Grammar is a dirty word and I am a Grammar Nazi. There, I said it.
I suffer from this affliction which is shared by many other writers.
Apart from caffeine addiction, procrastination and thinking about plots while driving and missing my exit, that is.
And under that umbrella I also place misspelling and erroneous punctuation.
Repeat after me please. They’re drinking their coffee over there.
Wanted: Man With Good Grammar
I’m such a correct English tragic that many years ago when I was dabbling in internet dating, if a man had spelling or grammar mistakes in his profile, he was immediately struck off my list of potential suitors.
The grammar nazi takes no prisoners.
I could see that my compulsion to correct his errors, especially in a moment of passion, might prove to be a stumbling block to a relationship that lasts longer than dinner.
‘No, Henry, it’s not, “Why don’t you and me retire to the bedroom?” It’s “you and I.”’
What is Grammar?
Dictionary.com defines grammar as:
the whole system and structure of a language or of languages in general, usually taken as consisting of syntax and morphology (including inflections) and sometimes also phonology and semantics.
That's a mouthful right?
One of the most common mistakes I see is the misspelling of there when it’s supposed to be their and vice versa.
But there’s also then instead of than, your instead of you’re, to instead of too, weather instead of whether.
I could go on and on (and on and on…).
The Grammar Nazi H8tes Social Media
Predictive text on mobile devices may be partly responsible, but the responsibility ultimately lies with the human at the other end.
I always check what I’ve written for errors before I email it or post it on a site.
We all know that with the advent of instant communication, language has become more casual and I have no problem with that.
I've used abbreviated words myself when sending text messages to family or friends. U r instead of you are etc.
You could argue that it doesn’t matter so much on social media because much of that conversation is casual.
If you’re used to posting ungrammatical stuff however, it becomes so much harder to get out of that habit when you’re writing professionally.
And a lot of people don’t bother to differentiate.
Grammar Nazi Intervention
But I don’t think there’s any reason for poor grammar and spelling to be acceptable.
And what really makes me grit my teeth is poor English in the public and professional sphere.
I’ve seen a lot of misspelling on business websites.
Some are authors or in writing-related businesses, and I have often contacted them and informed them of it – in a friendly manner.
They usually thank me, but whether they bother to fix the errors, I don’t know.
Sometimes it’s obvious that English is not their first language, and in that case I would hope they’d be happy that someone had taken the time to point out their mistakes.
I guess the bottom line is, how important is it?
Would you refuse to buy a product or service because of spelling or grammatical errors on the company’s website, signage or other promotional material?
In my case, probably not, unless it was a business that was writing-related, such as copy-editing or report writing.
However, I still don’t think it’s a reason for errors to be shrugged off as irrelevant.
Grammar Nazi Examples And Correcting Grammar
The worst mistake of all, the one that makes me want to scream, is the errant apostrophe.
Apostrophes in plurals are so common I don’t even bother commenting on them.
I just mentally roll my eyes, as a fellow grammar Nazi puts it.
Fruit and vegetable shop vendors seem particularly susceptible.
Banana’s on sale. Fresh local cabbage’s.
And also those in authority. Violator’s will be towed. No Dog’s Allowed. And what about this one? No Drink’s Allowed in Shop. Thank’s. A double whammy.
Another very common error is using an apostrophe in ‘its’ when it’s the possessive, such as Every dog has it’s day.
It seems as if a lot of people subscribe to the Blanket Apostrophe Rule – when in doubt, whack it in.
In a recent article in the Week-end Australian, columnist Stephen Romei asked readers to send in examples of the misplaced apostrophe and other ‘grammatical gherkins.’
I am at a loss as to why he chose gherkins for his metaphor, but as I don’t like them, it works for me.
There are some amusing responses, but my favourite is the article’s illustration, from a railway waiting room in Tasmania.
Please place wet umberella’s here.
Another delightful double doozy. The same people might also write, Beware of burgulars or Perculated coffee sold here.
Apostrophe Man: The Grammar Vigilante
But while I’m doing my old codger act, moaning about the low standard of today’s spelling and grammar, a grammar vigilante in England is taking action on this serious issue.
An issue which be believes threatens to shake the very foundations of modern society.
This caped crusader creeps around the streets of Bristol in the dead of night with a long-handled tool he calls the ‘apostrophiser,’.
He created it especially to correct rogue apostrophes on signs by placing stickers over them.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, told the BBC, 'I do think it is a cause worth pursuing.
I have felt extremely nervous and the heart has been thumping.’
He maintains he has not committed any crime. ‘It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong in the first place.’
Move over, Avengers, there’s a new superhero in town.
Apostrophe Man, courageously fighting a single-handed battle against the scourge of this deceptively innocuous-looking dot with a tail.
Why stop at Bristol?
The world needs you!
I can only hope that Apostrophe Man finds a way to clone himself so we can banish the Evil Errant Apostrophe for once and for all to Punctuation Purgatory.
Of course, he could always just try to convince people to use Grammarly before they start defacing the city.
What about you?
Do you have any bloopers or gripes you'd like to share? I'd love you to join in the conversation in the comments box below.
UPDATE 2019: I have now created two new pages on my site to help you find blog posts more easily.
I've defined them into posts about fiction or non-fiction.
You can find fiction posts here and non-fiction posts here.
Esp If the book is self-published, I read the one star reviews. That’s where you find other grammar Nazis. If they say “good book but bad grammar,” I move on. Now I will admit, quotes and commas confuse me. It seems the rules changed from 1967 grammar school.
Yes, it is so important if you’re self published to have your book professionally edited. Quotes and commas can be confusing, I agree. The trend these days is minimalist when it comes to commas.
I thought I was the only one. Yikes. There may be enough of us to start a club!!
Writers/Authors should hold themselves to higher standards because of their craft, or else they’re just people who put words together, and that’s their crap. Where’s the pride in doing something right?
I happened to mention an error to a writer who responded with, “I just write what sounds good to me.” But, shouldn’t it sound good to us sticklers, too?
I prefer authors who can be a shining example to the authors of tomorrow. Some of the grammar errors are not only in the written word, but the spoken word! I’ve heard in more than one movie something like, “They’ll have to give it to him and I.” I don’t know if the error was from the script (writer) or the actor (speaker). Whom should I have less respect for, the hack writer, or the brainless actor?
I had a boss who did the “him and I” thing. I told him to remove the other person as in, “give it to I,” corrected to, “give it to me.” He implied that it’s too much work.
About apostrophes, who decided that initials as abbreviations should have them? PCs, ABCs, EKGs. And numbers? The 1990s, the 2000s.
Really makes me feel like written English is going down the tubes.
I’m sure there’s enough of us to start a large club – those of us who had all the rules of grammar instilled in us at school. I can rant and rave all I want about the poor standards of spelling and grammar, but in the end all I can do as an author is, as you say, hold myself to as high a standard as possible.
One of my pet peeves is errant commas. Too many people seem to stick them in at random, or they’ll put one in at the beginning of an apposite phrase, but not at the end of it. For example, they’ll write, “My boyfriend, Ned took the dog for a walk” instead of “My boyfriend, Ned, took the dog for a walk.”
I agree about commas – people either have too many or a long, rambling sentence with not enough.
More than the misuse of apostrophes, the over use of quotation marks (inverted commas) drives me up the “proverbial” wall. These marks are use to de-legitimize, to draw attention, and to display an appalling ignorance of grammar.
I agree – overuse of quotation marks is very annoying and the people who do it seem to do it ad nauseam.
I’m a “grammar nazi”, too. I’m a 72-year-old retired journalist and short-story and magazine article writer, living in southwestern Mexico, now. I teach English as a Second Language classes, and use all the frequent errors I see posted on Facebook and web sites, especially what I call the Mutilated Memes, to show my students how NOT to write English. I’m especially bothered by professional writers, whether of fiction, non-fiction, or journalism, who make glaring grammatical and/or punctuation errors. If they don’t care enough to take the time to edit their work carefully, even asking others to go over it, as well, they have no business trying to sell their work. And all current word processing programs (e.g. MS Office, etc.) have editing programs that will catch almost everything, even redundancy of words and phrases.
I think the Apostrophe Man is wonderful. I’ve often wondered why the mutilation of English grammar and punctuation seems to be increasing. Are the teachers that inadequate, or is the system so inadequate that it pushes or allows teachers to pass their students through English classes without learning how to write and speak it correctly?
As for the apostrophe abuse, I thought I’d seen every weird misuse of apostrophes possible; however, not an hour before I read this blog, I saw an author on Amazon describe her own book as “a tragedy which occurred why’ll her husband and children were away from home…” I must confess, writing “while” as “why’ll” is a new abuse I’ve never seen before. Apostrophe Man, where are you? You need to check out many of the “authors” on Amazon!
It’s nice that you have so many examples of what not to write to show your students. 🙂 Regarding teachers, I think it is true that there are more teachers nowadays who don’t have an adequate standard of literacy – my daughter would quite often correct her teachers’ spelling!
Why’ll instead of while – top marks for originality. That deserves a place in Gene’s book.
I really hate the its/it’s mistakes, especially when I see published authors committing these errors. Another of my hated offenses is everyday vs. every day.
I agree about the its/it’s mistake – it’s very common, and so easy to tell the difference!
One of my pet peeves is using “remorse” instead of “grief” – as in “she showed no remorse over the death of her mother.” Had “she” caused that death, it would be appropriate, but unfortunate, an indie author who crafts great stories and characters regularly misuses remorse. Good to know there are other grammar nazis out there. I frequently annoy people by asking, when I see, for example a sign saying”the William’s” or “the Williams'” by asking “the Williams’ what?” I also have a Kindle book “The Write Word” that I compiled using items found in books I read. I have enough material for three more should I be so inclined. But how do you answer when someone asks “So who cares, and who’ll notice, as long as the reader gets the meaning?”
Unfortunately, that seems to be the way the world is going….
I haven’t seen remorse instead of grief – that’s a major blunder!. I agree it’s unfortunate that a lot of people think poor spelling and grammar is inconsequential. If that attitude was applied to other disciplines – maths, science, geography, etc – it would be considered totally unacceptable.
Oh Robin, you’ve hit the nail on the head of of one my biggest pet peeve. I see this everywhere, and daily.
Commas instead of semi-colons or vice-versa are another, and maybe instead of may be, especially in formal documentation.
It has become MUCH more common in books. I read a book last week – written by an author from Kent, UK – where errors such as ‘…heal of the foot…’ and (something like) ‘…there was nothing in the top three draws, so I opened the bottom draw…’ appeared. And these are books that I pay for, that are supposed to have been written by the author, read by the editor and then by a proof-reader. Do they all just use Windows Spellcheck now?
Whenever the makers of the errors are confronted, they look at me with a fuzzy gaze. Okay, some who think they are more wise, often raise their noses to the sky and claim that this is how the English language has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve.
I certainly agree with everything you have said, however, I hope you haven’t now created a rod for your own back, because everyone is going to be taking a very close look at your creations from now on. Watch out!
Thanks for the article.
Thanks for your comments. I have seen ‘draw’ instead of ‘drawer’ so often in books, that it’s made me wonder whether ‘draw’ has now become an accepted spelling. I am seeing errors in traditionally published books that I never saw 10 years ago and I think part of the reason is that nowadays the publishers often don’t have the money to employ people whose sole job it is to proofread. I was very aware that by writing this post I was putting myself in the spotlight for errors – I checked it umpteen times before I pressed publish! 🙂