Grammar Nazis Rejoice: NYT's In-House Grammar Nazi Opens Up Weekly Critique

from the neat dept

There's a class of folks (you know who you are!) who are well known in any kind of written forum/blog/email list etc. It's the infamous "Grammar Nazi." There are nice Grammar Nazis -- and we appreciate those -- and then there are the obnoxious Grammar Nazis who like to imply that you are the stupidest person to ever touch a keyboard because you mixed up affect and effect. From my perspective, I certainly appreciate the folks who point out the grammatical errors we make (we try to fix them quickly, if it makes sense), though I often find it silly to get bogged down in some of the minutiae of certain grammar rules that for all intents and purposes are almost universally ignored.

Either way, whether you're the nice kind of Grammar Nazi (who usually emails us privately) or the obnoxious kind (who always, always, always posts their comments publicly), you'll probably appreciate that the NY Times' internal Grammar Nazi (okay, technically, the Times' deputy news editor who is also in charge of The Times' style manual, Philip B. Corbett) is now publishing that papers' "weekly critique" publicly for all to see (found via Romenesko). In it, he highlights some of the common grammatical or usage problems that he's spotted regularly in the paper, with the intent of bringing it to the writers' attention for future efforts.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: grammar, grammar nazi, philip corbett, weekly critique
Companies: new york times


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:00pm

    Sometimes You Gotta Go Grammar Nazi

    But isn't it delicious when some goofball attacks an argument by saying that you spelled decieve wrong, and then end their sentence with a dangling participle? Don't you have to make fun of that?

    I think if people want to bring grammar into it, then the had better be perfect themselves, which is rare.

    Then, somtimes I just have to go Grammar Nazi when people hit my pet peeve, the "you should of done it", or "I could of worked there" mistake. That's not a typo. That's not a spelling error. That's not ignorance of an obscure language rule. That is complete negligence that any ape should be able to realize is not an english conjugation.

    People who, in their entire lifetimes of speaking English as a maternal idiom, can't recognize a contraction of "should have" to "should've" definiely could of spent a little more time paying attention in grade school.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jake, 8 Aug 2008 @ 2:23am

      Re: Sometimes You Gotta Go Grammar Nazi

      In its defence, 'should of' is a pretty close phonetic rendition of certain regional accents.
      And even the polite 'Grammar Nazis' can be a bit obsessive at times; a quite good friend of mine often politely rebuked me for using dashes where I should be using hyphens (or possibly the other way round; I don't recall exactly), until I very patiently explained that the typeface I was writing in -Times New Roman, size 12- required one to print out the offending document and scrutinise them with a magnifying glass to discern the difference.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2008 @ 9:30pm

      Re: Sometimes You Gotta Go Grammar Nazi

      "could of spent a little more time..."

      uhh.....??

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:04pm

    countdown...

    Comment pointing out some grammar mistake I made in comment 1 in 5...4...3...2...1...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eddie Pasternak, 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:43pm

    More

    Its spelled "Grammer Nazi's" on teh innernets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:46pm

    I generally appreciate grammar nazis. It's good that there are at least some people out there who aren't just rolling over for the flood of stupid.

    Now, what could this NYT Grammar Nazi do for me? I would greatly appreciate if they would start explaining to reporters and news anchors that "AN historic event" is inaccurate. Every time some idiot says "AN historic event", I want to kick them in the fucking nuts. Presumably these people have educations. So why do they use such a stupid combination of words? You don't say "I'm going to drink AN soda" or "I'm going to eat AN cheeseburger".

    And don't think for a moment that throwing out the "insult" that someone is a grammar nazi changes the fact that you're a fucking moron if they're picking on you for their/there or your/you're and other such idiotic mistakes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jonnyq, 7 Aug 2008 @ 8:49pm

      Re:

      Indeed. I'm no grammar nazi, but the most irritating thing to me is the people to use "proper" grammar when it's not proper. Pronouncing h's when they're supposed to be silent and vice versa is one of those. The 'h' in "garden herbs" is silent, dammit. The 'h' is "historic" is not, dammit.

      "Me" is the appropriate pronoun is objective form: "with him and me" is correct. "With he and I" is not. Dammit.

      "Whom" is also objective. "Whom, may I ask, wrote this?" is incorrect.

      Doing those things makes you sound like a douche because it sounds "formal", but it's incorrect.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Enrico Suarve, 8 Aug 2008 @ 2:50am

        Re: Re:

        The 'h' in "garden herbs" is silent, dammit. The 'h' is "historic" is not, dammit.

        That rather depends on where you're from, the 'h' in herb is not considered silent outside the US (possibly also Canada).

        Another feature I love about grammer Nazi's - their inability to be flexible over regional variations "I was taught proper me - MY version is correct, dammit"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dorian Gray, 27 Jan 2009 @ 11:09am

      Before you kick them in the nuts

      try opening your mind a bit, and ask why would they keep using "an historic"

      First of all, I don't know much about English grammar, so I will try to prevent you from kicking people in the nuts as best as I can.

      Just like when you use: It is an honor. You don't say it is a honor.

      While using "a honor" would be incorrect, using "a historic" is not incorrect. In Britain, most people would only use an historic, but in USA, thanks to peopke like you, we can now use either form.

      Even MS Word will not try to correct you if you use "an historic"

      Dorian Gray

      A historic is also

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:23pm

    Not So Fast: An Historic Explanation

    Wait AC#4, did you really think that all the news anchors were ignant? They are actually correct...although given the complexity of English, there is room for debate.

    When they said "An historic event" did they breathe into the "h"? If so, then it's a matter of opinion whether they are right or wrong. If they delivered a silent h, then "An historic" is 100% correct.

    ex: if it sounded like "anistoric event", then that is perfect English.

    See more at: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=84850

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris, 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Too much...

    Some mistakes I've seen are just too much. The other day I read a post in which the writer tried to express the following...

    "should be able to"

    What they wrote was this...

    "should beadle to"

    I'm sorry but let the Grammar Nazis reign.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:52pm

    Wow, like there really proofreading they're stuff huh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ljlego, 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:56pm

    It bothers me when people say they are Grammar Nazi's and then exclusively attack spelling. Spelling and grammar are, while not mutually exclusive, certainly NOT the same thing. Pronunciation is likewise not quite related to grammar, and condescension is in any case not the way to change the way a person speaks/writes the English language.

    Really, the truth of the matter is that language defines grammar, not the other way around. When rules become arcane, strict enforcement of them is by and large pompous and meant solely to show off (see how I didn't split that infinitive? Hmph) the grammarian's superior intellect. No one likes an asshole.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mary Cartledgehayes, 8 Aug 2008 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      Actually, some of us do like assholes and think the world would be a better place with if there were more Grammar-Spelling-Punctuation Assholes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Me Spelling Asshole, 25 Sep 2011 @ 4:56am

        Re: Re:My Spelling Peeves

        "quite" instead of quiet

        "defiantly" instead of definitely

        "pundant" instead of pundit as in "political pundit"

        then there was that old fool (now unemployed thank goodness) who said "nuculer" instead of nuclear

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 7 Aug 2008 @ 6:10pm

    There is plenty of raw stock to consider. Lets start with the leader of the free world, when he is straightened out move down a step, and so on. Sometime in the next century they can critique my entries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bryan Henderson, 7 Aug 2008 @ 7:32pm

    Proud grammar nazi

    I guess people who attack grammar nazis just don't get it, the same way the grammar nazis don't get how someone can spend a lifetime saying "could of" without ever noticing it's wrong, or without ever caring. The fact is that some people are offended by improper language the same as by an ugly yard or a bad smell or out of tune music. But if you aren't one, I don't supposed you'd understand that.

    Also, some people have a bias toward hostility. They see any correction of their language as an attack, born out of hate and requiring defense. Well, I don't. I appreciate having my mistakes pointed out, and the sooner the better. Even after decades of perfectionism, every so often someone points out some wrong thing I do, and I don't hesitate to change a decades-old speech habit to correct it. Even if it sounds awkward at first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris, 7 Aug 2008 @ 7:33pm

    Everyone needs self worth

    I teach a lot of high end network security classes. I find that the folks who nit pick over minor typos and spelling errors also tend to be the folks that struggle the most with the actual content. We all want to feel "smart". If we can't comment intelligently on the message, its sometimes easier to go after the delivery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave Barnes, 7 Aug 2008 @ 7:54pm

    A/Effect

    I just hate it when people with pretentious affectations write ineffective sentences. Maybe, if they received more affection from their significant others, they would write more effectively.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DCX2, 7 Aug 2008 @ 8:27pm

    Grammar nazi's in comments

    IMO, if someone leaves a comment correcting grammar, you ought to be able to delete the comment once you fix the error.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike Deissler, 7 Aug 2008 @ 8:34pm

    If you can't write correctly, you can't understand correctly

    If you can't express your ideas in understandable language; how can you be trusted to interpret correctly written language ? It's like math... You can't read an equation that adds 2 and 2 and report that really means the mathematician meant multiply. A writer starts with a blank page and every letter placed there is chosen for it's specific meaning. I.E. Nothing is but what is naught - or - nothing is but what is not - Shakespeare's most bastardized quote. Which one is his?

    Ebonics Forever, Mike

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Shakespearean Tragedy of the Grammar Nazi, 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:28pm

      Re: If you can't write correctly, you can't understand correctly

      I've often wondered what events transpire in a person's life to make them a grammar nazi. Were they beat as children? Possibly they were told they couldn't go do the crossword until they ate their peas. Maybe earlier in life, they weren't allowed off of the kiddie-chair until they created a stool.

      It's quite possible that they were abused as children, but not in the way we define abuse today.

      Perhaps the neighbor kids were outside in their back yard playing sports, as he sat inside, looking out to see the other children having fun. The future Nazi continued to read the Farmer's Almanac aloud in an effort to please his father. Father knew these activities would prepare him for a rewarding future in Creative Accounting.

      With the window cracked open, the neighbor children would say today's catch phrase of "Am I doin it rite"? To which, the his father would say "Look at them, little Joey, THEY are doing it wrong." and proceeded to open the "S" volume of the Encyclopedia to "Soccer".

      The next day at school, armed with their new found knowledge, the future nazi would point out to the children how they were wrong, yet when asked by peers to show how to do it, he couldn't do it himself. This in itself was a tragedy as he seeked to find support and acceptance by his peers.

      But Joey's unsatisfactory life turned around for a short while during his 8th birthday, as he finally had a fried over-- his 4-month old pet hamster. But shortly thereafter, this sadly took a turn for the worse, because the hamster got sick from the ice cream and birthday cake and subsequently died.

      Such a sad, pathetic little life.


      $10 to the person who can tell me who the author if this quote is:
      "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 30 Jan 2009 @ 3:15pm

      Re: If you can't write correctly, you can't understand correctly

      Hello!

      Thank you for your contribution to the debate.

      There is no apostrophe in "it's" in the context in which you used the word in your comments. "It's" is a shortening of: "it is". You should have used "its". There is no excuse for sloppy grammar.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shakespearean Tragedy of the Grammar Nazi, 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:35pm

    EDIT requested.

    Ah yes, in the example above, Joey had a "FRIEND" over, not a "fried" over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Grady, 7 Aug 2008 @ 11:22pm

    I love it when....

    the Grammar Nazis come out to play.....

    In my short twenty years, I have across so many rules (and exceptions to those rules) in regards to our screwed up language called English, that NO one person is wrong, nor is ANY one person correct. It all depends on what generation teaches you, and what generation. you are, and what you're willing to accept from the current generation. Remember when "ain't" wasn't a word? I was always told not to start a sentence with "and" because you shouldn't start a sentences with a conjunction. But, obviously, I was told wrong.

    So, to all those Grammar Nazis out there, keep it to yourselves, we all make mistakes, and none of us were taught the same....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    None Given, 8 Aug 2008 @ 12:32am

    idiots

    >>publishing that papers' "weekly critique" publicly for all to see

    should be "paper's" because there is only one.

    ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kay, 10 Sep 2008 @ 9:18am

    Affect Vs Effect

    There is a battle in my IT office over the Affect vs. Effect.

    Affect is most often the verb and effect is the noun but not always. Affect's meaning as a verb is to influences something.
    Effect's meaning as a verb is to change something.

    As a techinical writer I use Effected to describe the screens that have been changed by the programmers. One of my collegues uses the old grammar rule of Affect is the verb so it should be used instead. There is a time when dogmatically clinging to the grammar rule you learned in school defeats the purpose of language, which is to communicate a meaning.

    Feel free to flame on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kay, 10 Sep 2008 @ 9:28am

    Affect Vs Effect

    There is a battle in my IT office over the Affect vs. Effect.

    Affect is most often the verb and effect is the noun but not always. Affect's meaning as a verb is to influences something.
    Effect's meaning as a verb is to change something.

    As a techinical writer I use Effected to describe the screens that have been changed by the programmers. One of my collegues uses the old grammar rule of Affect is the verb so it should be used instead. There is a time when dogmatically clinging to the grammar rule you learned in school defeats the purpose of language, which is to communicate a meaning.

    Feel free to flame on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    derlo, 3 Nov 2008 @ 12:34pm

    new file engine search!

    I have found a related page! Visit http://newfileengine.com/

    I find it very useful when you try to find something quickly!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.