Dec 11, 2012

10 reasons not to join the Grammar Police.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law bought me this adorable notebook and we had a little giggle, as we both know I like to use full sentences and find it really difficult to use lolspeak and txt speak. But I don't make a habit out of correcting other people's grammar, spelling or pronunciation. The couple of  times you may find me doing so is when other people are being pedantic about language because I always find it ironic that so many of them make mistakes themselves while doing so. Secondly, I sometimes correct my kids. It's an annoying habit left over from when I used to homeschool them.
I mostly use formal language, I had it ingrained in me. But, I don't purport to be any kind of expert, I make mistakes all the time. I also don't expect people to have "essay quality" expression on their blog or social networking. I think it's quite distasteful when I see other people correcting someone's spelling and grammar.  Here's why:

1. It's pedantic. Pedants insist people follow their rules, but the worst part is they are condescending about it. Now, I am well aware some people have conditions such as Asperger Syndrome where they cannot help being pedantic. But more likely, pedantic people only wish they were as clever as they pretend to be.

 "A Man who has been brought up among Books, and is able to talk of nothing else, is what we call a Pedant. But, methinks, we should enlarge the Title, and give it to every one that does not know how to think out of his Profession and particular way of Life."Joseph Addison, Spectator 1711

2. It's elitist. I spent many year working in education. I have taught in high school, adult literacy classes and worked with people from disadvantaged backgrounds. If someone doesn't spell a word correctly, or pronounce it the same as you, and you correct them, you are really telling them that you think you are better than them.

3. It's impolite. My sister is a seamstress. She could probably tell you why your clothes fit incorrectly and why that cut doesn't suit you at all. My daughter is a make-up artist, she can tell you exactly where you went wrong with that eye-liner  I could write more examples. But you get the point. They don't do that because it's bad manners.

4. It's a form of bullying. There are lots of reasons people talk and spell differently such as dialects, incorrect instruction, dyslexia, disadvantage, disabilities. By pointing out their perceived inadequacies you are publicly humiliating a person who may have less advantages than you had. Sorry, but that's bullying.

5. It interrupts the natural flow of conversation. When you are having a conversation about a topic you feel passionate about, you type or say a heartfelt response and someone says, "That's not how you spell that". Firstly, it's an inappropriate response. You should be answering what they said and showing that you understood or clarifying what they said. Secondly, it's just annoying. The momentum of the conversation is lost and that is just sad.

6. People have different values. Some people don't value education or expression as much as they do kindness or being able to work with your hands. Trying to convert people to value what you value is annoying. I'm not talking about petitions to stop violence or really important issues. I'm talking about personal views. If you value it, then live it.

7. People in glass houses... The most ironic part is that the people who are the worst grammar police, constantly make typos, spelling mistakes and grammar faux pas. No person is perfect.

8. Only on the Internet? It seems to be an Internet phenomenon. We all do it. We do things behind a keyboard that we would never do in real life, because we don't have to witness the other person's reaction.

9. It's incorrect to assume language and grammar has fixity. This is pretty much self-explanatory. Why are they adding new words to the dictionary every year? Why is it now acceptable to use US spelling, even if you don't come from the US? Why don't we still talk in Old English?

10. Stephen Fry holds you in contempt. See the video below. Enough said.

Funny Link:
Know Your Meme - Grammar Nazi


  1. I love this! I've often felt this way myself - with my somewhat... offbeat.. thinking processes, I find lots of opportunities to earn the ire of teh grammar nazis without even trying. Thanks for speaking up on this.

  2. Me, too. I think it's because we are writing a lot more than we would have in the past and we want to get lots of thoughts out quickly. No need for re-drafts EVERY time we write something. Also, note No. 2, it should say years not year - I'll pick it up before they do. ;) I'm sure there's more.

  3. omg, I loved the Snoopy cartoon and the next one. I don't like the Grammar police; it's like they're looking for something to correct. Sad to say, but they're not always correct.

  4. Feh, the writer of this lists fails to recognize that A) everybody learns grammar in elementary school, so if you're a native speaker you have no excuse not to know it, and B) grammar isn't just there to make those in the know feel superior, it's there to help communication work (for instance, by helping divide separate thoughts, or eliminating ambiguities, etc.). A correction might break the flow of a conversation, but so can a run-on sentence, or any grammar goof that forces the reader to re-read something.

  5. Thanks for your comment.
    Firstly, what is "Feh"? If it means what I think it does, then it is an acronym and should therefore be written in capital letters. Due to the regional nature of this particular colloquialism, it has sadly missed the mark, as it is not a common term used in my particular English speaking country.
    Secondly, by writing "the writer of this lists" you have illustrated my point at number seven. That is, that everyone makes mistakes.
    Thirdly, you say I fail to recognise (Australian spelling for me) that people are instructed at school in the art of grammar. You must have a lot more faith in the education system than I do. However, I clearly list valid reasons why people would not use correct grammar including "dialects, incorrect instruction, dyslexia, disadvantage, disabilities".
    Lastly, I agree that grammar is not designed to make people feel superior. That's why I am saddened that it is so often used as a tool to do so.

  6. Yes, I failed to properly proof my comment and made a typo - that happens. Nobody is perfect, it's true.
    Feh is an expression, not an acronym.
    When it comes to correcting people for their grammar, I doubt most people would bother in the cases you mentioned (dialect, disability, etc.) - although there are jerks out there who will. (There's an old joke - a hillbilly is visiting Boston and needs to use a restroom - he is on the Harvard campus and approaches a man and says, "Hey, where's the bathroom at?" The man replies, "Here at Harvard, we do not end our sentences with a preposition." The hillbilly thinks a second, and says, "Ok, where's the bathroom at, a-hole?") Unfortunately, you don't have to look very far, at least in the US, to find perfectly able, supposedly educated native speakers who just don't care about their communication skills. They are the ones who should know better.

  7. It didn't feel very nice when I corrected you, did it? Almost like I was being petty and not really concentrating on what you were trying to say.
    As a carer and previously a teacher, I can tell you that people with learning, psycho-social or developmental disabilities don't write that on their profile. They don't have a flag saying, "Please don't correct me because I have a disability". They rely upon other people's discretion. You only need to go on You Tube, Facebook or any number of gaming and discussion forums, where people are humiliated due to their spelling and grammar and have been forced to say "I have a disability" or "English is my second language" where they really should not have had to say anything.
    In the end, even if people should know better, if we are not their parent or their teacher then it is not our business to correct them.
    I refer back to my point number three.


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