Grammar Nazis

Let’s talk a little bit about grammar, shall we?  First, in interest of full disclosure, you should know that I’m an English major.  I graduated in 1994 from Saint Norbert College in De Pere, WI.  That said, I’m still not very good a the grammar thing.   In fact, I’m going to guess that I’ve already made multiple errors in this post already.

I decided to be an English major because I love theatre and I love telling stories.  A really good way to do that is by writing.  So, that’s what I do.  Through habit, laziness or some excuse like “style” I’ve always tried to “write how people talk.”  Really, it’s just the excuse of Artistic License, and it plays hell on my comma placement.  I usually stick commas in where I feel people would pause when saying a sentence.    That’s probably wrong.

Here’s the thing though.  My reason for writing is to tell stories.  I like telling stories, and I believe that people who are self-described “Grammar Nazis” while helpful, probably cause more harm than good.

Here’s the thing.  Writing stories down and having people read them is a pretty intimidating thing.  You’re opening up a part of your mind.  Sharing intimate thoughts and ideas.  Even the simple goofy stuff that I often write, it’s not heavy deep stuff, but it’s things that I find funny.  Writing them down and sharing them is saying to the Void that “I thought this was funny.”  If they don’t like it, they’re really saying, in a way, they don’t like me.  In a way.

So, it’s tricky from the start.  Then you add this additional concern of HAVING TO DO IT EXACTLY RIGHT.  Cripes.  That’s a high bar just to tell you a story.

Don’t get me wrong.  Grammar is incredibly important.  Spelling, punctuation, context, all that.  It helps the correct meaning of the story get across to the peoples.   But, there’s got to be a balance.  Do you know what people think when they hear “Nazis”?  Generally nothing good.  Mostly, “Oh, fuck, we need to get out of Poland.”  When I hear someone say they’re a Grammar Nazi, I think… Well… you’re going to be one of the last people I share my stuff with.

Let’s touch on the term “Nazi” for a second.  I know it’s supposed to mean, what?  Fanatically disciplined?  Loud, passionate and organized?  Jew hating?  I don’t know.   “Grammar Nazi” is the only time that I know that the word “Nazi” is intended to be used in a complimentary way.   Weird, right?  It really seems to downplay the role of Nazis in history, or really raise the stakes of getting grammar correct in the first place.

I’m going to make the bold statement that I believe using the word “Nazi” just makes people tense no matter what the situation.  (oh, there’s probably a good “tense” grammar joke in there.)   So, maybe we should stop using it.   Is Grammar Police a more pleasant way of saying the same thing?  We’ve got Fashion Police.  And, let’s think of the police that give kids baseball cards not the ones who seem to be regularly beating up black people.

I think I lost my train of thought.   The big idea is, that grammar is important, but let’s not let it’s importance get in the way of creativity.  And those of us who aren’t so good at Grammar, let’s get better at it.  (side note:  Did you know that I made it all the way to my senior year in college before someone (a fellow student) explained to me the difference between “than” and “then”…. yeah, that’s probably way too long into an English major to learn that tibit.   I also had a professor who continually circled commas in my papers and put the letters “cs” next to them which meant “comma splice”… I still don’t know what he meant by that.)

It benefits everyone to lighten up about and to get better at grammar.  Let’s work from both sides.  Oh!  Better yet, how about “Grammar Buddies”.   Can’t you just see the comments; “I hate to be a Grammar Buddy here, but you put a comma splice after ‘than’.”  Or something like that.

Want to read or listen to a fun story that indirectly involves Nazis of a humorous kind?  Check out this story I wrote:

Mr. Koon

Mr. Koon Audio Version

Talk to you later Grammar Buddies.


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