A flurry of blogs and articles have hit the Internet with thoughts on the importance of correct spelling and grammar. In a post on Idealawg, Stephanie West-Allen links to sources supporting both sides of this debate. An article in the (British) Independent argues it both ways. In her blog, Penelope Trunk squarely stands in the center of free-writing. I find her argument compelling, but not convincing.
Part of the equation for debating this issue is the fact that students are apparently not learning accurate spelling and grammar in public schools. Creativity and preserving self-esteem by accepting any form of personal expression is seemingly valued more highly than literacy. Or, perhaps we don’t want any child left behind? Or perhaps the teachers themselves never learned? Whatever the reason, a generation of functional illiterates is emerging with the belief that text-messaging code is appropriate for general communication.
As I write this, I must qualify it. My older grandchildren write brilliantly, so there is a glimmer of hope. Part of my hope is that this will put them at the head of the pack, but what good is that if the pack doesn’t know enough to recognize excellence?
Since my personal vow is to keep this blog focused on lifestory writing rather than political rhetoric and soapbox grandstanding, I’ll turn the corner back to task.
For the record, when writing anything for public dissemination, I firmly support correct spelling and grammar, and I also encourage these attributes in private writing. Attention to detail is never inappropriate, though it does matter more in some contexts than others. There's always room for leeway in e-mail and journals.
Having said that, I’ll flip to the other side of the coin and reiterate my constant reminder that concerns about grammar, spelling, and punctuation should never get in the way of telling your story.
Write those drafts as freely as they come to mind. You can fix them later. If fate intervenes and you never edit them, your descendants will cherish them anyway and recognize that they are rough drafts. Wouldn’t you be thrilled with a crudely written story from your (great-)grandparent? I am! Get the stories written, then correct them the best you can and don’t worry about it.
If you want to be a candidate for a Pulitzer, then read voraciously with a critical eye, and study everything you can get your hands on about writing. Seek coaching, and write your heart out. If your only concern is creating a legacy of stories for your descendants, let the words flow from your heart and they’ll spill into others. That’s quite enough.
Write now: about your experience studying spelling and grammar in school. Did you do well? Was it difficult for you? Did you enjoy diagramming sentences? What thoughts about this subject do you want to share with future generations? Write about writing lessons you’ve learned from reading other writers.