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I posted a MEME to my Facebook page today and a friend ask me about the punctuation accuracy of the message in the MEME. I’m almost certain I answered his question correctly, but I started considering something else that hasn’t occurred to me before. I told my friend that I used to be a grammar Nazi, but since I have become a writing student, majoring in the teaching if writing I have relaxed my anxieties with regard to punctuation. Now, I’m not implying that I’m fly by the seat of my pants regarding my punctuation, but I feel that editing for grammar is the very last drafting step in my writing process, something I do when all of my ideas are sound and cohesive.

So, what is so special about this tidbit? Well, I never realized this when I was an undergrad working to get my BA in English. Why? Why did it take me until now, when I’m studying to teach writing to first year writing students to learn that grammar is only a fraction of the writing process? When I was an English major, I worked under the idea that proper English was compiled in a certain way, a no-room-for-error way. Now I see that this perspective is the reason why so many students place the burden of overcoming imperfection on their shoulders, as though mistakes are bad. Mistakes are not bad for writers, they are bountiful morsels of real-life hiccups that we will sooner or later be faced with, and why not teach students to face these morsels head on, instead of approaching the field with falsehoods that will only come back later to haunt them? I refuse to feed my students inadequate ideals about what writing is, because I’ll be preparing them for an ideal world that doesn’t exist and that would be treacherous of me. I want them to revel in their ideas, first. I want students to allow those ideas to simmer and baste until the ideas themselves are perfected, not just the conjunctions that link those ideas. Mechanics are a part of writing and make no mistake about it, we remind students of this daily and painstakingly. However, if we frame writing instruction in such a way that privileges starts and stops, as opposed to expanding and nurturing what has started and stopped, we miss the value of teaching students to write, because we are only teaching them to take responsibility for a part of their work. I want to maintain a heuristic attitude towards my instruction, I want to teach writing as a whole, not as parts of some unreachable world, implying some belong and some do not. Success in writing isn’t tightly bound in the works of Shakespeare or Wollstonecraft or Strunk and White’s โ€œThe Elements of Styleโ€ Being successful at writing means that you have something you desire to share with the world and you are not afraid to share it, using whatever means available to do so. The success of that MEME’s message had nothing to do with whether or not folks knew where to start and stop, the success was in the powerful message it conveyed, one word at a time.

Below the MEME is the thread of the conversation I had with my friend, I’m still not certain if I was correct in my response, but something tells me I’ll get over it ๐Ÿ™‚

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FRIEND: Dawn I’m asking the smart girl this cause she would know. Is there supposed to be a comma or period after couple. I read that straight and read it as 2 lies. Or more than one lie. Hmmmmm. Maybe not. Maybe I need to go back to school. It just doesn’t seem right.

Dawn Sanchez Trueblood: Well, first I’m not the ‘smart girl’ just because I’m a college student, I make all the dumb mistakes everyone else does. I’ve let go of my grammar Nazism long ago because it makes no sense to correct vernacular (slang). Language is language as long as the message is being conveyed and interpreted. However, technically, this passage is fine, because of two reasons: one, the word couple is not followed by a conjunction and two, the first sentence cannot be broken up to stand alone as two sentences. In other words, the conjunction “and” isn’t separating two thoughts, it’s all one phrase. You may have felt the need to insert a comma because as you read the sentence, your brain wanted to pause. ALWAYS say the sentence aloud to yourself to hear inconsistencies, this tip alone has been my holy grail editing tip. Share it with the girls and pick them up a tiny little book called “The Elements of Style” By Strunk and White. Although I don’t like killing thoughts with grammar bullets, our kids are going to be tested on this stuff for college entry so GET THAT BOOK! Very cheap and helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

FRIEND: Lmao. See I knew I asked the right person. You are the s***

I would also like to add that I am not, nor have I ever been the “s***” ๐Ÿ™‚

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