I know that most people don’t care about the difference between “hopefully” and “I hope” or “nauseous” and “nauseated.” Such nit-picky things are the realm of grammar snobs and word nerds and perhaps the few people who find my Write Right slant on grammar amusing. They are not the sort of things that draw immediate or plentiful attention.
If the readership for grammar posts is such a small one, the question becomes whether I should continue writing the posts. Who actually reads the posts? What purpose do they serve except as a means to topple or to join forces with Grammar Girl? Why should I keep writing the things when some people say to forget the rules and to focus exclusively on voice and style?
The questions are good ones to ask, and such questions aren’t limited to the realm of grammar only. One of my friends who is a photographer is having the same discussion with himself. He knows that a small group of people may appreciate what he has to say about photography, but does that small group warrant the time and effort he knows will be required of him? Also, does the lack of readership point to an opportunity, to an untapped audience and market, or merely to a threat that is impossible to overcome? I think that the lack could point to such an opportunity, but I’m prejudiced by three facts: I appreciate photography as a person who took a black and white photography class in college; I’m a person who loves the arts (I used to work in an art gallery.); and I enjoy my friend’s perspective on the arts and on the process of creation.
When it comes to the Write Right posts, I know I have a limited audience. I know I might cause some tempers to rise with my emphasis on the rules and on knowing them. I also know an opportunity exists. If nobody wants to learn grammar in the way it’s currently presented, then it’s time for a new way of presenting the information. That’s part of what I’m hoping to accomplish with the Write Right posts. The other part is that I believe the rules exist for a reason. They’re there to provide guidance. Even if they morph as the language evolves, they still remain. They contribute to effective communication. They can even aid creativity; after all, it’s only in knowing the rules that they can be broken to great effect.
Should I soften the blow when it comes to my grammar posts? I don’t think so. Part of the power in my posts is found in the refusal to soften the blow and in what can only be called a “snarky” take on grammar and punctuation. That power can be found in other people’s subjects and perspectives, too – if and only if they’ve thought through the opportunities and threats that exist in those two things.
Photo: keith ellwood (CC 2.0)