The Spelling & Grammar Police

by Diane Attwell Palfrey

In today’s world of social networking, it would appear that proper grammar and correct spelling have flown out the window. This fast-paced lifestyle, and perhaps the speed of delivery, is what causes all the errors in many blogs, texts, tweets and/or other forms of media. Many people don’t bother to correct their errors. Or perhaps they don’t realize they have made an error in the first place.

Although more prevalent today, the need for good editing has always existed. Last week I was reading a newspaper article from July 28th, 1932. It depicted all the details of my great uncle’s fiftieth anniversary party. In those days, it was important to note who poured tea, who wore what, and how the tables were decorated. I was only one sentence into the piece when I read the text: “Firty years ago, Mr. Carey, then a youg man of 29 summers. . . “. This was published in a major newspaper. So maybe times haven’t changed too much after all.

When I went to elementary school, (and I’m not saying when) teachers watched for every mistake in word usage. Spelling was paramount, and just as important as good grammar. There was no such thing as “creative spelling”. We had spelling bees, and when we handed in work, it would come back heavily red-inked if not perfectly executed. Every comma and period had to be in its proper place. Sentence structure was clear and concise and heaven forbid any dangling participles.

By the time my own children started school, curriculums had changed
drastically. The teaching of phonics was no longer encouraged. It was a sad day for me. I had become obsessed with language over the years. I had come full circle and now I was the spelling and grammar police. When my children brought home journal entries from the teacher, I would red circle her errors before I sent my response back. I did that several times with one teacher until she started sending error-free notes.

I’m a firm believer in reading the written word a few times before you publish anything. Make sure that there are no spelling errors (conveniently now called typos). Write in clear sentences and use punctuation. Sentences that go on and on and on. . . are really annoying. I am too lazy to decide where someone wants the emphasis or decipher what they are really trying to say. Some people don’t seem to notice that there is a difference between using they’re and their. And for others, misnomers are commonplace.

Yes, I began that last sentence with “and”. It is now acceptable to start a sentence with conjunctions. Did I make unintentional errors in this article? Some are positioned, but maybe some are not. You decide. Become the spelling and grammar police especially for your own work!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Diane was born in Toronto and has lived in Cambridge for the past twenty-two years. She is a poet and prose writer. Diane is a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective and has poetry published by the Waterloo-Wellington CAA, Serengeti Press, Craigleigh Press, Hammered Out, The Ontario Poetry Society, Cruickston Charitable Research Reserve/RARE, & Ascent Aspirations Magazine. Diane is also the first place winner of the Cambridge Arts Festival Poetry Contest for 2009 and 2010.


One response to “The Spelling & Grammar Police

  1. An amazing article, thanks for the writing.

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