Back in 2017, a tall Ukrainian fella by the name of Alex came to visit my open house for rent. My five, 20-something-year old tenants had just turned over, thank god, and I was praying to find a stable family to rent to.
Alex immediately said he needed more space for his kids, hence why he was looking. I was hopeful!
We got to talking about the tech world in San Francisco and he mentioned he had started a company called Grammarly in 2009 with a couple of friends. Given I was a writer, I was immediately intrigued by his startup that has now raised $90 million and is worth ~$1 billion.
Unfortunately, writing did not create a strong enough connection between us. He decided to pass. I think he needed a larger house with a bigger backyard.
Proof Getting Ahead Is About Production, Not Skill
In 2017, my dad started using Grammarly to help edit my work. Every time he received a draft post, he’d pop it into Grammarly to see what would come out.
I should do more of the editing myself, but the process bums me out. Also, I *think* he enjoys the ability to contribute to his son’s progress. I also like getting a second opinion to shed light on any of my blindspots.
Recently, my dad forwarded me an e-mail from Grammarly that showed this badge: Word Wizard. Whoo-hoo! Grammarly has attempted to gamify writing to encourage people to write more and to use its products.
The email shows my results in three main categories: Productivity, Mastery, and Vocabulary. Pay particular attention to the Mastery score.
As you can see, my Productivity is 99% higher than all Grammarly users, but my Mastery is only 26% more accurate than all Grammarly users.
It’s a nice way of saying MY ENGRISH SUCKS!
And the funny irony is that I’m being told my English sucks by three Ukranian program developers! If Alex was my tenant today, I’d raise his rent by the legal maximum for insulting me. Just kidding. Maybe.
Below are my Top 3 mistakes that occur over and over again because I’ve been too lazy to learn from my mistakes. This is what happens when you outsource things.
Mistake #1: Missing comma in compound sentence.
Incorrect: We washed the dog and then we cleaned up the mess that he made. (There should be a comma after the word “dog,” which I often miss)
Incorrect: We washed the dog, and then cleaned up his mess. (I will sometimes add a comma after dog when I shouldn’t. Tricky!)
Mistake #2: Split Infinitive
To split an infinitive is to put a word or words between the infinitive marker – the word to – and the root verb that follows it. One of the most famous examples is the Star Trek phrase “to boldly go.” Here, the infinitive “to go” is split by the adverb “boldly,” which is wrong.
But I LOVE splitting infinitives! I find it adds more color to my writing. But wrong is wrong accordingly to Grammarly.
Mistake #3: Missing article. Articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific.
For example: After the long day, the cup of tea tasted particularly good.
Instead of using the word the I will sometimes use the word a e.g. After a long day, the cup of tea tasted particularly good. This sentence sounds fine to me, but what do I know.
I’m constantly confusing the usage of the and a in a sentence.
The Bright Side To Being A Terrible Writer
Although my English sucks, there are some positives to being a terrible writer.
1) You grow a thick skin. I don’t care that I have bad grammar and will be ridiculed by some native English speakers. As a result, I’m regularly pressing publish. I’m OK with good enough, not great.
I have friends who are great writers and amazing artists who take forever to show their work because they are too afraid of ridicule. They must have everything perfect before shipping.
I say, who the hell cares?! Make some edits after you’ve shipped your good enough.
2) It’s more fun to improve. One of the great things about being terrible is that there is plenty of upside to improve. I loved being a 20 handicap golfer because the room for improvement down to a 10 handicap was so fun. Hitting the green from 200 yards away with a 4-iron 20% of the time felt amazing! But once I got to a 10 handicap, I found it incredibly frustrating to get better, so I eventually stopped playing.
Given my English is so bad, I’ve got plenty of upside to one day get to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s level.
3) People don’t expect as much from you. One of the great things about being born overseas and being Asian in Virginia was that nobody expected me to speak or write English fluently.
When I arrived in Virginia for high school, white folks would constantly be surprised that I didn’t have an accent. They were like, “Wow, you speak good English!” I felt like my journalism and AP English teachers also gave me more leeway. I got an A in both classes despite still being confused by infinitives, articles, and the use of me and I.
Even my mom regularly tells me how surprised she is that I turned out to be a writer as an adult. As a kid, I never showed any interest in writing. Nor was I an avid reader like my sister.
4) I appreciate my heritage. Although my mastery of the English language is poor, at least I know some Mandarin to make up for my deficiency. Drop me off in Taipei or Beijing and I’m good to go! I still dream in Mandarin 20% of the time too. It’s fun to be familiar with an entirely different language and culture spoken by over one billion people.
5) More appreciation of variety on Financial Samurai. I could attempt to write really rigid financial content with perfect grammar, but that would be very boring. Further, my output would go way down as I’d spend too much time focusing on the minutiae.
With my crappy writing skills, I can more easily play around with words to craft interesting stories that incorporate personal financial lessons. Ironically, my poor writing is more easy to understand since it has a conversational style to it.
For example, without my poor grammar I never would have come up with the article, You Can’t Frugal Your Way To Early Retirement, which became a very popular article. The grammar police kept saying I couldn’t use the word “frugal” as a verb. But I didn’t care!
Focus On Production If You Want To Get Ahead
No matter how hard I try, there will always be at least two grammatical errors in every post I publish, including this one. Oh well. I won’t let imperfection stop me from trying to get a point across, and neither should you.
You can always correct or learn from your mistakes. But you can never correct or learn from your mistakes if you never make any.
Don’t be afraid of the criticism. Embrace it so you can get better. For those of you who are imperfect, but continue to try, I salute you!
Not a day goes by where I’m not happy I started Financial Samurai in 2009. Having my own website has given me the freedom of expression, which is priceless even if my grammar truly is terrible.
Readers, have you ever felt like a lack of mastery prevented you from producing? How did you overcome your deficiency or fear to get ahead? Will the people hustling during the holidays get farther than those who don’t?