Why I am a Grammar Nazi

by TessaSchlesinger

by Tessa Schlesinger. Have you ever been called a grammar Nazi? If you have, then you might share some of these sentiments.

Yesterday, someone posted a slightly humorous quotation with a double negative. I responded with a slightly humorous comment on the double negative and the guy below me questioned if it was known that a double negative meant a positive. Thereafter the op accused me of ignorance and then one of her fans told me I was insensitive, and then all of Armageddon broke loose as the soldiery of war descended upon the Grammar Nazi – me, specifically. Well, you know what? I’m now going to have my say on why I’m in the right and ‘grammar deniers’ need to go back to school to learn to express themselves clearly.

Bad Spelling and Bad Grammar Slows Reading

Grammar Nazis rule

Here’s a bit of trivia that most people are unaware of. You learn to read letters when you go to school. After you’ve learnt to read - a fairly slow process - you don’t read anymore. What happens is that when your eye sees the words, it recognizes those words and imparts meaning and memory to it instantly. So the more practice you get at reading, the faster you get to read. However, when incorrect spelling or incorrect grammar is utilized, then the eye no longer brings up meaning and memory and it reverts to reading what is written. So it means the person who is ‘reading’ slows down. To someone who reads fast, this is irritating. To those who never garnered speed because they never practiced reading much, they’re just as slow as they ever were, so to them it’s not a big deal.

Obviously there is a relationship between slow reading and the degree to which the person is uninformed. That’s because reading is one of the major players contributing towards continuing education throughout life. In short, grammar deniers are not the best people in the world to take advice from. 

Stephen Fry VS. Grammar nazis

Stephen Fry is ironically word perfect and grammatically superior while he speaks against the Grammar Nazis...

Bad Spelling and Bad Grammar Slows Comprehension and Confuses Meaning

Your Teacher was a Liar. Bad Grammar and Bad Spelling DO Matter

Just as bad spelling and bad grammar slows down reading, it slows down comprehension. So let’s look at the two sentences below.

“Let’s eat, Grandma.”

“Let’s eat Grandma.”

That missing comma imparts cannibalism and someone reading it might assume if reading the send sentence that someone was seriously suggesting eating their grandmother. Reading further, the reader might realize that the person wasn’t interested in eating his grandmother but rather suggesting to his grandmother than they ate. Or not.

The point is that omitting punctuation marks or using them incorrectly changes the meaning of the sentence, and while the writer or speaker thinks that they have imparted the meaning they wanted to, the listener or reader generates a completely different meaning.

I’ve lost track of the number of people with whom I’ve tried to clarify meaning and they are so ignorant of the structure of the English language that they think I’m being stupid rather than that they are saying something completely different to what they mean.

Quite honestly, I really don’t want to waste time talking to people or reading what they have to say when they become that difficult to understand.

The obvious retort to this is, ‘but my friends understand me.” Well, um, yes, they’re using language in the same way that you are, they most definitely do. The issue is that, ironically, it’s educated people who speak and write English correctly who will be.

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Only one in five adults can spell ordinary words...
Despite this, Britons rate themselves as competent spellers, with 76 per cent describing their abilities as ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’. Almost all those questioned believed spelling was important. Students emerged as the worst spellers, with only 13 per cent getting all five questions in the test correct, against 21 per cent overall.

GenNext India: A nation of semi-literate private schoolchildren
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50% Americans Can't Spell Simple Words...Can You?
Although American women emerged as better spellers, but members of both sexes struggled with words like "accommodation", "separate", "definitely" and "accidentally". The study also showed that nearly 78 pct of the men surveyed were unable to spell "friend".

‘Woe is us’ — bad grammar permeates language
It seems us Americans ain't talkin' too good, don't write worth a lick and are worser with e-mails. Our grammar, punctuation and spelling are/is abysmal. And corporate America is saying, STOP. recent survey found Fortune 500 companies spending more than $3 billion a year retraining employees in basic English. Even writers have trouble writing.

Bad Spelling and Bad Grammar are Emulated

The Blind Leading the Blind

In days gone by, it was the technique of writers to indicate the education level and class of someone by using bad English in direct speech. So, for example, a character would say, “I didn’t do nothing.” This would immediately indicate to the reader that the speaker was from the lower classes and didn’t have much in the line of education.

I am appalled to discover that the sentence is now used so frequently by so many people that many people, regardless of their level of education, believe it to be correct. Educators (English teachers) are predominantly to blame for teaching the fallacy that it doesn’t matter if one spells correctly or uses grammar incorrectly so long as people understand what one is saying.

Well, um, yes. The problem is that people don’t understand what is being said as soon as one walks past basic communications. When more complex ideas are exchanged, an increasing degree of miscommunication takes place.

We have now reached a point in society when so many express themselves so badly about complex ideas that I sometimes think that people don’t appear to realize that they are arguing for the opposite of what they think they are saying.

Difference Between Typos and Incorrect Spelling and Grammar

Whenever I (or anyone else) writes an article like this, there is an immediately response from the guilty parties. Instead of understanding that it's not acceptable to display semi-literacy, they will immediately peruse my writing for every possible error that can be found.

So I want to explain the difference between a typo and spelling mistake. Typo's are quite obviously, well, typos. For example, if one spells the word 'the' as 'teh,' it's just that the one hand is hitting the keyboard faster than the other, and so the letters are back to front. It's not a spelling error. One way of clarifying this is to see how the writer spells 'the' for the rest of the artilcle. If a word is not spelled incorrectly consistently, then it's a typo. Utlising the same rule, if a word is repeatedly spelled the same way incorrectly, then it's a spelling or grammar error. The same rules applies for grammar rules.

Essentially the people who get upset about articles like this are upset because they feel it points to them. They feel humiliated. I guess I would feel humiliated, too. So because I never want to find myself in a position where I am called semi-literate or illiterate, when I am corrected, I take the information, learn it, and move on. I am extremely thankful that people do point out my occasional errors. That way I do not continue to make them. Needless to say, this is a very different attitude to those who insist that 'it doesn't matter."

Updated: 05/10/2013, TessaSchlesinger
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TessaSchlesinger on 05/16/2013

Agreed Peggy. The people who disagree are the ones who can't spell and/or write grammatically. That's why they insist it's not important.

PeggyHazelwood on 05/16/2013

I am indeed a Grammar Nazi and proud of it. I really dislike misspellings and bad grammar, and reading them makes me cringe. I honestly don't think of people as writers who can't ask for help when needed with these issues. Editing is as much a part of writing as forming the words.

TessaSchlesinger on 05/15/2013

Brenda, the thing is most people write as they speak. If one is speaking incorrectly, there's little chance of one writing correctly. I write exactly the way I speak. So do most people who write well. Those people who struggle with writing and who constantly need feedback from others to improve their work don't usually speak well.

BrendaReeves on 05/15/2013

I see the "ly" adverb mistake in writing all the time. It makes me crazy, and it's such a simple grammar rule to remember.

TessaSchlesinger on 05/15/2013

Um, Brenda, it is one of the little known secrets that the way one speaks and writes immediately puts one in one's class. I learnt that through my private schooling. Even the words one uses denotes one's class. People who speak well will say that one did something badLY not bad. They will say something like ONE did something not YOUSE did something. On G+, it's no accident that virtually everybody I've added, speaks and writes well. Oh, and one doesn't speak and write good, one speaks and writes well. All of these things will determine the class from which one comes. :) It also opens doors in a way that few other venues will.

BrendaReeves on 05/15/2013

I recently read that the ending a sentence with a preposition rule has been thrown out the window. It no longer applies. Spelling is the most common learning disability. It has to do with auditory processing, visual processing and short term memory.

My linguistics professor said that it is almost impossible to raise yourself up in social class, but one way of doing it is through grammar.

TessaSchlesinger on 05/10/2013

Thank you AnomalousArtist, yes, we do all make mistakes now and then, but making an occasional mistake, and not knowing everything is very different to being completely ignorant of the basics which are very easy to learn!

AnomalousArtist on 05/10/2013

Wonderful! Thank you so much for this. We all make mistakes now and then but the examples of bad grammar and spelling use I see every day, miserable mistakes that are becoming acceptable in an increasingly dumbed-down society...well, it's all enough to make me "loose" my mind ;o)

TessaSchlesinger on 05/10/2013

Terry McNamee, and the terrible thing is that we now live in a time and a place of educational decline. In order to justify the fact that most people don't know, those of us that do know are treated as if there is something wrong with us and that we're being unreasonable. Being intellegent, educated, etc. has become unacceptable.

TerryMcNamee on 05/10/2013

Yes, yes, yes! I am a spelling Nazi more than a grammar Nazi. Typos are one thing. Not knowing the difference between there, their and they're, or that an 's means possession and not plural — those are my pet peeves!

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