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The Curse of the Grammar Nazi

Updated on May 4, 2012

"Her language is too good,

Which clearly indicates that she is foreign;

Whereas others are instructed in their native language

English people aren't."

--Professor Henry Higgins

In the days when the literary type was a much smaller species, when books were fewer and less read, the Grammar Nazi was an unknown phenomenon. Simply put, they were unneeded because all who undertook to put pen to paper were educated in the necessary rules and regulations of their respective languages. Though some of the principles instilled in the educated of those days are decidedly archaic, but the truth is that they, for the most part, knew what they were doing.

Not so for the populace of today. It is a wonderful thing that most people living in Western Civilization can read, but the writing? With all of the technical advancements of our world, anyone and everyone is a potential author, splashing thoughts of both depth and triviality everywhere on their virtual life. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are all guilty of accessory to the crime of murdering language, with their participants heedlessly committing the awful sin. These forms of social media, along with texting and casual emailing, created the Grammar Nazi. They live among us, appearing to be like every other human being until a friend Facebook writes "u r soooo keeeewwwlll" on their wall, and their response leaves them a few points down on the "kewl" scale.

I myself am such a one who lives in secret agony over the tweets, texts, and posts that completely eschew all structure in spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. But there is a good reason for that-- it is a genetic oddity within my family. At least I assume as much since at least two of my siblings have the same tendencies. Our mutual friends and followers live in constant fear of our online lurkings, and they never know when we will strike.

Here are a few things that any grammarian would call someone on. Beware and be aware of them, and your effectiveness in your typed communications may vastly improve.

Misuse of Homophones

They're, There, Their: When you are speaking of your friends, and "they're" doing something, don't call them a location like "there." Doesn't that seem a bit callous of you? And whatever you do, don't turn them into a possessive like "their."

Err, Air: You don't air on the side of caution, and you don't breathe err. At least I hope you don't. If so, you have my pity.

Read, Red: In the first word the vowel combination is short. One is a color, the other is an activity. You can guess which is which.

Affect, Effect: If you wish to affect something, you are hoping to change it. Hopefully the effect of your efforts will be satisfactory

Beau, Bow: Maybe your beau will teach you how to shoot a bow. If he's anything like Robin Hood, that is. Which would be really quite exciting.

To, Too, Two: Two should be obvious. It's a number, and therefore should be safe from misuse. But such is not the case. Too many times I have seen it abused, and this too grieves the soul of any English student who stumbles across it.

Close, Clothes: To change your clothes, please close the door. Enough said.

Does, Doze: What one does with one's day is up to you. You may doze if you like, but please stop messing up words.

Prays, Praise: Both are acts of reverent devotion, but denote very different things. See the Holy Scriptures for differentiation.

Intentional Misspellings

Really? Really? Why must we muddle our spellings so, and on purpose? Unlike Mark Twain, who had no regard for a man who could only spell a word one way, the misspelled word is a bane to the soul of the Grammar Nazi.

Kewl: "Cool" is bad enough. "Kewl" is heaping insult upon injury.

Pleaz: If you wish to be polite, please respect the word too. If you wish to be sarcastic, don't use polite words to do it.

Oooohhhh...: We're happy you're so excited about life. But please, articulate it more concisely for us. Random exclamations tell us very little.

Kum: Come now. Don't speak like a hick!

The Forgotten Apostrophe

Heaven forbid it. You have just altered the entire meaning of your word, sentence, paragraph, and existence.

I'll becomes Ill: Are you making a promise or becoming sick?

Can't becomes Cant: Your inability becomes meaningless ranting. You can't let that happen.

It's becomes Its: Rather than making a statement of fact, you just obliterated all meaning from you thought. Edits are necessary.

I'm becomes Im: You were saying something about yourself. Now you're instant messaging?

You're becomes Your: "You are" equates to "you're." The choice is yours, but it should be obvious.

The Mangled Sentence

Language separates humans from the animals. It allows us to clearly and concisely convey our thoughts in an organized fashion. Why must that system of organization be decimated at every turn?

The Run-on Sentence: A sentence is meant to convey one thought, perhaps with nuances and additional comments, but it should be reserved for thoughts along the same general vein, and ended before three pages are over. I speak in hyperbole, of course. But honestly, saying "I had a good day I bought some sneakers and now I'm tired from shopping and I want to go to bed and I don't care if this sentence is annoying" is nothing but that-- annoying

The Sentence Fragment: I don't care if Hemingway used brevity for effect (see section on homophones). Brevity does not equate chopped up bits of thought, nor effectiveness a random splattering of periods.

In Closing

These are simple ways to make your writing better. And betterment is a good thing, because it doesn't just touch the area of your life that it's immediately related to you. It disciplines your mind, sharpens your wit, and makes you a more well-rounded person. So bone up on the grammar, and join the ranks of those who are ready to change the world, one word at a time.

"By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life."

Jean Baptiste Girard


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    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Very funny Attikos. I've heard that the more colors there are on your plate, the healthier it is... Might not be quite so true in this case though.

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Nice comeback Winsome! I still like it though for both stylistic and clarity purposes. As for the hamburger and coke, what you do with them is entirely up to you. :-)

    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 6 years ago from East Cackalacky

      I don't know about the soggy part, but if you have a hamburger and coke the burger might start to look like a rainbow.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Chicago Manual of Style eh? You do know that American Journalists follow the British, French, German, Polish, Italian, Dutch and Spanish practice of leaving it out.

      As to your example, if I have a hamburger and coke, will my hamburger be soggy? I say let the television writers keep the serial and leave the comma out of it. =:)

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Thank you for visiting, cianeko! I too find the dumbing down of language extremely frustrating, and every part of culture for that matter. There is no good reason that people should be careless with their speech, but the best we can do is just make sure that we aren't committing the same mistakes. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts!

    • cianeko profile image

      AT Abueva 6 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      It's common in the modern times and I don't understand why and how it happens.Does this mean that people are so disturbed by these so called "technical advances"?I'm just confused why a language should and would be that dynamic.The changes brought about by this changes in our language really ruin the present civilization and the future civilizations to come ( if ever God will permit!)

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      I don't think Grammar Nazis are quite as fierce as to deprive others of their speaking rights when they transgress the rules. I know that I try not to be quite that aggressive-- I do want to keep a few friends after all. ;)

      But the Oxford Comma? Do away with it? That would be tragedy unspeakable! If I get rid of it, instead of having eggs, toast, and orange juice for breakfast, I had eggs, toast and orange. A most decidedly soggy and unappealing option. But sometimes slang is much more concise than the 'proper' alternative, so I'll give that one to you. :)

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi C, its and it's are a little dodgy for me. Personally, I would appreciate some pruning of the language. There are some words which should be replaced by their slang counterparts and some slang should be avoided completely. Punctuation should be limited or eliminated when possible--for example, cars, bikes and planes should not need another comma after bikes.

      BTW, do Grammar Nazis deprive you of speaking when you make a mistake--"No words for you!" =:)

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Thanks Kathleen, I hope lots of people find it useful! Unfortunately there isn't space to list all of the mistakes that are common, but hopefully I was able to get a few of the major ones. Thanks for stopping by!

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Hi europewalker! Facebook can be a frightening thing to be hold, and a world of terror for the grammatically literate. I've considered making an offer to proofread all of my friend's status updates before, but that could end up being a full time job! Thank you for your kind comment and vote.

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Oh yes, verb/subject modification is definitely something that makes my skin crawl. And when professionals do it, the horror of it is ten times worse. Thanks for the input Attikos!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      This hub will do hub writers a great service. Putting these rules into examples gives us a picture we can remember. It's a better way to teach than just stating the rule. Great job.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 6 years ago

      I couldn't agree more with this interesting hub. The misuse of the words lose and loose makes me cringe. When I check out my grandsons facebook page, it looks like they're speaking another language. Voted up.

    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 6 years ago from East Cackalacky

      My pet peeve is the confusion of modification of subject and verb represented by the example "all of us are not going" when what is meant is "not all of us are going." People who should know better, including journalists, commit that transgression all the time.

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      gmwilliams, you're welcome a multillion times. They are indeed so simple, and it can be frustrating that people don't take the time to speak or write properly. The best we can do is to just make sure that we are ourselves not mutilating English, and strategically attack online offenders. ;-)

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you a multillion times. I am so distressed that people use there for their. That really angers me to no end! What is wrong with these people! The rules of proper grammar are so simple, isn't it? Also if you use a word which is unfamiliar, many people attempt to correct you, stating that you do not know WHAT you are talking about! That really sends my into quite a tempest which can be quite hellish to say the least!


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