In high school, I was one of those annoying grammar nazi kids. I thought it was cool and funny and smart to point out everyone else’s mistakes, mostly because I was 16 and an idiot, but also because I was good at reading and writing and grammar and I thought that made me better than other people in this small, insignificant way, and I needed a win. Now I’ve got a slightly better handle on my self-worth and don’t need to feel superior to others to feel good about myself (or at least I know I shouldn’t need that, so I try not indulge those feelings of superiority anymore).
Honestly, being a grammar nazi does nothing for you in life, I promise. And that’s coming from a professional writer. To illustrate my point, here are three reasons it’s time to quit:
- You look like a dick.
Obsessively correcting other people when they make minor mistakes does not make you seem kind, or smart, or interesting. At best, it makes you boring and pedantic, and at worst, it makes you a dick. Plus, if you make it well-known that you’re a grammar nazi, people will go out of their way to make grammar errors around you, effectively driving you insane. It’s better to let it go.
- It makes some people feel bad.
Maybe you don’t care what others think about you. But do you care about others, like, in general? Being a grammar nazi doesn’t make you seem smart, but it can make other people feel dumb. If you nitpick someone’s bad grammar, odds are that they won’t think at all about how smart you are, but will rather think about how dumb they must sound.
When I taught college freshmen, I realized that everyone comes from a different background, and just because I grew up privileged enough to have parents who encouraged reading and teachers who taught me effectively and a brain wired for words, that doesn’t mean everyone else had those advantages. I am in no way better than someone who didn’t have those things. I’m just lucky. And constantly pointing out how lucky I was to those who weren’t is just…well, it’s just shitty behavior.
- The rules of English grammar are absolute shit.
Maybe it’s not so much that you want to hurt other people’s feelings, it’s more that you aren’t willing to compromise on what’s “correct.” There are rules when it comes to grammar, and that should matter.
Except it shouldn’t. Yeah, like at all. English is basically language jungle juice, just a disgusting mixture of whatever languages we had at our disposal when the language was forming, and as a result, the rules make no fucking sense 90% of the time. For example, you aren’t supposed to split an infinitive. It would be atrocious to randomly do so, right? 😉 Except the only reason that’s a rule is because in Latin, it’s literally impossible to split an infinitive. But in English, it’s totally possible. So why can’t we?
If you are the kind of person willing to look like a dick and hurt people’s feelings in the name of upholding some kind of dignity, stand up for human dignity instead. Find a good cause and throw all your grammar nazi energy into that. Don’t make grammar the hill you die on, because you will die on it. Instead, find a more meaningful mountain and courageously lead others and maybe make it to the top. This metaphor is getting away from me, but what I mean is, use your nitpicky tendencies for something more worthy of your time and energy.