It's Time to Take Grammar Nazis to Nuremberg

There are some things I hate being called. I can’t stand being called a wordsmith. Being referred to as a “Manc” gets my heckles up. And I am less than keen than my mum referring to me as “freak boy” because of my height.

But there’s one label that’s been flung my way repeatedly that gets my blood boiling.

Grammar Nazi.

Let’s put this to bed once and for all. I am not a Grammar Nazi. No copywriter worth his or her salt is a Grammar Nazi. And you shouldn’t be a Grammar Nazi either.

We Were Just Following Orders!

Call up any Grammar Nazi on why you shouldn’t start a sentence with “And” even though it adds urgency. Ask them why you can’t split an infinitive even when to do so adds emphasis and rhythm. Demand to know why they’re so hung up on you saying fewer instead of less when nobody gives a flying fuck.

They’ll do what they always do. These poxy little Gauleiters will tell you that their English teacher told them. That they were just following orders. That they don’t know why they’re supposed to be upset, but that not knowing won’t stop them.

There are thousands of articles about so-called grammatical rules passed on by English teachers. They agree. Most of the rules are crap. Most of them are all about enforcing discipline instead of encouraging communication.

I don’t know about you, but I write to get a point across, not to impress teacher.

Focus on the Message

Grammar Nazis are far more interested in how a sentence is constructed than in what it says.

What an absolute waste of literacy.

A sentence is a bridge. Yeah, some oddballs might be well into how strut A connects to tab B in a cantilever blah blah blah – but the rest of us just want to get to our destination.

That’s how I use language. That’s how you use language. We use the bridge to take our audience where we want them to go.

We focus on the message, not the petty rules. All else is secondary to the strength of the message, the clarity of the message, the meaning of the message.

This -and only this – is where grammar pedantry matters.

When making genuinely distracting mistakes garbles your message or makes you look inept. Saying “loose” instead of “lose” isn’t a grammatical nitpick – it’s using the wrong word and making your message unclear. Same for they’re, there and their. If it’s going to undermine your message, destroy your credibility or upset your audience, then tighten up your grammar. Otherwise, let it all hang loose, and don’t lose sight of what’s important.

Grammar is a tool.

Grammar Nazis are tools.

And you can tell them I said so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *