Sometime over the past year or so I was accused of being a “Grammar Nazi.” I disputed this, and was told: “You ARE, because you’re always picking people up on mistakes.”
I was a bit taken aback at that bald statement, because I absolutely NEVER pick up anyone’s typos and questionable grammar simply for the sake of it. I want that on record here and now, and if you know me, and you really think about it, you’ll know that’s true. Granted, I have been known to find some typos funny, and have pointed out why they amused me; it’s always because they have turned something into a joke. ALWAYS. And I do have a low irritation threshold for careless grammar on public notices, but these people are paid to get it right. I don’t believe that, in all my time on social media (going back to the early 1990s when I first started visiting forums etc) I have ever ridiculed anyone — particularly a friend — for iffy spelling, or dodgy grammar, unless it’s either been funny/ironic, and my comment has been accompanied by all the right smileys, or else they’ve had a pop at me about something and have tripped themselves up during a spat. (Then I’m all over it, because, y’know, why not?)
The reason for this is very simple: I don’t know much about grammar. Surprised? Maybe not! But the thing is, I read a lot, and I write a lot, and I see an awful lot of very clever conversations going on about various parts of speech, and rules pertaining to dangling participles (I don’t even know what they are, but it sounds like something that should be attacked with some sharp scissors and a tube of Germolene.) I can string together the kind of sentence people generally enjoy reading, when I want to; I can write formal letters; I’ve written 8 complete novels and published 6, and I still don’t know what a modifier is, (or even if that’s a grammar thing, but it sounds like one, so I’m going with it!) I know the basics that any primary school-age child knows: yer verbs, adjectives and wotnots, but when you start getting into subjunctives and… see? I can’t even think of another one. Those kind of things make me blink and go, “huh? Yeah, but did you like the story?”
(Knowing the correct form of to/two/too and there/their/they’re isn’t grammar, it’s spelling. I know spelling, mostly.)
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not asking for advice or information about these things, because I actually don’t care. I really don’t. I write by instinct; if something sounds right, I’ll leave it. If it doesn’t, *zzzip* out it comes. But it won’t be because I’ve looked at it and thought: “ooh, that’s a (insert grammarly stuff here) I mustn’t do that.” It’s because I’ve read it and thought, “blimey, that stinks.” I have the Oxford Style Guide to hand for checking things I’m unsure about, and the required style alters between publishers, and even between editors, so I’ll never get it absolutely right. But my point is that instinct is not to be sniffed at; it can work. You don’t have to be a grammar fiend, or an English graduate, to write a good sentence. You just have to read a lot and work out what sounds right.
I just wanted to set the record straight on this whole “You’re a Grammar Nazi” thing, because it’s been burning in the back of my mind since this person, who I used to be quite matey with, (or, with whom I used to be quite matey?!) let me know what she really thinks of me. If you’re thinking: well, actually, she’s right, I want to ask you to think hard about that for a minute. People expect it of me, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. I think you’ll find most writers are so terrified of making mistakes on public posts, because of the glee we know would result, that we wouldn’t dare pick on someone else even if it was in our nature to do it. I pointed this out to my decrier, but it cut no ice. Ho hum.
If you spot any typos and/or grammar mistakes in this post, please feel free to never mention them.
Thanks for reading! As always, comments welcomed either here or on the FB link when it’s posted.