A slogan I've seen from time to time comes to mind today: Christians aren't perfect -- just forgiven. Sometimes I'd like to post this slogan: Grammar advisers aren't perfect -- just trying very hard.
When I decided to write a blog about grammar, usage and style, I was worried about being perceived as an "expert" or, worse, as a pretender -- someone who aspired to be an expert. That concern still hangs over everything I write. When I make a mistake -- whether it's a typo or some other error -- I am riddled with doubt. Why am I doing this? I'm no expert!
I also worry about being perceived as a pest or a smart aleck, drawing attention to the shortcomings of others just to embarrass them. To be clear and direct, that is not my driving motivation. I wonder if others would see me as hypocrite -- pointing out the mote in my brother's eye while ignoring the beam in my own. I do have readers who will help me on that score, though. Even if it hurts my feelings, I am grateful for those who let me know when I've fallen short. The two-way communication of blogs has made the form popular and useful.
The truth is I enjoy thinking about the structure of our wonderful English language and the way it is used. I have years of experience as a copy editor and have learned from some of the smartest editors. I have overcome my strong prescriptivist roots for the most part, but I am a schoolmarm at heart. I like to teach and to lead others to think more deeply about how they use the language. And, best of all, I can turn to a slew of grammar and usage books written by real experts. I rarely answer a question off the top of my head. I turn to the experts I trust. I ruminate over structure and meaning. Still, even with all this consulting and thinking, I am not always sure of my answer.
Like most other journalists and teachers, I am not perfect -- just trying very hard.