I remember not speaking much when I was little. I had trouble understanding verbal communication, so it wasn’t until I learned how to read that my speech began to improve. People assumed I was shy because I would not talk unless absolutely necessary. Because of my underdeveloped skills in this area, I had to see a speech therapist in first grade to prevent being held back a year.
Conversely, I developed strong writing skills. My grammar was excellent from a young age. I have always noticed when words are misspelled or commas are amiss. I learned to point out these mistakes to family and friends very early on in life, and received a lot of gratitude and positive feedback for doing so. I do make mistakes when writing, of course, but I always appreciate when a courteous observation is made so I can correct my errors.
My practice of focusing on grammatical issues started innocently enough. I began assisting fellow students with their school work to keep their grades up. I was happy to do so. I was helping others and putting my knowledge to good use. As an added benefit, I was teased less for my silence. I never imagined my assistance would one day turn into a bad habit.
I still help friends today with their college papers or works in progress. It makes me feel good about myself to share this skill with them. However, the world today is different than the one in which I grew up. The Internet exists now, where people chat, blog, tweet, and text daily. The vast majority of online interactions are written correspondence. I rarely used the Internet before this year to engage in any of these activities though.
Now I find myself in the unusual position of reading strangers’ writings on a regular basis. These people do not request nor want grammatical feedback on what they’ve written from me. Yet I find myself offering unsolicited advice anyway. Once a beneficial skill to share, my editorial focus now upsets others. I’ve tried to stop. A lifetime of learning to attenuate to these problems and offer solutions is difficult to break, but I’m working on it.
The Internet has helpfully coined a term for people like me. We are Grammar Nazis. Some people are proud to be one. Others, like me, worry that I do more harm than good pointing out grammatical errors to strangers who are simply trying their best to communicate. I know what it feels like to be made fun of for not being able to communicate effectively, and I don’t want to ever make another feel like I’m being malicious or mocking them. I try to present my advice in a friendly way, though it doesn’t always come across that way to others.
I still receive requests for my grammar skills from family and friends, but I’ve become more hesitant to provide it lately. Logically, I know I should just give my advice to those who ask for it, and withhold it from those who don’t. Yet I do not find it that easy to do in practice. I know I’m not alone, either, or this moniker wouldn’t have been created in the first place.
So if I slip and correct you when you’ve not asked for my advice, please know I mean no harm. I’m not trying to make you feel bad about your writing skills. I want to help you improve them. Many people still thank me for this advice, and I feel great when I can help others in this way. Sometimes I get a rush from that feedback, and all is good. At other times, I upset someone, and I feel terrible about it. I hope I’ll strike a balance soon and stop offering help when it’s not wanted, but I’m not there yet. Please bear with me.
Has anyone else had this experience, or do you have some other talent that has become a liability in your life or social interactions? Please feel free to comment about your experiences below. Thanks for reading!