Princess Grammatica, Keeper of the Red Pen

Posted: July 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

i admit it — I have a secret passion. Okay, so maybe it isn’t so secret these days. Perhaps it is growing more and more obvious every day what that secret passion is — who knows? But, the truth is, if I were able to find a way to get paid doing it all day, every day, I would. Over and over again, with as many people as possible.

Hold on a sec — re-reading that first paragraph makes me sound like a…., let’s just say a “person of questionable morals”. I’m most certainly not that. Perhaps a full explanation is in order here.

Ahem, here it goes. I am a grammar nerd. I love to teach it, write it, speak it, etc. I am at my absolute best and most joyful when I am correcting other people’s writing. Give me a freshly written document, a red pen (or editable MS Word document with commenting capabilities) and watch me go. I will tear into that document and chew it up like a lioness devours a gazelle.

I have been deeply involved in all measures of the writing process since I graduated (the first time) from college back in the days when God lost his shoes. Maybe not that far back, but certainly far enough back to say “I know my way around writing”. My resume includes such occupations as: editorial assistant, proofreader and writing tutor. I’m also a trained language arts teacher and served as a Power of the Pen coach for 7th grade students. Yes, I know how to talk, think and do writing — often simultaneously.

Years ago, when my son was a freshman in high school, he asked me to help him “write” his English papers. I could have been one of those parents — the type who commandeers the child’s work, does it themselves then let the kid pass it off as his/her own work — but no, I had ethics and a strong desire to really, really help him learn how to write. He handed me his freshly drafted paper and, when I took it out of his hands, looked somewhat terrified when I asked him, “Are you sure you want me to edit this paper?” 

Here’s the thing…when someone asks me to edit their papers, they get more than a cursory glance. They get what I like to refer to as “the bleeding ink” treatment. When my son handed me his paper, I pulled out my trusty red pen, and went to work. I meticulously went line by line through his entire paper — commenting and marking up nearly every sentence he had typed. I checked for punctuation, spelling and grammar errors. I looked at flow, syntax, parallels, context, point of view, tone, voice. I metaphorically shredded his paper (and a little of his self-confidence along the way) into tiny, red-ink stained commentary. It looked as though the Bic red pen factory had just exploded onto his homework.

Needless to say, he was crushed. I, on the other hand, was elated by what just happened. Why? It provided me with the perfect opportunity to do the other thing I do so well – teach students how to write better. With me, a person doesn’t just get the red ink treatment, they also get the “here’s how to take what i’ve done, fix it and make it far better than it ever was” treatment, too. I don’t leave the poor vict- the  poor person left to pick up the literary carnage. That would just be mean, right?

I have to admit, he hated me for the first two years of high school for this very reason. He was on the horns of a dilemma here – he knew that, with my help, he would end up receiving high letter grades for his papers. But, that would also mean hours of editing and rewriting. What  high school boy had the time or desire for that?

His (and my) pay off came during his senior year. He was in Senior Composition class, learning the basics of writing, This mostly involved how to improve one’s grammar and editing skills in their writing. Little did his teacher know he’d been receiving this type of instruction for the last three years, from one of the “best” teachers out there – me. By this time, his writing and editing skills had improved so much and were so impressive his teacher asked him to assist the other students with their papers. He came home one day and, beaming from ear to ear, said “Hey, Mom, guess what? I’m the class editor!”

The proudest moment for me, however, came later when he showed me his final project in comp class. He had created a  multimedia documentary piece about Hiroshima.He had written the script, narrated it and created a movie that was powerful, influential and — to my pleasant surprise — 100% error free and beautifully written. I was stunned to tears — I couldn’t believe the same boy who only three years prior could barely form a coherent paragraph had created such beautiful imagery, tone, voice and writing. But, the best was yet to come.

I received my crown and my new title as Princess Grammatica towards the end of his senior year. He looked at me one day and, as he placed the imaginary crown on my head and the red pen in my hand, he said “Mom, of all the things you’ve done for me — and there  have been a lot trust me — the best thing you ever did was teach me how to write. Thank you for that.”

Best coronation speech, ever.

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Comments
  1. dougromig says:

    Very nice. You have helped my writing already. 🙂

    Like

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