Note: A friend and I have worked together for hours this summer designing a series of grammar units for 6th through 12th graders. We are working tirelessly to churn out these units, which will be delivered digitally and therefore are entirely editable long after delivery. The main point of our units is that we must engage our students in grammar conversations in order to help them internalize the concepts we’ve been trying to cram into their heads for years with worksheets, textbooks, multiple choice exams, and threats that they’ll rue the day an college if they don’t learn.
As part of this unit, I send potential customers an email series to explain this concept. Needless to say, I stayed up late one night drafting the series, used Google Doc’s built-in grammar and spellcheck systems to correct it, and then uploaded it to my email marketing system. After all, one of the things I have learned as both a writer and an online business owner is that you just have to put stuff out there. If you wait until it’s perfect, you’ll never do it.
If you haven’t figured it out yet — my email template contained a mistake. One person called me out on it, stating that she wouldn’t buy a grammar unit from someone who made the mistake of saying “by Jennifer and I.”
Hmmm… Guess she hasn’t read a textbook lately then…
Anyway, here is my response.
I’m sorry to hear you say that since this email itself would serve as a perfect mentor text for a great Grammar Conversation to have with your students. You could talk to them about the writing process and editing and why that particular phrase is incorrect.
You could even tell them you spoke with the author who said that she had originally written (drafted) “Jennifer and I wrote…” but then during the revision stage, did not change the subjective case to objective, which would have made the phrase Jennifer and me. That’s where you could also talk to them about the value of peer editing, since when we’re writing, we’re so focused on the message that we don’t often see minor mistakes. And when we’re editing, our brains often see or hear what should be there, not what is actually there.
You could also read and discuss this article I wrote:
This kind of discussion would not only let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes (after all, professional, award-winning writers actually make them, too.)
You could also talk about the beauty of most digital printing platforms (except email and Twitter) which allow for such mistakes to be corrected (unlike the newspapers I worked for).
I would also make sure you establish an atmosphere in your class that makes it OK to make mistakes during the writing process and ensures that the editing process is designed to help student writers become better, not shame them. After all, we want them to share their stories, to write convincingly, to research with enthusiasm, not sit around and police people’s grammar on the internet.
Thank you for letting me know about the error. I have corrected it in my template.
P.S. I am sharing this response because I want anyone who is a writer and is following me here to know that it’s OK to make mistakes. Your message is important and I don’t want you to be so frozen by a fear of mistakes that you fail to share your message.
I also want any teachers following me to know that it is NOT OKAY to shame people online or your students or anyone else about their grammar mistakes. If you want to graciously point out their error so that they can correct it, that’s great. I think most writer’s will appreciate that (unless you’re talking about a tweet, which can’t be changed. Don’t even get me started…)
I especially want student writers to know that grammar correctness does not make you a writer. And not understanding or remembering to use grammar concepts doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.
What this does mean is that you need to find people (beta readers) to help you read your work and make it better and then when people do “mock you online” just make the correction and know that their words and attitudes say more about them than they do about you.