A Humble Request For The Grammar Nazis

Here’s the scene: You’re on the internet somewhere. There’s a conversation going on down in the comments section that’s quickly getting ugly. Someone’s feelings are hurt, someone is trolling, someone is spending valuable Excel-spreadsheet making work time typing up an impassioned response. And there it is, the long, arduous tour through someone’s deepest emotions as they try to sum up, in 1,000 characters or less, their opinion. Responding to it would be difficult, or tedious, or simply not worth the effort–but leaving it blank would be a dick move. You need to say something, but what? And then, like the golden hand of God Himself reaching down from the clouds and handing you the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card of the internet, the commenter makes a grammatical error.

“you’re*”

And there you have it, your all-encompassing, perfectly crafted response that both swiftly shuts down the commenter’s argument and puts him in his rightful place as the shamed, illiterate dunce of the internet. You are smart, you are witty, you wouldn’t touch a split infinitive with a ten-foot pole. And now, with just a simple correction and that dainty little asterisk, you’ve shown the whole world just how much better you really are. You can almost hear the dull roar of the hordes of Smart People around the world, patting each other on the back as they confirm their own blinding intelligence. They will write cutesy sayings like “You had me at the correct use of ‘whose’ and ‘who’s.'” They will make easy-to-read charts, explaining to the peons exactly how to use a semicolon.

Most of all, they will be right.

But here’s the deal: we all like being right. Everyone, even those people who are either typing too quickly or weren’t paying enough attention in Language Arts to get that sentence structure perfect, enjoys being correct. And I will freely admit, I try my best to use proper spelling and grammar on the internet, even in the fetid swamp waters of comment forums. I like to, in general, feel as though I’m writing in a generally articulate way. However, it should be stated that doing so does not, by any means, make me smart. Sure, having a firm grasp on the basic rules is enough to get us a check-plus on our quizzes and perhaps a smiley face sticker, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that it makes us anything more than that–Good Little Spellers, worthy of a pat on the head.

Sometimes I wish that we were all required to do high school-and-college level mathematics in comment forums in order to leave comments. I firmly believe that all of the sanctimonious English majors taking out their frustration over lack of employable skill on the errant mis-speller would be quickly revealed as the equally un-academically adept morons they are (in their own special way). I know I would, and I know I am not the only one who peppers her sentences with words like quixotic, yet can only respond to even a basic math problem with a light string of drool hanging from her lower lip. The truth is, there are many people who are incredibly intelligent, but whose writing skills are just terrible. They excel in math, in science, in technical skills, in anything and everything other than knowing when to capitalize after a colon. And I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t make you a better person for correcting them.

The point is, we could all do better not to be such massive tools on the internet and run around telling each other when we spelled something wrong. The novelty of pointing out the mouth breathers who actually don’t know the difference between your and you’re has worn quite thin, and no amount of pretentious correction is going to make them believe it’s an important skill to acquire. The rest of the mistake-makers, whether from errant typos or genuine disinterest in written English, are no less smart than you are. They are perhaps, if anything, just a bit more economical with their time–in that they’re not wasting it, serving as the traffic cops of the internet, doling out bullshit tickets.

Save us all the trouble. We know you’re smart. Do the decent thing and secretly judge the grammatically inept in silence.

Your welcome. TC mark

image – Brett Jordan

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/371747 371747

    totes

  • Um

    thank you

  • Um

    thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I think there’s a limit. Especially if there’s a somewun who rites liek dis all da tiem u no? liek wuts da poent of dis?

    • Sarah

      On the contrary, I think taking the time to try to educate someone who types like that on the finer points of grammar would be a demonstration of your ability to engage yourself in exercises of futility. And nothing more.

  • guest

    jeez..

  • Jill_M

    I love you.

  • Vidal

    THIS. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000539953518 Han van der Heide

    I see what you did there  
    Debates ..  shall I be the tool that points it out, with asterisk…. fighting urge…..

  • Asdf

    you’re*

    • Anonymous

      oh my god, that bugged the hell out of me when I saw the ‘your welcome.’

      • Asdf

        Well, to be fair, that was kinda the point. :P I was throwing out the obvious snark, that’s all, because I’m an idiot and I appreciate cheap laughs.

      • Anonymous

        but of course! I’m going along with the article, because I am self-admitted grammar Nazi, guilty of correcting people’s spelling/grammar on their Facebook statuses, especially those of my boyfriend, who excels in all things science, but cannot write for the life of him ;[

      • Anonymous

        He typed “tryies” once. I mean, REALLY?! :[

      • Asdf

        I’m going to tryies not to cryies over that information.

  • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

    The internet forgets that everyone needs an editor. Even editors.

  • http://facebook.com/sdouglas Scott

    Sure, let’s all just become apathetic about another thing

    • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

      Who says there is apathy? Obviously people care about this, but there is a time and a place. I get annoyed when I find mistakes in something published but don’t care about the grammar in the comments section. Why would you care? Comment sections are conversational and I ABSOLUTELY reserve the right to abuse the English language when I’m chatting. Calling grammar on someone is like calling rank–I’m bigger, better and more important.

      • http://facebook.com/sdouglas Scott

        I had an amazing rebuttal prepared, but then I saw I’m killing you 9-1 in “likes”.  The people have spoken!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        What a great rebuttal. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        re-asshole

      • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

        I’m really happy that people pressing a button stopped you from flexing your grammatical muscles.

      • http://facebook.com/sdouglas Scott

        Hey, don’t make fun. That’s how I got through public school.

      • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

        same here. useful.

    • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

      This
      isn’t about apathy, it’s about not using minor spelling and
      grammatical errors as a way to completely discount
      someone’s argument. It contributes nothing to the
      conversation. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        It’s a self-serving tactic to feel intellectually superior; so yes, it does add ‘something’ to the conversation, albeit at one end. 

      • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

        Masturbating would garner similar results. 

    • http://twitter.com/371747 371747

      Okay.

    • Halo_Override

      .

  • Matt Bevilacqua

    Agreed, though the chronic misuse of “your” and “you’re” among our peers can alarm me sometimes. I mean, English and journalism majors shouldn’t be the ONLY people in our age group who know the difference. Yeah, I know that language is fluid and evolves along with social trends. Certainly a less-than-perfect grasp of it doesn’t necessarily imply an inadequate intelligence. But that doesn’t mean basic grammar should become a niche specialty.

    That said, great post. Nice work calling out the sanctimonious losers who take this stuff way too seriously.

    • http://twitter.com/371747 371747

      “. I mean, English and journalism majors shouldn’t be the ONLY people in our age group who know the difference. ”

      Well, they aren’t.  So don’t worry your pretty little head about it.  

  • stormyquin

    I was  a proud grammar nazi until the day I corrected a guy that turned out to be an acclaimed astrophysicist.  Officially reformed.

    • Dinnie Lim

      is it Neil deGrasse Tyson by any chance?  I corrected his grammar on Twitter, then realised my mistake.

  • http://allirense.com Alli

    I think it’s possible to point out grammar mistakes nicely.

  • http://scatterhome.blogspot.com/ Hornet

    First paragraph, fourth sentence, s/b “1000 characters or FEWER.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/dotQureshi Sohaib Qureshi

      fewer*

  • Badoop

    I love this.  Another point: trends in teaching language change through the decades, and when the “whole language” approach became popular a lot of the direct instruction of phonics and grammatical structures fell by the wayside.  I don’t know enough about it to really make an educated argument for or against it, but that approach was extremely popular in the late 80’s and 90’s (ahem, when us twentysomethings were learning language in school).  I definitely see the “your/you’re” errors happening much more often in our age group than in my parents’.  Who knows, but it’s interesting stuff.  

  • eye roll

    See swastika image, see word ‘nazis,’ read self-righteous article with condescending tone, think ‘This must be by Chelsea Fagan.’

    Surprise, surprise.

  • Stefan

    “we could all do better not to be such massive tools on the internet”

    ding ding ding ding ding!

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    My favorite, though, is when the self-appointed grammar Nazis refer to themselves as “grammer Nazis”. 

    Oooh, no, just kidding. My favorite is when the self-appointed “grammer Nazis” take a sound, coherent, five paragraph argument and then try to climb atop it like some sick astronaut climbing on top of a moon mountain, staking a flag in it as if to say, “I have won. I am victorious. Your argument is wrong, Commenter Who Is An Expert on the Subject Being Discussed As Opposed to Me Who Just Took One Course in A Semi-Relevant Field Once, One Time, in High School, because you used *their instead of *there. Well, I am better than everyone else now, so let’s all gather ’round to ess my dee.”

  • Amapes

    Was your abusive misuse of conjunctions intentional?

    • Anonymous

      Good Question. 

  • High School English Teacher

    I have to be honest, I wholeheartedly agree with your post, but I’m gonna have to do this – disinterest is not used correctly. To be uninterested is to lack interest; to be disinterested is to be objective. 

  • Yomomma

    you’re*

    • http://twitter.com/nuclearcabbage Nive

      Haha, excellent that someone noticed the error.

      • QUEEFERTON

        U jUsT g0T tR0lL3D l0l

  • kaylee

    I knew these comments would just be the bee’s knees. 

  • http://molokovellocet.tumblr.com -w-

    lololol “WHY IS EVERYONE SO MAD I SPELLED HYPOCRISY WRONG?!?!”

  • raerae

    Anyone who puts any kind of written content online should know the difference between too, two, to etc. I correct bad grammar often and it isn’t because I like to feel smart. It’s because if people start getting lazy about their writing, society is going to continue to get dumber.

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