Grammar Nazi (a rant)

I want to know when proper English became too much of a bother. Because that’s what it seems to be: a bother.

My son’s teachers (K-3) didn’t bother to teach him proper spelling. They used phonetics. "That's how everyone does it," they told me, sneering when I objected.

At home, I tutored him on proper spelling, running him through spelling drills and dictionary usage. He complained, but he spells better than anyone in his class. I see it as a long, downward slide -- when I was in elementary school, they did teach my classmates and I how to spell correctly. They did not, however, bother to cover the proper use and rules of grammar – that was for my mother’s generation, apparently.

On the internet, people don’t bother to edit their forum posting, comments, or blog posts for proper grammar and spelling, or even consistency. It’s not just the internet, though – the systematic degradation of the English language is everywhere, pervasive and non-stop. It’s in texting, twittering, blogging, e-mails, forums and even elementary schools . . . on and on and on. In fact, poorly written English has become so common and accepted that those people who do try and correct at least a few of the billions of mistakes are called a “grammar nazi.”

That’s nice. To equate somebody who cares about writing well with one of the most depraved, despicable political movements of all time. Murdering 6 billion people is totally equivalent to caring about clear communication. It’s almost become uncool to be able to read and write properly, with skill and confidence. This is the Age of Technology, after all – we only need numbers and coding to proceed from here.

One glaring example of where American priorities lie is in the contrast of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the LG Texting Competition. In 2008, the grand prize winner of the Scripps Spelling Bee won $35,000 in cash and $5,000 in prizes – a total of $40,000. That same year, the grand prize winner of the LG Texting Competition won $50,000.

The general attitude towards the correct usage of our language baffles me. People brush off misspelled words as no big deal – understandable if it’s one or two in a paragraph, but it’s more often one or two in a sentence. They excuse their poor writing skills on the internet and in their private writings with a, “Not a big deal – it’s not for a grade or anything,” type of mindset.

But it is a big deal, and it saddens me that it’s become almost rude to point out somebody’s lack of proper punctuation, grammar and spelling. It saddens me that so many people don’t seem to realize that their writing skills are not just a minor setback, a silly quirk of their personality.

How well a person can write equates to how well their written communication skills are. How can anyone expect to run a successful business, to be a teacher, to work in any sort of decent, well-paid position and actually succeed and advance if they can’t grasp the basics of the language they were raised with?

How do people expect to impress future employers and colleagues when they’ve littered their murder of the English language all over the internet? How do they expect to make a good impression on people of importance if they can’t even write a formal e-mail in proper letter format, with an appropriate salutation, body and closing? How many even know that there is a difference between a formal e-mail and a casual one?

In moving the majority of our communications to the written word, you would think we as a society would grasp the importance of consistence in spelling and grammar. Such consistency is a necessity for written communication -- it's obvious in the difference between "neigh" and "nay"; "reign and "rein"; "prostate" and "prostrate"; and "semantics" and "semitic". There is a reason we first began compiling language into dictionaries with specified, approved spellings and meanings, and it's not because we as a species are anal-retentive OCD nerds. It's because when using the written word for communication, clarity and consistency is important.

TL;DR

This abbreviation means "too long; didn't read." It's becoming common on comment-based forums, blogs, and websites. It was originally, I believe, popularized on reddit. If someone voluntarily appends a comment or post with "tl;dr" and a brief summary of their comment/ post, I see no issue with that.

It's the other trend with tl;dr that's bothering me -- when someone responds to a comment or post they deem too long with the abbreviation td;dr. It's just so incredibly rude and unnecessary. When a comment or post is responded to with a comment that simply says, "TL;DR," I find it so idiotic that my only reaction is:

Are you serious? Have we really reached a point in our society where people are complaining about half a page of text as too long, didn't read? I mean, if you don't want to read it, fine, whatever. There are times when I find myself skimming because I'm just eye-tired and exhausted. But is the snarky little "tl;dr" really necessary? If you can't handle long comments, why are you perusing a predominantly text-based site? Are we honestly reducing ourselves to a 140-character blurb society?

In short, if you can't be bothered to read something, don't bother to respond. If you can't handle reading long walls of text, don't peruse text-based sites.

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Comments 11 comments

JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

I can totally relate, I haven't got kids of my own. But every time I hear 'OMG' it makes me cringe. One of the attractions of this site, is that I can read articles written by people with a good command of the English language. Voted up etc.


BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

BLACKANDGOLDJACK 4 years ago from Blitzburgh area

i here u. My daughter, a senior in high school, just wrote a paper for a scholarship she asked me to proof. Geez. A whole bunch of "that" instead of "who" and such. Not to mention we have a Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary sitting right here where our computers are that she doesn't pop open much. She wrote "high end" and I thought it should have a hyphen, but it was me that (I mean who) looked it up to be sure and not her.

She may be in big trouble next year if she runs into a Grammar Nazi.


that one girl profile image

that one girl 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Not sure if I should correct misspellings or if you are purposely messing with me given subject of my entry . . . I'm going to go with intentional teasing and tip you a, "Good show, sir," with a virtual conspiratorial wink.


shannonmariepc profile image

shannonmariepc 4 years ago

I, too, have wondered what happened to pride in writing. I see way too many people that use improper spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and word choice in everything they write. I have attempted to correct some of it, but I get told that I'm rude and that no one is perfect. I can understand random mistakes, but frequent ones and making the same mistake over and over makes one look uneducated. I hope to teach my children pride in themselves and that the things they do reflect on them, even in an informal setting.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

Not all teachers excuse spelling errors as 'phonetic spelling.' For all of the forty years I taught including the ones I taught kindergarten, we learned to spell and to use grammar correctly. Our children, even our kgn. children, had to 'write' (compose works of prose) hence the need to spell correctly, to understand how to put words together to make sentences, etc.

As for writing on line, when I write I edit and edit and edit and then I publish. Then after it has been published for a while, I go back and sometimes find an error...and I am mortified...it can happen...

Some may have a flagrant disregard for written communication being done well...but not most of us.


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States

I have to admit, I do think pointing out someone's grammar mistakes can be rude, if not done with tact and care. That being said, I also become annoyed by complete disregard for intelligent speach. I also think OMG or TTYL should not be spoken. It's fine in a text, but not in regular speech. Unfortunately, I do not have much room to speak, since I, myself, am not the best grammarian.


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

This hub tells the truth. See:

http://www.cvworkingfamilies.org/node/153

and

http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/04/27/students-...

I always have a Firefox tab set to dictionary.com.

In grade school in the 1950s -- an ordinary school in a town of mostly factory workers -- I got bored with hearing and reading over and over for several years in a row that a noun is a person, place, or thing, but I never forgot what nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and so on are. By the time I got to high school I knew about simple, complex, and compound sentences. In my sophomore year from an excellent teacher and a handbook of English by Perrin I learned to construct paragraphs, the basic unit of prose.

A few years ago I encountered a writer whose self-published novels have potential but have scarcely a line that doesn't need correcting, making the text difficult and annoying to read. That's like a musician not bothering to practice or to tune-up and instead letting an audience endure wrong notes, off-key tones, and wrong tempos.

Not long ago I overheard a young woman who was reading a very thin picture book to her preschool child complain that the story was "so long!"

What's to blame? That Internet use causes short attention spans? That schools are so focused on preparing students for standardized multiple-choice tests that they can't fit in teaching clear and effective writing? That the teaching method makes reading and writing a bother and a pain instead of a joy? Other?

If you go to Google Books and use the advanced search to find a preview of THE ACTS OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS NOBLE KNIGHTS by John Steinbeck and scroll down to the Introduction, you will find a delightful anecdote by Steinbeck about hating trying to learn to read until, when he was 9 years old, an aunt gave him a copy of Morte D'Arthur by Malory written in medieval English. He loved it. You can't teach reading and the love of reading with boring books, and you can't love writing if reading is a bore.

That One Girl, if you had the wherewithal to found and direct a private school, what would you do with your school?


that one girl profile image

that one girl 4 years ago from Washington state Author

I hate it when I do that -- write something online and edit on-the-fly while writing, then re-read and edit, then edit just before posting . . . only to come back days/ weeks/ months later and see a mistake. Oh! Or worse is when I do all that editing, but miss a teensy tiny little error that my eyes keep skipping over, hit post, and notice the error immediately after posting. That last one always seems to happen on the comment forums that don't allow comment editing, too.

I am understanding of editorial mistakes. I understand that when typing too quickly, or when reading ones own work, it can be difficult to catch all the mistakes 100% of the time. Heck, there were typos and editorial mistakes in the Harry Potter books, and those had a whole editing team behind them!

No, I don't count the occasional typo or editorial mistake in my rant. Expecting absolute perfectionism is ridiculous -- but expecting basic effort and education is not.


that one girl profile image

that one girl 4 years ago from Washington state Author

That's the conundrum, isn't it? On the one hand, you want to point out that they've made some obvious mistake, like spelling "ridiculous" as "rediculous," because otherwise they'll just keep making those types of mistakes and embarrassing themselves textually.

On the other hand, you don't want to sound like a patronizing know-it-all and somehow offend them, which is so easy with things like this. "Sorry," you say. "Um, you seem to have used the wrong 'there.' I think you intended to say, 'There's no way that could happen,' not, 'Theirs no way that could happen.'"

"Shut up fagzor! Learn too read!" comes the response. What can you do? You look at the screen in silence for a long moment, then sigh, shut your laptop, and step away from the internet for a bit.


that one girl profile image

that one girl 4 years ago from Washington state Author

I love Steinbeck! Author forewords are always so fun. I read a foreword by Orson Scott Card in Ender's Game once, where he related an anecdote about his sister in law. He mentioned she'd lived in Germany for a bit, and I had this moment of stunned clarity when I finally put two and two together: All my life, my dad had urged me to write Orson Scott Card because he was a "friend of a friend of the family," and all my life my mom had told me how I was named after her "best friend when she lived in Germany." I was named after O.S.C.'s sister in law, Laura Card. Mind = blown. Too bad he's a massive homophobe.

Anyway, if I had the wherewithal to found and direct a private school . . . first, I'd go with the Finnish model, where the curriculum focuses on encouraging learning and curiosity, not teaching to the test. Second, I'd give equal time to each subject, and make sure the students had a strong grounding in the basics before moving onto more advanced ideas.

It took me until I was in college to stop freaking out about math, in part because I never was able to gain a solid footing in the basics. If a teacher had worked with me one on one, or if I'd been able to be placed in a slightly slower-paced class, I would have been able to grasp the basics. But instead, they rushed through the lessons at a set pace, and I was learning new equations before I'd fully understood they ones they were based on. I often felt off-kilter and frightened in my math classes.

I often think when people express a strong dislike for a subject that they simply weren't properly schooled in the basics of it. It's hard to understand why the Germans elected Hitler if you don't understand the fallout from WWI and the effect Treaty of Versailles, you know? I mean, you have to have the basics to understand the big picture, and nobody wants to spend time on the basics anymore.

/edit . . . and I see HubPages is still not threading comments, so I have 3 in a row. Awesome.


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

I love it! I am a victim of a program that taught neither phonetics nor spelling. It was an early 90s attempt to raise self esteem by getting kids to write down whatever they wanted, however they wanted. It didn't work nd they canceled the program after about two years.

Voted up and interesting!

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