It’s the bravery – the courageous stepping into the unknown – that now delights me. There was a time when pedantry could have been my middle name. When misplaced apostrophes, caps strewn among non-proper-noun words with abandon, misspelling, and incorrect use of words would cause me physical distress. Even slight nausea and a bit of a headache.

No more. With the smoothing of my sharp, nit-picky edges by the passing of time, I now applaud efforts that clearly show acceptance of the existence of rules with a touch of sweet hope that just maybe the words will follow the right as they boldly plunge into the turbulent waters of the spoken or written English language.

I now embrace apostrophising of any or all plurals, endlessly mixed metaphors, misspelling – and why in heaven’s name did you place a comma there – because the actual communicating is more important than being right. Who hasn’t smiled at ‘getting my ducks in one basket’ or ‘my eggs in a row’?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a fanatical and effective pedant when needed, with, for instance, an abiding fondness for the Oxford comma and changing any and all ampersands to ‘and’. But the judgy-ness has gone. Completely.

I digress. Back to the brave users of English written and/or spoken who have only a hazy recollection of any rules relating to SPAG (newly discovered acronym for spelling, punctuation, apostrophes and grammar) that English teachers in bygone days attempted to drum into distracted heads.

My delight is in the user’s enjoyment of language, of playing with words because it’s fun, of telling entertaining stories to a captivated audience with relish. Interrupting with a correction of the use of, say, ‘flaunting the rules’ or ‘flouting a new jacket’ would not only have no value – it would be sad.

I have a ‘menu’ written by my then-very-young niece for an Easter Sunday lunch stuck on my fridge, and it still always brings a smile. The aim at the time was to extort money from her loving family for items that she had not sourced, purchased, or produced in any way at all. So wayn was R10 a glass, Sprit jucis was free because that’s what she would be drinking, werter was R10 because she would not be drinking that, and crem sada was R1 in recognition of her brother’s state of penury. The Main Muel of rost leg of lame was R10, while desert of Hot crost duns and chocolate (no misspelling there!) was free. ‘Translating’ it was much more fun than an error-free menu would have been. For one thing, it would not still be on my fridge, making me smile.

So to end, let non-editors enjoy their language and the power of sharing it. They can get it right when it’s necessary, or hire someone who has both a love of the language and a keen eye for things that can go wrong to fix it. But let’s all enjoy the exuberant sharing of words.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Janice Hunt

Janice Hunt is a proudly newly qualified ATE. She has been a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and communications consultant since February 2002, which followed some years as editor of various trade publications, and before that, interesting life experiences as a happy kennel hand, enthusiastic motorcyclist, reluctant admin clerk, distracted student, wide-eyed cub reporter, and so on.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.