This is the first week of school for my two sons — one is a senior in high school and the other is in 8th grade — which means an onslaught of syllabi and introductory letters from teachers. It also means my annual gnashing of teeth over the number of spelling and grammatical errors in those documents.
Before school started I received an e-mail from the 8th grader’s Language Arts teacher. She used “you’re” where the correct word was “your” and she misspelled “guarantee.” I resisted the urge to print it out, mark it up with a red pen and send it back to the teacher. I’ve done it in the past, but I’m mellowing in my old age. Plus, I didn’t want to make things difficult for my son.
But come on! This is the teacher who is teaching my son Language Arts!
I’ve been called a grammar snob, but I don’t mean to be. I also don’t care because I believe using our language correctly is as important as using the correct functions in math and mixing the correct elements in science. Just as a 2 won’t do when the correct number is 3, “you’re” shouldn’t be used in place of “your.”
There simply is no excuse for these errors from a teacher. If they were typos, then she should have proofread her work. If she wasn’t sure which word to use or how to spell a word, she should have looked it up. These are things that I — someone who makes a living using the English language — must do every day. Within my reach right now are a dictionary and three grammar reference books. I use them all the time. Lots of similar handbooks are easy to find.
We all make mistakes, but we should learn from them and avoid repeating them. Like it or not, teachers — just as professional communicators — are held to a higher standard and they represent their larger organizations. This parent would feel a lot more confident in the quality of my children’s education if their teachers could produce a simple letter without errors.