The Grammar Police

It is my job to know grammar. I teach college-level English and I studied writing throughout my college and grad school careers. I even have a few books on grammar as it is necessary to know style and punctuation as a writer. However, I’m not the grammar police.

It has recently occurred to me that most people obsessed with grammar care less about saying something well than they do catching someone in a violation of the English language. They are superior little snots. Also, they are the type of people who would fastidiously avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. Their sentence are clunky because they have correct grammar, concision be damned. Then again, these are the people who obviously suck at math and take out their insecurities on others. Subscribing to a language dogma somehow makes them feel better about themselves as they are incapable of adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and solving equations. That would take real mind work and knowledge.

One important thing to note is the grammar-obsessed rarely teach English or writing. They’re often not even linguists, who actually take classes on this type of stuff. They are often rank amateurs who often don’t know what they’re talking about. They may even have a dangling modifier in their sentence and might not even know it.

Self-appointed grammarians, leave this stuff to the professionals. Thanks.

General advice: DO NOT ENGAGE. They are the type of people to put up a fight, especially if they’re wrong, because, the burden of proof’s on you. It always is. Christian Lander has some further advice in his post about grammar.

6 thoughts on “The Grammar Police

  1. This is true! I can’t dispute anything you have said in this post! I love individuals who like to correct your way of speaking… front of other people!!!! It is a way to embarass and demean you!

    What is the name of those grammar books?
    .-= Avril´s last blog ..Miribel =-.

  2. Absolutely true. I do my best and occasionally inwardly cringe at the mistakes of others, but only when it matters.

    My former boss at the office was horrible. He actually said “I don’t speak English, I speak American and I write/spell the way I talk.” If you’d ever read his e-mails, even a grammar novice would have been appalled. It got to the point where his boss asked that all of his “important” outgoing e-mails go through me first. We use MS Office at work, so he could have easily run at least a minimum spelling/grammar check on his messages, he just didn’t think there was any need.

    As I said, former boss. 😉
    .-= urban bohemian´s last blog ..movies: just say Brü-NO =-.

  3. @Avril: Howard Zinnser has a good book on writing called On Writing Well. Also, the Random House Pocket Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation is pretty handy. I do like Grammar Girl, podcast and book, though some of her callers on the podcast annoy me. The thing most responsible for harping on grammar (and I have a copy of): E.B. White’s and William Strunk’s The Elements of Style.

    @urban bohemian: That boss sounds like an exemplification of the Peter Principle, only his boss knew of this incompetence. I speak American too, California at that, and, dude, you don’t see me writing bad sentences. 😉

  4. Personally, I think any kind of know-it-all needs to climb off their high-horse and realize we’re all people who can make mistakes. No one is perfect and I mean no one. This isn’t an excuse to not try to be perfect, but it is a reason to not abide perfectionists. Language is a perfect example. I’ve been studying Japanese for years and once had a fluent Japanese speaker tell me, “if you’re able to generally get your point across, you’re fluent.”

    That’s how I approach my English writing, too.

    To me, language is about communicating–no one can do it perfectly no matter how perfect their grammar is.

    Besides that, English is not a static, carved into concrete language–it’s evolving and changing daily. Grammarists who insist the rules must be followed are simply linguistic extremists who don’t understand that change is inevitable.

    Deal with it, word-nerds!!
    .-= thepete´s last blog ..ThePhlog: Birthday Celebrating =-.

  5. @ThePete: You hit the nail right on the head (yes, that’s a cliché): “To me, language is about communicating–no one can do it perfectly no matter how perfect their grammar is.”

    For the word nerds out there, it doesn’t seem to be about communicating. The same holds true for some literary types who fall in love with the artfulness of a sentence without really getting into what it says. Or a novel chock full of beautiful sentences, which can be a joy to read, but the whole point is to come away with what they mean. What do these sentences say?

    I’ve had a theory I’ve recently put forth (jokingly) word-nerds can’t do things that require actual intellectual rigor (like math) and compensate by embracing the logic and systematic elements of grammar. It’s definitely a nice, defensive (perhaps offensive) way of avoiding actually listening to someone. Who needs to pay attention when you can rip their language apart?

    However, it is fun to rip the word-nerds, or any other kind of intellectual masturbators, apart.

  6. Thanks for the titles Shin….I will defiantely look out for them!! 🙂 Also, your post will help me to explain to current students about learning a language. Very well written and thanks for sharing!
    .-= Avril´s last blog ..Miribel =-.

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