Why grammar pedants hate me

Jo Watson


I have many thoughts about grammar. Most of them conflict with each other.

You see, I can’t stand this little thing in grammar known as prescriptivism. It’s the idea that there’s only one correct and proper way to use language, and that this way is superior to every other form, simply because it was likely carved in some dull as f**k rock ,or something ages and ages ago by someone with a better education/upbringing/right to an opinion than you.

“I think you’ll find that your usage of the phrase in that context isn’t the correct or proper form of blah blah blah…”

You read that in a really smug voice, didn’t you? Great, so you know who I’m talking about.

Whilst I admit that I get really uncomfortably irked by what I would personally choose to define as poor grammar, what truly p****s me off more is when people consistently and publicly call out somebody else’s language use, and do so purely to exert some kind of authority over them in humiliating fashion.

You may call them grammar pedants. I call them patronising a***holes.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a great standard of grammar – and I really wish everyone had one – but there’s a time and a place for campaigning, and there has to be a purpose.

The time. The time to raise an issue is not when someone has clearly put some thought into structuring a piece or a post that will share value through its content or promote discussion in its quest for information.

The grammar used to structure such a piece will always be secondary to this, at best – in my opinion.

The place. If you can call someone out on what you view as a grammatical error in front of anyone else present in the realm of communication, you can just as easily do it in private.

Believe me, it will get you a much better response, and that person is more likely to want to listen/read. Also, nobody else will think you’re being a d**k in the process.

The purpose. To ‘pick up’ on someone’s grammar, spelling and punctuation, you really need to have a word with yourself and think if it’s going to serve a purpose.

I mean, did the issue really mean that you couldn’t understand the point being made? Be decent for a minute and have a think about if what you’re about to type/say is genuinely going to help that person with something in the long run.

For example, are they using completely the wrong word and it may, therefore, lead to embarrassment for them in another situation to the point where you genuinely want help them?

Or does the comment you’re about to make simply just help to promote YOU?

I love it when I find someone in my life who loves and respects language as much as I do, but whilst those fabulous people love and respect things like grammar, spelling and punctuation, they also love and respect the fact that language is beautiful and creative.

They love that it’s part of a personal style and they respect that it has an evolution. You can love and respect grammar without being a d**k about it, is what I’m saying here.

If you believe you’re a grammar pedant who would enjoy a conversation or a glass of wine with me despite everything I’ve said so far, then to my mind, you’re not a grammar pedant, and I say rid yourself of that association.

Grammar pedants, for me, are those who wade in on the work of others, usually in public and from a lofty position. They give people like me a bad name. I don’t want to be associated with them, because I don’t want people hating me (more than they already do for my content).

Like a lot of copywriters, I’m a big fan of ‘writing like you speak’. In an increasingly technological world, where your online customer service is Betty by name and Bot by nature, I can’t help thinking that people would have a better bond with their clients, customers and colleagues if they just spoke to them like real humans.

I do believe in standards and that the basics of grammar should be used so that we can come away from laziness and lack of professionalism, but when you pick up on a point that only the true grammar pedants would know/give a present tense sh*t about, then really, it doesn’t matter.

If you’re going to force me into giving an example here, then active/passive voice, split infinitives, and not ending with a preposition can bugger off. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – good, you don’t need to know.

To sum up this particular blog, if you can structure a grammatically accurate sentence, and would like everybody to know about it, but you can’t structure an opinion that gets involved with the point of what someone else has written in the first place, you’re a bit of a tool. Full stop.

And, if you hate me for my use/abuse of grammar, or you hate me because I’ve called you out in this blog, find me another grammar pedant who agrees with each and every one of your points.

You’ll fail. Those f**kers agree with nobody.

First published on

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