I have recently re-entered the world of editing. I have an actual client. It's very exciting — I like it better than freelance writing — but it also has made me hyper-aware of everyone's mistakes. Which, when one receives a lot of texts from an eleven-year-old, is kind of a drag. I already have a reputation as being a bit of a bun-haired grammarian. This will not help.
However, there is one group of people I will judge far more harshly than the general population (and my eleven-year-old), and they are ... writers. There is simply no excuse for someone who calls themselves "a writer" to be lazy or sloppy with her grammar and spelling. Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar checks, which do help — certainly everyone should run their work through this auto-nitpicker before sending it off — but also enable poor habits. If you rely on a program to fix your errors, you may not bother to develop the inherent writing skills. Word will not catch homonyms, for one thing, and its grammar check is iffy at catching mistakes. It catches too many things that aren't really mistakes (like sentence fragments) and misses true mistakes, like confusingly-structures sentences.
Luckily, we have a few grammar guides now that are infinitely more readable than Strunk & White or The Chicago Manual of Style. I mean, you can sit down and actually read these guides. Like a book. Two of my favorites:
Woe is I, by Patricia T. O'Connor, is a genuinely funny overview of common grammar pitfalls, such as possessives (when to use that tricky apostrophe?) and pronouns. O'Connor also kills off some bad rules we all learned in high school, such as "never split an infinitive." Readers will either find this refreshing or maddening, depending on how deeply ingrained the defunct rules are.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss, focuses on punctuation, which is only one facet of grammar — but such an oft-mangled one that if you master this alone, you'll make your editors weep with happiness.
How to Use A Semicolon: Anything with high-fiving dinosaurs gets my vote.
Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling: Most of these misspellings (loose vs. lose) will not be caught by Word. If you want to look like a non-moron, and avoid making your editor sob, you have to learn the usages; you can't rely on an algorithm. "Effect" vs. "affect" is so easy to confuse I have actually written the definitions on the whiteboard next to my desk. It would be even cooler to have these as posters next to my desk, and what do you know! Inman sells them. Perfect gift for the teen in your life, who very likely is abusing these words on Facebook as we speak.
Finally, as a real treat, I give you Inman's friend Allie Brosh, another webcomic creator who shares his impatience with poor grammar and spelling. (She is also a babe: what is up with these people?) Here, she tackles the most annoying spelling mistake in all creation, THE ALOT.