The Tale of a Reformed Grammar Nerd

I was once a self-professed grammar nazi. (I now wince at that wording. Like, wow. “Nazi” is NOT a good choice of words there!”). I gleefully corrected the grammar of anyone who was wrong. I didn’t care how blunt I was; I didn’t care how I made them feel. What was important was pointing out that they were WRONG and I was RIGHT. Thoughts and feelings of others? Didn’t matter to me. The thought that I could be hurting someone on the other side of a screen? Well, why did it matter, right? Didn’t they know that they were wrong and shouldn’t they be glad I’m helping them learn grammar?

But then I realized some things. Insisting on proper grammar is racist. (EDIT: this article was shared not because I agree with the author. I disagree with the writer and agree with Chalabi. This is an example of someone disagreeing with it. It’s still racist. There are a couple good points in the article but it’s an example of someone being the unnecessary type of grammar snob as well) It’s classist. It’s ableist. AAVE is proper English, even though people seem to be quick to correct it. And quite frankly, it has no place in the social justice movement. It is almost important to keep in mind that many more people are using phones or tablets, which make grammar errors even easier to happen. Autocorrect, typos, it all happens so much easier. I mean, just today I messaged my roommate with “booby dungeon” instead of “bonus dungeon”, so, like, I know perfectly well how easy it is to fall down the autocorrect hole. 😉

If you’re able to take pride in having proper grammar, think about it. This means that you were able to have adequate education. Many people do not. It means you do not have a learning disability that makes having proper grammar impossible. (I have dysgraphia. While it doesn’t used to manifest in my grammar, it has as I’ve gotten older). It means you don’t have the cognitive impairments that make using so-called proper English feasible.   It means that you don’t rely on things like text to speech, which can make things somewhat garbled but still understandable. It means that this is one area in your live that you have a privilege (Note. I am not calling you privileged, Having a privilege and being privileged are not the same.)

I think it’s okay to ask for clarification if you are genuinely confused – sometimes using the wrong form or  wrong tense does change the meaning and asking “Hey, did you mean xyz” or “Could you reword that? I don’t understand what you’re saying” is one thing. But correctly someone SIMPLY because they’re wrong? That’s rude. That’s ableist. That’s classist. That’s racist. And frankly, it hurts. It hurts when I see my grammar mocked (NOTE: NOT saying that everyone who corrects improper grammar is mocking) when I know they understood what I was saying. It stings to be corrected when it’s obvious that the other person knew what I was saying, but they just “couldn’t resist” fixing my grammar. And a lot of times, relationships come into play – I have friends who have/had gently joke around with me when I make some of my more epic mistakes. But our relationship allowed that, and they knew when to knock it off.  However, when I am corrected for a mistake when what I said was clear, despite one wrong word? It hurts. When people correct me just for the sake of correcting me? It hurts.

I used to be a grammar nerd. I used to care so much about grammar and words. But I’ve realized I can care about words, without being a jerk. I realized that it’s okay if I let grammar errors go, because in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Someone isn’t “stupid” because they struggle with the difference with they’re/their/there. Someone isn’t “dumb” because your/you’re errors happen. Someone isn’t an “idiot” because they flip their verb tenses.

I’m tired of seeing people teased for something they can’t help. I’m tired of people being corrected, and them in turn feeling bad, for something that is beyond their control. I used to be the person who corrected every grammar error. I would make sarcastic comments in the margins when I proofread papers. I would insult intelligence for basic grammar errors. Quite frankly, I was an buttmuffin. And as I’ve gotten older, that’s bit me in the butt because I’ve become the person I once made fun of. I’ve become the person I once mercilessly corrected. I feel like crap about it, because I’m sure I made them feel like crap. I know now that grammar isn’t the most important thing. I know it isn’t worth potentially losing friendships over. I know that as long as we can understand each other, in the grand scheme of things, if someone uses the wrong word, it’s okay. And even if it bugs you, even if it bothers you, learn to let it go. Learn that it’s okay to let grammar errors slide. People don’t always need corrected by a random person on Facebook.


Note: this obviously does not apply to things like Donald Trump, government run websites, etc. They have the staff to proof read. They’re fair game. I am talking about individual people. Mock words like “bigly” away. 😉

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