Even Grammar Gurus Make Mistakes

By Mark Nichol

I’ve noticed that I’ve been overlooking more mistakes in these posts recently — or perhaps it’s just that I haven’t been making fewer errors as I go along, as I would have expected after six months’ worth of almost daily submissions.

Thanks to astute site visitors who (usually) politely point out typographical errors, I note that occasionally I type the wrong form of a word (necessary instead of necessarily, for example), or that, when I provide a sample sentence with an error and then provide an annotated correction, sometimes I forget to actually correct the sentence. (Does that jive — I mean, jibe — with your observation?)

I’d like to be able to tell you, “I meant to do that — I just wanted to see if anybody was paying attention,” but the truth is, I make mistakes. And, like most bloggers, I don’t have an editor to sweep up after me. And, as I’ve often said, especially to people unfamiliar with the professional publishing world’s writing-editing-proofreading protocol, everybody needs an editor — even editors.

But before you send me your resume, note that we’re not hiring — blogs are, by their nature, a more or less spontaneous medium of communication (though I try to review my work carefully), and, anyway, DailyWritingTips.com doesn’t have the resources to implement a more traditional editorial procedure (not yet, at least).

I realize all too well that in my advisory capacity, I have a responsibility to strive for rigorous flawlessness — a nearly impossible task I will nonetheless continually attempt to accomplish, but I also thank you in arrears and in advance for your (good-natured, I hope) comments about each lapsus clavis.

Speaking of slip-ups, there are mechanical errors, and there are errors of fact. I do not claim to be an unimpeachable authority on every topic I write about. But I have spent many years intensively acquiring a practical knowledge of language, and by teaching editing (which I used to do), writing about composition (which I do now), and researching language usage (which I have always done), I have learned and processed much about writing and editing. In this forum, I welcome the opportunity to share that knowledge and insight with you, and in this forum, you are welcome — and encouraged — to respond in kind.

Note this well, however: If you disagree with anything I write about writing, that’s your prerogative. But don’t rely on your assumptions — or your education. (Those influences often coalesce imperfectly, and educators make mistakes, too.) The best way to learn is to consult multiple sources and develop your own understanding at a point where those sources intersect — and note that I didn’t refer to a fixed point. I endeavor to be consistent yet flexible, and I heartily recommend that attitude to all.

32 Responses to “Even Grammar Gurus Make Mistakes”

  • Silvia G.Martinez

    Dear Mark, once again you demonstrate to us (readers of your daily posts) that you are not only a good writer but a nice person. I think it´s hard to recognize our limits as profesionals which I´m not saying you have any. You´ve showed such a wonderful management of style and vocabulary that mistakes (if they existed) would never belittle your work.

  • Mothiluj

    I totally appreciate having found this site and read your comments and also the coments of others. I graduated uni with a JOU degree, and I have written for some papers, but I tend to now shy away from telling people I am a journalist when they ask me, because they take on the assumption that you are a grammar/syntax/etymology/punctuation expert and that you could/should/must/never/would ever make any mistakes in writing nor speaking!!
    That bugs me to the core, because I find tons on mistakes in my writing, especially when I am in a hurry to pen my thoughts down before I forget what exactly it is that was i n my mind to say.
    even yesterday I was in some sort of a business discussion with “a choleric-type idiot, without uni education, yet calls itself an entrepreneur” who asked me wheter I really call myself a journalist because there have been some errors in the email we exchanged prior to our meeting.
    i was so ticked off because my being a journalist had nothing to do with the conversation at hand. But this vermine was nothing but a thorn in the flesh seeking to urk up people’s nerves in order to enhance self-gratification that a choleric-type personality endulges in. You can tell it touched a nerve in me as I am now searching the Web to find info on why I am making mistakes in my writing — which is how I came upon your Web site.
    So, not to have a pity party or anything, but I am glad that there are other guru/professional writers out there who somehow make “some” mistakes — here and there — in their writing and it’s not only just me! No one under this sun can be perfect.

    thanks again.

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