing. You will learn some about grammar etc. just by writing more. And if you stop writing this blog I’ll die of heart break! Cheers!

  20. R.A. Stewart 25 August 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    You’ve anticipated everything that ran through my mind when I read your first two paragraphs. If I may expand on Study, I’d say be very, very cautious about Internet resources unless they are academic (.edu) or are linked with an authoritative resource such as the Little, Brown Handbook that EmilyG referenced. Besides the books already mentioned (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is great and a lot of fun, as are The Transitive Vampire and Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s other books), you might want at some point to look at Fowler’s English Usage — actually, I think the current edition is called The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage. I’m more familiar with an older edition. Fowler’s emphasis is British (or at least was), but it’s still worth reading for the careful and penetrating analysis not only of points of style, but of the reasons (variously historical and rational) behind them.

    And I absolutely agree on Read, of course. The more you read, especially the more you read of the best stylists in our language, the more their craft will sink into and become part of your consciousness.

    I’ll also second what some other commenters have said: it’s evident in your posts that you have been applying your own advice. I’m happy that you decided to do that instead of “leav[ing] my witty observations of modern masculinity for phone calls with my brother and trying to make my friends laugh.”

  21. Boston 29 January 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    One thing I’ve noticed with every post in which you use the word “breath,” you actually mean “breathe.” I’ve been known to be a Grammar Nazi, and being a designer, my eye for detail is nothing short of constant in every aspect of my life.

    Design, spelling, and grammar can all be compared to a door. Think about it. No one enters and exits a door and notices how well it works. It’s just to be expected. But damn it, when something is off, it is just something that you have to make note of.

  22. Sherri 19 December 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    I encourage everyone to work on this.I am SO tired of seeing people say your when it should be you’re. Come on. It’s not that hard! Learn to spell! As an employer, who had a job to fill, I tossed out any resumes that had words spelled wrong. If you can’t proof a resume, it tells me you do not pay attention to detail. And, frankly, I do not want to hire someone like that. And I won’t go any further. Your resume and cover letter should be flawless.

  23. italexpress 19 February 2013 at 3:52 am #

    I similar to the useful facts you give you as part of your posts.I will bookmark your web log and look at all over again below usually.I am really certainly I will find out a great deal of new stuff appropriate below! Very good luck to the upcoming

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