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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    doubledeej (profile), 29 Oct 2009 @ 12:04pm


    It is a big deal. When I'm reading a sentence that has the wrong "there/their/they're" in it it's like my brain hitting a speed bump at 70 MPH. It might as well be another word entirely because I (like many left-brained people) don't read based on word pronunciation; I read based on what words have been written. When I see a sentence that says "I will be going over their tonight" it might as well be "I will be going over gobbledygook tonight" because it's the wrong word and it doesn't make sense. I have to back up and re-read the sentence again based on pronunciation (out loud in my head, if that makes sense... which is much slower) to determine the original meaning of the author. It really slows the process down, and if there is too much of this nonsense in someone's writing it hurts the brain too much to decypher their intent and I just give up and move on.

    It isn't so much of being an elitist snob; it's a matter of writing to be understood. Using the wrong words is just lazy. People know the difference between "there" (a place), "their" (belonging to them), and "they're" (they are)... they're just being too lazy to think about their writing or press the extra key on their keyboard.

    Spelling mistakes and typos are understandable. Using the wrong words in the first place just isn't excusable.

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