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Talk to me about the Grammar Police

  1. elisabeth reid profile image65
    elisabeth reidposted 9 years ago

    Are they a necessity or a nuisance?  I tend to lean on the side of necessity -- but then, I'm a Nag*.  Do you feel that people need to learn the rules before they are able to break them effectively and can you tell when someone's cutting that particular corner?

    Do you call them on it?

    *upper-case 'n' used for emphasis in this situation.

    1. Marisa Wright profile image99
      Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Yes, definitely, but I'm trying to be more relaxed about it these days.  Look back in history and you see how dramatically the language has changed over time.  Today's mistakes are tomorrow's common usage, so what's the point in getting hot under the collar about them?

  2. danielmybrother profile image77
    danielmybrotherposted 9 years ago

    I've been a copy editor for a number of years and am enjoying the current feud raging between the Prescriptivists (these include the dreaded Grammar Police) and the Descriptivists, who advocate more of an "Almost anything goes" approach. Check out the latest salvos on this link (and the links within it) at

    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/language … 05428.html

    Also, if you'd like to keep up on language/word debates, there's a specific discussion forum on this at ACES, the national organization for copy editors (you'll have to register to post)



  3. kerryg profile image87
    kerrygposted 9 years ago

    I don't generally call people on bad grammar or spelling, unless they're, say, calling ME a "dumocrat," but I definitely fall in the camp that believes you need to know the rules before you can break them. A few typos are one thing, but a pattern of poor spelling and grammar lowers my respect and trust in a person's credibility very quickly, unless they're obviously foreign. Even then, I've known lots of foreigners who write flawless English because they study, practice, and have other people look over their writing before publishing it, so I'm a lot more lenient about spontaneous things like forum posts or comments than Hubs themselves.

    I guess to me it's a respect issue, in the end. If you don't respect your audience enough to take the extra time to make your writing readable, why should I spend extra time trying to decipher it? Chances are pretty good you're not the World's Only Living Expert, and chances are also good at least one of the others knows how to write.

    1. CotterHUE profile image62
      CotterHUEposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      I agree.  A few grammar or vocabulary mistakes are fine, but consistent errors with the language just demonstrate carelessness and/or ignorance.  Language is a tool for communication, and the ability to be understood proves the most important aspect of that tool.  Yet in today's world, where everyone is increasingly pressed for time and most everyone is overloaded with information, a reader will simply go elsewhere with the click of a mouse button.  He won't spend time trying to decipher what the writer wanted to say.

      I think we must also consider the medium.  A reader will tolerate more mistakes in an e-mail than a blog; more in a blog than an article; and more in an article than a book.  Perhaps.

  4. Hovalis profile image84
    Hovalisposted 9 years ago

    I'm one of those people that's had to brush up on their grammar. There's no way on this Earth I'd call other people on their grammar because of that reason alone. I'm a victim of the New South Wales education system, when the policy was not to formally teach grammar. We were supposed to pick it up by absorption! I kid you not. It's a rude awakening when find out your grammar sucks, and you were in the top English class in your high school. When I did Engineering after high school, grammar wasn't heavily leaned on, and so I just had no idea.

    Sometimes these things need to be pointed out to a person. What can be off-putting is the manner in which the suggestion is made. If it's made in a really high-sounding and snooty manner, then you are just inviting the other person to ignore you. The grammar police who take this attitude toward correction are shooting themselves in the foot. It's amazing how many people don't realise that their corrections might be taken in a bad way, just because of the manner in which they express them. That's just as bad as giving no advice at all.

    1. elisabeth reid profile image65
      elisabeth reidposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Bingo.  I grew up listening to my mother telling me...over and over and over and over...."It's not what you say, it's how you say it."  She drove me crazy at the time, but it worked -- and she was right.

      Now I'm making my own kids cross-eyed with it.  Heh...they're started to recite it with me.

  5. Paraglider profile image93
    Paragliderposted 9 years ago

    I suspect that a good working definition of bad grammar might be, "anything edited in accordance with Microsoft Word's Grammar Check".

    Seriously though, grammar, spelling, punctuation - they are all aids to communication, not the communication itself. Some writers are able to subvert the rules without degrading their communication. Others are not.

  6. barranca profile image79
    barrancaposted 9 years ago

    I teach English in high school and must correct stacks of poorly written papers, but even I must refer often to a grammar textbook to be sure about some particular issue in grammar or word usage.  I was educated long enough ago to remember the emphasis placed on grammar and diagramming sentences, but as a teacher, I am skeptical about how much the study of grammar helps make one a better writer.  In my opinion, practice writing, reading and caring about language enough to attend to it are what make for better writers.  I agree with kerryg's post about grammar as a matter of courtesy and respect.

  7. The Indexer profile image84
    The Indexerposted 9 years ago

    I make a living (of sorts) from correcting the grammar of other people - mainly students in the UK for whom English is not their first language, and translators who need help when working the "wrong way". I therefore believe that the rules of grammar are important and should be respected. However, I also maintain that the way language is used must reflect the situation in which it is being used.

    We use language to convey both meaning and emotion. It is a form of code - my thoughts and feelings leave my brain and reach yours because we both understand the code that is being used. If I decide to use words and phrases that make sense to me, but not to you, you will misunderstand my meaning. When I speak to you directly, I can use non-verbal signals and vocal emphasis to convey meaning, but especially emotion. However, if the communication is via the written word, I have to depend entirely on the words you will read, and you have to be party to the same conventions for conveying meaning and emotion that I am.

    When that written communication is intended for someone who is not known to me, or to a potentially large number of people, the scope fopr misunderstanding is multiplied many times over, unless there are rules that are generally understood and which I, as the writer, use correctly when I write. Hence the need for grammar, and its appropriate use depending on the situation.

    Also, remember that the way you speak and write says something about you. If you are careless and sloppy about these things, people will think that that is a reflection of you as a person.

  8. ellebreigh profile image49
    ellebreighposted 9 years ago

    I think it's ridiculous the way English speakers disregard the importance of their language. I have always found non-English speakers to be very proud of their language and the culture it derives from and I think that's the way it should be. It's true that the language is constantly evolving, and that's natural, but a total disregard for the rules of language only create confusion in communication.