I have a terrible condition. It’s chronic, but it also flares up at inconvenient moments, often in public. It’s embarrassing for me and the people around me, especially when I can’t control the urge to shout.
It’s called Uncontrollable Editing Syndrome, UES for short. UES cause me to yelp out corrections to people on television, in the newspapers and in books. Signs are a particular problem, what with all the extraneous apostrophes. I have to bite my tongue to avoid correcting people who say “between you and I.” I have heated discussions with other sufferers about word choice– “Is crash appropriate in an accident involving one car and one pedestrian?” I correct tweets and Facebook posts. I have refused to vote for politicians because they thought that there is always singular.
I never really had a chance, though. My mother was an English teacher. I was raised in a poisonous environment of proper English and reading. I had a library card before most kids can even read, which twisted my poor brain beyond any hope.
It was made worse in college. More reading, yes, but also classes in linguistics, taught by recognized experts. Even a required grammar class in grad school. It was awful. By that time, of course, I was desperately hooked. Any lingering hope of recovery was dashed.
By grad school it was clear that I was going to have to find some way of dealing with UES, so I began teaching freshman composition. I know now that making that decision was unwise–it only added to my misery. Seeing new mistakes only energized my disease. Each semester made it worse. By the first year with my MA I was teaching five comp courses. Five.
I know now what my limits are, two classes a semester. Admittedly, since I dabble in developmental classes, it’s more like the hard stuff, but at least it’s manageable.
But there’s something that you can do to help! Get yourself a handbook–if you don’t have to worry about citation styles, purchase a second-hand one (they’ll be cheap, I promise). Read and practice a section at a time until you truly understand the basic rules of our language. Fill your mind with excellent, well-edited prose. Follow people on social media who can conjugate. Refuse to watch programs that have poor speaking habits. Demand that newspapers and nightly news programs hire copy editors. Take a grammar or linguistics class. Refuse to put apostrophes when you need a simple plural (“Pizza’s for $5” ?!?). Embrace proper punctuation and usage, mechanics and style. Only then can sufferers of UES like me put our poor minds at rest.
Please. We’re counting on you.