Monday, September 8, 2014

Writing, Grammar, Spelling or I Can't Believe You Wore Those Pants

Just have to clear this one up. Then, I can just refer readers to this post as needed.

When I started Mugwump Chronicles I wanted to share some stories, think through training issues, and gripe.

I hoped for an audience, because I wanted to know if I wrote well enough to earn one.

Being the needy soul I can be, I hoped for affirmation that my secret desire to write was more than a pipe dream.

I got those things and thank you for that.

For me, the blog became a place to go and just...write.

After a while it became a place to share with others. Ideas, stories, thought, dreams, and I just loved it. I received emails with great stories and started posting some. More often than not, the writer would say, "Please clean this up for me," or, "I know this isn't very good, but..."

It made me nuts. Some of the best stories I read were written by people with vast experience, amazing tales and often, little to no education. Their voice, clear and beautiful, still came through the errors, often the "mistakes" gave their writing a tender awkwardness, a local flavor, a taste of a different world. They wouldn't let me share them because of their fear of ridicule.

Then, I fell into writing the Fugly Blog and some of the nastiest bitches the trolls. 
We'll skip the bits trashing my daughter, my choice of riding discipline, and my love of a breed that is notoriously built down hill.They went crazy on my awkward sentences, spelling errors, structure, you name it. It soon became clear, there is a world out there that equates getting A's in 8th grade Composition with knowledge about horses.

I quit writing the blog because I hated those people. They made me feel insecure and sad. They weren't worth my time.

I worked on my writing constantly. I had journalism technique shoved down my throat at a fast and furious pace by my extremely patient editor at the paper. I studied, went to workshops, talked to journalists, columnists and so forth. 

I met other writers, some good, some bad, some boring. I learned that writers can be mean, jealous, petty and crazy stalkers. They can also be lovely, funny, and generous when sharing their knowledge.

I threw myself on the mercy of teachers to help me learn the pieces I had daydreamed through in school. I read blogs, books, teachers reference books and books about writing. I kept my personal education off this blog, because it's about dogs and horses.

I found out the best writers to come out of the school system are children who are allowed to write, to express themselves and tell their stories without correction on spelling or grammar. When those very important parts of writing are treated as a separate education, creativity flows and the writer learns, with time, to blend them together.

I read blogs and other social media where people go to ridiculous lengths to ridicule writing mistakes. There are web sites, FB pages, blogs and who knows what else, dedicated to mocking people trying to communicate.  

My automatic response is, WTH is wrong with you? Shut up and let me listen, read, write, share, explain. 

I made Mugwump Chronicles a safe place to visit. Tell me your story, your idea, your experiences and don't be afraid of being criticized for your ability to write. 

To me, this is the same as mocking a stutterer, or a heavy accent, or grownup with a second grade education. I hope if your Grandma heard you behaving that way she would slap the shit out of you. 

Currently, I still work hard on improving my writing. I think I'm getting better, but my education comes from outside this blog, from people, events and places I've researched and am comfortable with. Places about learning the art of writing. This blog is where I think and talk.

When I write here, or post other writers, I'm always excited to check the comments and see where they go. When a comment starts with an edit for grammar, spelling or structure it makes me feel exactly like the nerdy who kid finally got invited to the cool kids party. The kid who spent hours trying to dress just so, then walked into the party, shaking, terrified but still filled with hope, and is immediately laughed at for the hay in her hair an the horse manure stench emanating from her shoes.
I think there are many others who feel the same.

Read the blog, read each other, disagree, agree and share. Or don't. It's up to you. But let this be a safe haven to write in. I already told you guys to call me out when I need to go throw rocks. Now I'm going to insist on this one. Let the stories flow and leave the grammar alone. 

It's just a blog for goodness sake.


  1. Oh how I wish there was a "like" button!!!

  2. In these here parts we just type "like!"

  3. Your posts have made me laugh and cry more than most of the formal, polished, published writing I've read. I also worked with lots of international folks whose first language was not English, and many times it took hours of coaxing to get them to try to express their thought because people have been so freakin' vicious about imperfect grammar. I love what you write. It's an inspiration and a joy.

  4. I spent years writing very formal, scientific stuff. My blog is for writing the things I want to and deliberately stepping away from all the rules. If people want to share in what I write, they are welcome and I am extremely grateful for their support. If they have problems with it or don't like my grammar, well, there is that handy little X in the top corner of every web page:). I stay away from sites like fugly because it seems to me that the people there are only there to unload their own misery onto the world.

    I appreciate and admire your writing. It is strong, compassionate and courageous. It's hard to beleive that some people pick on it for some perceived grammar error. Sounds like they need to go unload some of thier misery elsewhere. I hope you can just invite them to find the little X and keep writing.

  5. Well said Mugs. LIKE, LIKE and LIKE!

  6. I read the exchange that prompted this post. While I don't think the volunteer editor meant any harm, making unsolicited corrections to someone else's writing is rude. This post was a great reminder to focus on overall content instead of minutiae.

  7. Well said and yes, a safe place to be is a good thing. Thanks for this.

  8. I struggle a lot with creativity vs. correctness in writing, and that makes writing very, very hard for me. Blogging has helped a lot, in that I can just WRITE and don't have to real panicky about "getting it right."

    The scariest thing I look at these days is an empty page with a "assignment."

    Yes, there are places where correctness is important. Where grammar rules are relevant. And I do try to be mostly correct in my writing. But writing informally, in places where it can just flow, is so important.

    Thank you for this.

  9. Here here! I get that a blog that's written like a bad Craigslist ad isn't something most people want to read, but harping on someone for a few spelling errors or grammar mistakes is just pointless. You understood the meaning so move on with your life.. If they can't.... well... That's their problem, not yours.

  10. Anon - and I may have over reacted, but if a reader hung around here much at all, the reader knows that happens...

  11. I enjoy your writing style. It is an extension of who you are. The people who find the need to correct how someone else presents themselves is a person who has serious control issues. To them I say, "Get over yourself. Excellence, not perfection, is the order of the day."

  12. I have been on the "net" for so long that I tend to type "conversationally".. yes apparently I speak with ellipses cause I use them all the time online. I never felt the need to edit my comments here.. I have reread them for content to avoid a reaction however :)

    Your reaction was exactly as it should have been.. and it made me laugh.


  14. Love this post.

    My blog is written for a much smaller audience. Even when it was viewable by all I warned people, I type like I talk. Ellipsis, parenthetical remarks, awkward grammer (especially when making a point), all happen.

    Don't like it? The X button in the upper left cures a lot of ills.

  15. I realize that I'm a little late to the party, but...

    I must admit that I was confused by the originally cited paragraph myself.

    We're not here to be the grammar police.

    HOWEVER: if the writer wishes to convey the story that they MEAN to write across to the reader, then grammar and punctuation, especially in recounting a conversation, are critical. That's just how it is. I don't think that the criticizer was rude or mean or mean-spirited or anything else - it was an actual statement of confusion. At least that's how it hit me.

    One of the best tips I was ever given was to actually read what I wrote out loud (actually out loud, as though reading to an audience) to find the holes in the writing. I've caught some pretty astounding errors in documents that I thought I'd read and edited to death already on my screen.

    Anyhow, sometimes I think that bloggers forget that while they say their blog is "for them", they're still putting it out to the public. So - be gentle with us, too - otherwise you could just have a diary, right?

  16. I work in PR. People sometimes freak out over 2 spaces after a period instead of 1 (AP style), or the proper way to specify the time of day. WTH is right. People don't talk that way, people don't read that way, and anyone educated enough to know the difference probably isn't interested in the stuff that I write for a living, let alone write for fun. That said, simple errors (brake/break, welt/whelp, their/there/they're, proper spelling of "gelding," etc., ad nauseum) drive me nuts. But, that's what proofreading is for! :)

    Your writing comes across as educated, knowledgeable, and extremely easy to read - and I enjoy stopping by on my lunch breaks for my daily lesson.

  17. Dear Lady Farrier - sigh.

  18. This is what actually came to mind for me.

  19. Referred as needed, eh?

  20. So - do the people here who support you in this post also support poor grammar, poor spelling, and general disintegration of the language written and spoken in this country?

    I mean, does it have to be one or the other? Can the desire for correct usage be held along with the appreciation for a good story and the person who wrote it? Are these things mutually exclusive?

    Seriously... why are your panties in such a bunch when people point out that they can't understand what you write because the writing is confusing? Good for you for going as far as you have to improve your writing. It's what anyone who hopes to write professionally should do.

    It's just mind boggling to see people jumping on the "Yeah, who cares if we can tell what anyone really means as long as nobody gets their feelings hurt" bandwagon.

    It used to be a point of pride to know how speak and write properly. Everyone makes mistakes, but we didn't defend them so valiantly, we said "Thanks for pointing that out.", and tried to remember it for next time.

    Tower of Babel, anyone?

  21. dear anon:

  22. LIKE!

    (Anon) *sigh*...someone else who seems more focused on grammar than content...........and apparently missed the entire point of this posting.........

  23. She wrote a durn nice sennence though.

  24. Tower of Babel?!


    I toyed with the idea of starting a blog myself but this has pretty much cured me of the idea.

    You are a stronger person then I am Mugs! Keep up the good work.

    As they say, "Haters gonna Hate."

  25. Michele- I assumed it was a misspelling and she meant "Tower of Babble."
    Please start your can borrow this post anytime.

  26. Mugs - I get what you mean when you write. No, its not always perfect grammar/syntax/punctuation but that's not important (at all). The feel of the person is there.

    You choose to write this blog and we all choose to read it and get an insight into you. That is the magic of the internet. Its some of the best free storytelling out there as far as I am concerned.

    To those people who complain about any writing mistakes I am quite happy to host a pay-per-view version of this site and, if you pay, you can complain about the writing all you like. I might even reply. I'll repost 'corrected' versions for you if I get enough comments. How does that sound?

    Obviously Mugs will get a cut of the proceeds :p

  27. "So - do the people here who support you in this post also support poor grammar, poor spelling, and general disintegration of the language written and spoken in this country?"

    I am the last person who could be accused of supporting poor grammar and spelling, much less the "general disintegration" of the English language. (By the way, that's a little hyperbolic, don't you think? Do you really think one slightly ambiguous paragraph in a piece of creative writing is going to cause the breakdown of English as we know it?)

    However, blogs like this are really more about having conversations and sharing ideas. Would you correct a friend's grammar if she was telling you a story in person? If not, you should think twice about doing it on someone's blog. You can let minor things like typos or style choices slide and focus on the message. The English language will survive, I promise.

  28. Anon 3:16: Thank goodness you said that. I was thinking about it, but I couldn't come up with the perfect grammar and syntax.

  29. I love Amy's idea. Grammar Nazis deserve perfect grammar.They just gotta pay.

  30. Like Like Like
    I am dyslexic. That is not an excuse. It is a fact. I read at a grade 7 level apparently. My grammar sucks, my spelling is worse but my comprehension is in the high gifted area. I am also a mathematical genius. I am off the charts in spacial (sp sigh) recognition. I never furthered my education because my English teacher thought I was retarded and did not hesitate to tell me this on a regular basis. It didn't help that my other teachers were encouraging. I want to hear Mug's stories. I don't care if there is an occasional gramical (how the HECK do you spell that?) error. I want to be able to comment and not be treated like an idiot. I NEVER put down a person that has trouble with math.

  31. Mugs...when you write, it comes from the heart. I wish more people did that. There are those that will criticize no matter what we do or how we try to please; maybe that's part of human nature, but the hurt still is there.

    You are real, and that is such a blessing in this world of smiling lies. Please don't change and don't stop writing.

    Emily in NC

  32. What whisper the wind said! You inspire, you motivate, you make us laugh and think. And if grammar, punctuation, etc. are not perfect, who gives a rats tail?

  33. Lori, LIKE. I think that's something we usually forget about.

  34. I like reading your posts. The grammar police can go somewhere else.

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  36. e. e. cummings anyone?

    Personally, I have always felt a person who feels they need to comment about grammar, etc (unless it is solicited advice) is someone who doesn't have anything relevant to the discussion to say, but desperately wants the attention a reply would give them. Nit picking is a way is a way for them to say "See, I have an important opinion too, aren't I so much more clever than any of you!"

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. Let me try that again.

    I'm typing with a bandaged finger and it really is not working out well.

    I have a friend who writes some of the most amazing stories, which often go several sentences or even paragraphs with out so much as a period. Yet when reading them the content is so deep and inspiring, and quickly one comes to realize that what she has really done is to give us a glimpse into her brain. For me, I'd rather have that free flowing realism, than have her lose that creativity trying to remember proper grammar.

    We aren't all literary geniuses but we all come equipped with our own form of genius, and it would be a shame to miss out on sharing it, or having it shared with us over something as silly as punctuation or spelling.

  39. Thanks, Becky! You nailed it. That's exactly how I feel!

  40. Long time lurker here. A frequent reader who never comments (until now obviously), I have laughed, cried, pondered over and enjoyed this blog for a number of years. I have struggled with writer's envy, wishing I could write as beautifully as you. I think there is a fine line, in this particular medium, between offering a suggestion with the absolute best intentions in mind and coming across as a grammar/style/structure fanatic. Having said that, I stick to my mother's advice, "Praise in public, offer constructive criticism in private." Since all I have is praise, I will go back to my lurker corner. :)

  41. Grammar Nazi's "deserve" to mind their own grammar store. If I feel a need to shop, I'll stop on by.

  42. P.S. Thanks to all of you who come by to read and share...and who get it. You guys are who keep things clicking around here.

  43. I consider myself educated, and I read way more books than my Mother ever thought I should. I am saying that because I really have not noticed anything amiss in your writing. I find your storytelling to be amazing, inspiring, and hold-my-breath-at-the-cliffhangers awesome. Your blog title says "Storyteller" Not editor. Those who can't, carp.
    And sometimes I think we have to stand up for what we want the world to be. I like kind, considerate, and caring. I quit Fugly after you left. Who needs that snark?

  44. I love the stories, and see no "flaws".

    A brief survey of English Lit shows many styles not constrained by good grammar. Which I suffered through.

    There weren't even horses.

    Reading for comprehension "As always, don't be shy. We don't criticize writing technique, spelling or grammar, ever. We want to hear your story and your voice" is more important than correcting grammar.

  45. I love grammar and I get where the original commenter was coming from- it was a tad confusing. But the fact of the matter is, it didn't need to be "said". I can correct whatever I want in my mind without having to say or post anything at all. I hope the gal, Gray Drakkar, or whatever, will stick around. The back lash she got was a bit over the top. Fairness all around, yes? I love the english language, and I don't think it should be sacrificed for the sake of just telling a good story. I also don't think this is the place for public correction. I think we can all enjoy your great stories for what they are and leave correction for another place. I also don't think we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater just to show support for one of our beloved authors! We may be a little scared that you will stop the stories Mugs! I especially love the Sonita ones! Wyo Faith

  46. Can I just say how much I love that quote "Those who can't, carp." I think that just became my favorite!

  47. HELL YEAH! I love what this blog is!

    For those who would like to offer "constructive criticism" and "Share" their knowledge of the language, please Please PLEASE do so by volunteering to teach in adult literacy programs so that you can actually promote positive change in language skills where it is needed and requested for.

  48. Totally off topic... Anyone know what happened to The Blog of Becky? Here's the error message that comes up:The requested URL / was not found on this server. That’s all we know.

  49. love your writing. interesting how the critiques come from anonymous sources.

  50. You know, I consider myself a bit of a grammar Nazi, and I've never felt the need to comment in response to your posts. Maybe I'm not actually Nazi enough for the Nazis, I don't know, but I always overlook honest mistakes when they're written with good style.

    I love your writing style. And actually, those who pick at it can suck on this: Your writing style is PERFECT for the Internet. The shorter sentences and paragraphs are actually preferred by most people who read online. That's what people who write for web venues are actually taught to do.

    You're also amazing at creating and maintaining suspense.

    Speaking of the Fugly Blog, do you know what's going on with it? It mysteriously revived itself recently, and I think it's someone in Denver, actually. And if the trolls complained about your writing, this person's has got to be sending them straight through the roof!

  51. Thank you Katharine Swan. You're the first person who has noticed. I do work at it. As for New Fugly, we have talked briefly, I wished her well.

  52. I wasn't going to comment, since this is a 6 year old post, but hell. Why not?

    I went to school for creative writing. I consider it my greatest passion, even above dogs. I am also a serious grammar nitpicker most of the time. When I catch a typo in my own posted work, I cringe.

    Your writing is powerful, beautiful, and emotional. You have a strong and clear voice. What you've always said about your stories, that you tell them as true as you can, shines through in every word. All of your hard-won knowledge shows in your tales, and it's not up for debate: you are an amazing writer.

    Grammar and diction and sentence structure can be taught. There are plenty of formulaic novels out there that read prettily but have no soul. There's no passion in them, no fire, no courage, no truths laid bare.

    The desire to tell stories can be cultivated along with the skill of communication. But the talent - the writerly equivalent of 'feel' in horseback riding, the innate ability to shape a story, to build suspense, to breathe life into a mere twenty-six letters of the alphabet arranged in arbitrary patterns and make another person miles and years away rage or weep or cheer - that talent can't be taught. It's there, or it isn't.

    If it's there, it can be shaped and guided, but the best means of cultivating it is to do it. The writing equivalent of "just ride". Just read, and write, and let people read your writing.

    You've been writing this blog a long time now. And even the earliest posts showed that you clearly have the talent and the passion for storytelling.

    I understand why you don't want to get bogged down in nitpicking here. Sometimes it doesn't come from a critical place, it just comes from a desire to let your light shine more clearly. Your talent isn't a candle or a flashlight, it's one of those big damn arena lights that's bright as the sun and confuses the hell out of the local birds.

    I hope, selfishly, that you will always continue writing here. I love getting glimpses of your mind. And I hope that you know the nitpickers and naysayers don't detract from how powerful and heartfelt your writing is. You have a gift, and you are a gift to everyone who reads your work.