where the writers are
Confessions of a Grammarphobe

Gentle readers, I am about to admit something that I don’t like admitting. However, I made a birthday resolution this year that I was going to tackle this problem I have and with your help, I hope I will succeed.

            So here we go.

            Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I am a grammarphobe. I hate grammar with a passion, and I know I have bad grammar.

            Now I know my former English teachers and people who have read my work in progress are throwing up their hands and saying “Well, duh, Jen! We could’ve told you this!” Bear with me folks. I’ll try and tell you the origins of my grammar loathing.

            Learning about grammar was just boring to me. I just had this resistance to it. Think of a kid not wanting to eat, her arms crossed, saying “No!” That was me. It started in sixth grade. I just had a blissful fifth grade year where I wrote a short story a week and won a prize for reading more books than anyone in the class. Then I was plopped down in middle school. Anne Lamott said that hell on earth is seventh and eighth grades, but sixth grade should be included in that category as well. I hated sixth grade. I hated it with a passion because I didn’t have the right clothes, I was teased because I had bad skin, and I hated it because of grammar.

            In English class, we had to do prepositional phrases. I’ve been trying to remember what I learned in that class, but I can’t remember one thing. I just remember it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t creative. I wanted to write stories. I wanted to do more than circle prepositional phrases and get graded down for double clauses. I was a bit like the Sidney Poitier character in A Raisin in the Sun when he says “I want to fly!” His wife looks at him and says “First eat your eggs.” I didn’t want to eat my eggs, I wanted to fly!

            Seventh grade it was more of the same. Grammar, grammar, grammar. I was so tired of it. Since I had bad handwriting due to my learning disability, my handwriting was hard to read. So when one of the kids would have to correct my paper, they wouldn’t be able to read it, and then they would complain about it, and God, no wonder I have grammar issues! It’s all connected to my pain body! I knew I could connect it to Eckhart Tolle!      

            High school was full of reading and writing which I loved, but no grammar. Same with college. I was graded down on grammar on essays, but I just thought that the teachers didn’t understand my writing style. Even when I read my papers over, I couldn’t find the grammar mistakes (this can also be due to my LD) Besides, on MS Word there was a grammar check. A grammar check, my new best friend! Ha, ha! I don’t need to learn grammar!

            But as many people pointed out, MS Word’s grammar isn’t very reliable, along with the spelling. Tony Hicks in his Contra Costa Times column commented that when you type Barack Obama’s name in MS Word, sometimes it gets automatically corrected to Bark Opium. Bark Opium for President!

            Sometimes I’ve had to go back in this blog and correct grammar mistakes. Thanks to all who have read these blogs and never wanted to say “Jennifer, proofread! Check your grammar!”

            After in my critique group the sixth or seventh person mentioned that um, I have bad grammar, I knew things had to change. I bought a new copy of Elements of Style last week. I’m going to watch the Schoolhouse Rock videos on YouTube. Around here, I have a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

            Now here’s where the wonderful Red Room community comes in. Every Monday I’ll be profiling something about grammar on my blog. It could be the Wonderful World of the Comma or Those Wacky Semi colons. We can all learn together. I’m not Oprah, but I will ask for a moment of silence before each blog. If anyone has any grammar tips and books to share with me, go for it.

            However, I will not diagram sentences. I have my limits.

            Deep breath. Okay. Ready, steady, go! (And MS Word is saying Deep breath is a fragment. I’m not correcting it, no matter what they say! Okay, maybe I will…)


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What a wonderful essay!  And your grammar is perfection!  So funny about wanting to fly but you have to eat your eggs first.  Hey, practice makes perfect and all that cliche-jazz. Write ON! 

Happy Birthday, too!

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Boy, that's ironic...

the time I write about having bad grammar, and the grammar is perfect!

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I think of grammar

as part of my toolbox.  I think of sentences as the essential building blocks, the DNA, of my work.  I love the way things fit together to create meaning and sound and feeling.  Writing is all these parts put together, and I love it.  Grammar gets a bad rap, and it doesn't deserve it.  It's what we use, what we have, what we move around to make the music we can.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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That's another book I have to reread..

is On Writing by Stephen King. He mentions the toolbox metaphor as well.