It hurt to even write that. But that right there, in that twinge of pain and eye spasm, is the reason I’m writing this post.
I’m not here to suggest that good grammar and spelling isn’t necessary or to negate that it helps get our points across more easily. If I could go my whole life never hearing someone say “I seen” ever again, I’d be one happy human.
I’m reading a book right now that is full of lessons and messages of great importance. What I’ve noticed is that because I’m a true believer in the Oxford comma I keep finding myself cringe and judge every time a sentence, which “clearly needs it”, is missing that damn comma. It takes me out of the bigger picture. I’m quick to fix it in my mind, focusing on making the sentence right – instead of taking in the message.
Being a “grammar Nazi” means we focus on one aspect of structure, and we miss the message. Not the writer. The writer is focused on the message. Just like I am when I write my blog posts – not being too critical with my sentence use and perhaps (okay, definitely) making grammar and spelling mistakes as I go. And yes, my process is to even publish it raw, because as a writer I understand the message is what I’m after, not the minute details of delivery. I trust I’ve done enough to get my message across, so I hit enter and share. The writer is focused on the purpose of why we are communicating at all. So what are we doing as readers?
The writer (or speaker) was sharing a message, and you missed it because of what hooks you.
And sure, we can defensively say they should do a better job getting their message across – but we are the ones missing out on the message. It’s interesting too because it doesn’t only come up in confusion. We often know exactly what the message is trying to say, but we are focused on it’s flaws in how it’s being said, that we right off the entire thing. The self righteous indignation we have when we know it wasn’t worded or spelled the “right way” gives us this sense of being “better than”, and it disconnects us from the writer and their message. And it’s us who are causing that disconnect.
When I read this powerful story and I pick out silly details like it’s lack of a fucking Oxford comma, I’m the one losing here. It’s my hang up and the only one I’m hanging is myself. The way something is written is not the point. The bigger picture, the point, was the message – and I let myself miss it because of what hooks me.
When we’re in the position of the speaker or writer, or hell – just trying to communicate in a language you no hablo bueno, it’s easier to get past these hang ups. Maybe my google translate conversations and sad attempts to use my Duolingo skills recently have made me more aware of how getting the point across is the main objective. Having enough of a connection to get the guard to open the gate so you can get back to your house. That’s what matters. Perhaps this is why when I cringed at a sentence instead of taking in a beautiful message today – I took pause.
In my speech and communication role I work on things like articulation, proper use of articles, and sentence structure – but before any of that is a goal – the primary objective is for a child to have a way to get their message across. Because whether they say a full sentence, hand you a picture, or point – the message is always the most important piece. And, as I tell parents often, if your child comes to you and says “I wuv you”, don’t correct their /l/, just give them a hug.
This insight has caused me to think – besides grammar, what else hooks me? What messages or lessons am I missing out on because of my own hang ups? Can I acknowledge when I’m picking out flaws or rejecting whole lessons due to small pieces? I want to make sure I’m practicing staying open to messages. Open to lessons. Making sure I’m staying open to what truly matters. Focusing on what truly matters. Receiving what truly matters. Making sure I’m giving that child a damn hug.