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. identicon
    This is me., 29 Oct 2009 @ 12:15pm

    About that.

    Grammar boils down to something very simple:

    Proper usage of grammar indicates that someone has spent the time to appear intelligent to others.

    It isn't rocket science, as they say, to learn you own native language properly. Just because someone understands the general meaning behind slang and innuendos and just because people can gather from context the meaning of "their" "there" and "they're" doesn't mean you should neglect it.

    The point being: proper grammar is what generally divides the educated from uneducated.

    If you can't take the 30 seconds it takes to make a sentence look intelligent, then that tells me something about your character.

    I don't expect people to write in proper English for texting on phones or when they're bored and FEYUL LAIK RITING IN LOLCAT SPEEK. Nor do I expect people to remember where the heck to put a semicolon vs a comma...

    ...but for goodness sake learn how to SPELL.

    You might not care, and your equally illiterate friends might not take notice, but OTHER people will move you down a notch on their ladder of respect.

    Also grammar may not be a product of direct intelligence, but it sure as hell tells shows whether or not you give a sh*t. Poor grammar sends a powerful message that you don't care enough to correct yourself or to maintain yourself in the eyes of other people.

    It equates to getting up every day and not shaving or combing your hair. Sure, you get the same quality of work done at your job whether or not you fix your looks each morning, but you certainly won't get the same respect or give off the same message as when you took care of yourself.

    Get the point yet?

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