I can has grammar?

My writer's hat

Ever go back and re-read your previously written blog posts? I’m a glutton for pain and humiliation so I often do. For me, reading my own writing can be a lot like seeing a picture of myself or hearing the sound of my own voice. It makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

So I try to re-read my own stuff, mainly to make sure it reads well and I don’t sound like a friggin’ idiot. And you know what? I always do sound like an idiot! Some of the grammatical errors and typos are so glaring that a reasonable person would be forced to ask: Just what the hell was he on when he wrote that?

A good friend taught me long ago about the three hats of writing, and I’ve always tried to wear those hats when composing my blog posts. It’s somewhat sobering that even after that process so many typos and errors still remain. The goal of the three hats exercise is to separate the writing process into distinct and separate steps that force you to consider what you have written from different perspectives.

The first hat is “create.” You concentrate on writing without worrying too much about how it sounds, spelling, grammar and what not. Just turn it on and let it flow. Try not to over-think what you are doing.

The second hat is “edit.” You roll up your sleeves and mercilessly slice it up. You are looking for typos, bad grammar, checking facts, etc. When you do edit a sentence, perhaps moving things around a bit, be sure to go back and re-read, re-read, re-read! If I had a dime for every time I edited a sentence and left it sounding funny …

The third hat is “read.” This is where you clear your mind, let everything else go and try to look at the piece with fresh eyes and consume your work from a reader’s point of view. How does it flow? What is the tone? Are the ideas making sense and coming across the way you intended?

You’d think three hats would be enough, but the next day I go back and re-read the post and, “Gack! I can’t believe I didn’t see that. The whole world thinks I’m stupid!”

I just started my day by fixing five distinct grammatical errors in yesterday’s post about angry songs. Maybe I should have been listening to something more soothing.


11 responses

  1. This made me giggle – I do that too! I thought I was the only one – and there does seem something sort of funny about re-reading our own blog posts! lol – I typically do find a typo or two – they usually happen during rewrites and I miss them.
    Your advice is good for writing anything really, not just blogs..
    p.s. I’ve never really noticed any of your errors before! 🙂


  2. I decided a long time ago that I can’t get too obsessed with my grammar, or I would never post anything because I? I am not a grammar girl. I did learn to read thins out loud, though. This appears to help me a lot, so I can feel the flow and also better recognize words that just sound completely awkward. I enjoy your posts, and I think you are your worst critic.


  3. Thanks for the comments!

    The suck!

    And I’d try the read aloud thing except for the sound of my own voice. 🙂


  4. The read aloud thing is the best thing for me…and still I find stuff I missed days and weeks later. I’m glad to hear others go thru the same thing.


  5. I always try to avoid reading older stuff when I’m writing something, because if I do then I always seem to have the previous stuff in the back of my head and I’m constantly comparing what I’m currently writing to the old stuff and it really impedes the process. For me just turning my mind off when I’m first writing something creative is the biggest challenge. Years of academic writing in college have conditioned my brain to scrutinize every word or sentence that I write down until they sound as professional as possible, even though it may not be necessary and sound elitist in a given context. I just need to quit beating myself up and have confidence in my ability.


    1. Good points, Steven. I also find myself obsessing about the words I use. I’m an over-tweaker. 🙂

      I have trouble extra trouble with the writing process when I’m a journalist. If I’ve already read other stories about the same event I find it hard to come up with my own lead and make my own piece distinct. So I try really hard to avoid reading other coverage for events I’ll be writing about. Otherwise my writing just ends up tainted.


  6. Reblogged this on Shouts from the Abyss and commented:

    I wrote about improving my my grammar over tree years ago and I’m still haven’t learned a damning thing. I need more hats.


  7. I rarely edit. I prefer to leave things in their pristine state of incomprehensibilty…


    1. Pristine and primal…


  8. Thanks for re-posting this. I appreciate the simplicity of the “3 hat rule” and read, read, and re-read! I’m also constantly catching errors and misspellings in previous posts. That’s why I love the blog platform, you can always edit and update! 🙂 One of my lessons I’ve managed to carry over from my previous job is to constantly ctrl-f for “pubic” vs. “public”…!!!


    1. Wise. I try to never go out in public with my pubic hair. Or something like that.

      The three hats rule is useful if you actually use it, or so I’ve heard. 🙂

      I often find typos in posts that are years old. And I’m OCD enough to edit them.


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