Grammar Nazis: Useful Language Experts, Or Elitist Snobs?

from the well-this-ought-to-be-fun dept

I know that my grammar is not ideal, though I really do strive to get the basics right. There are times, however, when I feel that the strict "rules" that are put forth by grammar go too far. If the text makes the point in a way that people can understand, what is the problem? On top of that, there's the utter snobbishness with which some (no, not all!) grammar aficionados put down anyone who makes a silly mistake. I have no problem with someone letting me know about a typo or a grammatical problem in a friendly and useful manner -- but all too often the message is delivered in the tone suggesting that making such an elementary grammatical error suggests that I obviously never made it out of the second grade. So I'm glad to see an English professor taking on the grammar nazis.

Salon is running a review of a new book by English professor Jack Lynch, called The Lexicographer's Dilemma, which argues that grammar nazis should chill out. Grammar rules are mostly to make people feel elite, not to make them any clearer, according to the book. Again, I have no problem with basic grammar rules for the sake of clarity, but focusing too much on the rules over the clarity is a mistake, and it's nice to see at least some "experts" agreeing.

Filed Under: english, grammar, language


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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 29 Oct 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re: Hmm...

    Agreed! The number one reason I want to learn more languages is not for the ability to communicate, but for the experience of thinking with a different lexicon - an especially fascinating concept when you get into Turkic languages that flip the structure of words (and thus thoughts) completely on end.

    Following proper grammar keeps your mind sharp, and acts as a sign of commitment and thoroughness. Bad grammar doesn't invalidate a good idea, but good grammar definitely enhances that idea and makes it more likely to resonate with the audience.

    Of course, I completely agree that nitpicking about grammar on blog posts is pointless. I can't understand why people even bother when it comes to their/there/they're and such - in fact, it's higher level grammar errors that drive me nuts. Misplaced modifiers, for example, go completely unnoticed by many people, but they cause those who do notice to stumble, roll their eyes, chuckle or all three.

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