While cleaning recently, I found a typed note from an anonymous writer who graciously mailed me after I spoke at an event. Well, so I wasn't really cleaning. I was thinking about cleaning and tripped over a box and the note was on the floor. I picked it up. That is considered cleaning.
In any regard, the note corrected my grammar. The message was simple. It included a noun, verb, and an odd statement about a word I used that didn't exist. There was no return address. There were no fingerprints on the paper or envelope.
To be honest, I was actually impressed with her typing skills and devotion to correct grammar use. Although it's been several years, I still think the note is adorable. I would never take the time to type a message, including the address on the envelope, and then purchase a stamp and actually mail it.
I kept the note as a reminder that perfection would never be an option for me. I also wanted to remind myself that making up words while speaking to crowds of people can cause grammatical pandemonium, but it might sell stamps.
To be honest, I understood the writer's need to inform me that my use of a word was incorrect. It probably kept her awake for many nights. Writing me gave her some satisfaction that one less person in the world would misuse a word. When she mailed the note, she could finally get some rest. She was at peace with me, myself, and I.
There was also a time a woman told me all that was wrong with Longleaf Style magazine and how her writing was better than mine. She didn't come right out and tell me that, but she made it pretty clear she was a real editor and the magazine was looking to save money by hiring me as managing editor because I missed a spelling error. It was such an amazingly awkward conversation.
A few weeks after our conversation, she sent me something she wrote and asked if I would consider publishing it. I thought about sending her an anonymous letter. But, I didn't have a stamp.
My two grammatical benefactors are not alone in feeling the urge to share mistakes.
I admit that I irritate my students all the time by correcting their grammar. I plead with them to overcome the sickness associated with using only lowercase letters and no punctuation. But, it's my duty to rid them of the linguistic plague that attacks with a vengeance.
If we do not stand together and become the glue that bonds words, inflections, punctuation, and functions of the alphabet, then we are nothing.
So, today, during Noble Prize Week, I wish to salute my anonymous writer and the real editor, who both helped me to appreciate the power of words.
Because, I've learned that we must all not only use words correctly, but we must be noble with them.