I admit it; I used to judge people when they made spelling or grammatical errors. I’d think to myself, “Did no one ever teach you the difference between their, they’re, and there? Why are they putting quotation marks around that random word? Do you not get it, or are you just too lazy to proofread your work?”
Frequently I’d feel vaguely confused, because this “lazy” idea was inconsistent with other qualities I’d seen in that person. “I don’t get it,” I’d wonder. “She seems so creative and smart and conscientious… Why can’t she spell?” But I’d still end up shrugging my shoulders and proceeding on my self-satisfied, smug little way.
Then, a couple years ago, I found out my intelligent, hard-working and determined young daughter had dyslexia, an unexpected difficulty in reading which, research shows, is completely unrelated to intelligence. Dyslexia makes it difficult for people not only to learn to read, but to spell and master certain other rules of language. Yet if anyone ever dared say or even think my little girl was “just not trying,” I would have an overwhelming impulse to set them straight — and not using my “inside voice,” either.
As my understanding of my daughter and dyslexia have unfolded, I’ve become silently mortified and ashamed of all those “holier than thou” thoughts I’ve had over the years. Perhaps some of those I’d been misjudging (even if they never knew I was doing so) had dyslexia. The fact that the people I’d misjudged misspelled words or omitted punctuation had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with their intelligence or their work ethic. In fact, these very same people were often brilliant at things I’m not. So take that, me.
To all of those people, I would like to take this opportunity to say, I am so sorry! I had no idea. I was ignorant, and I was being a jerk. But I’m done. I am officially resigning from the grammar police squad. And to all you remaining grammar snobs, grammar police officers or however you fancy yourselves — may I suggest you tread gently, both out loud and in your mind, when you notice spelling and grammatical errors other people make?
Finally, if you are an adult with dyslexia, I hope that if you’re not already comfortable talking about it, you can begin to move in that direction. People need to understand what dyslexia is, and that if you misspell words or omit a comma now and then, there’s a good reason for it, and that reason has nothing to do with how smart or diligent you are or the incredible strengths or gifts you have. It’s dyslexia; end the shame.
A version of this post originally appeared on Jeniferkasten.com.
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