Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Tales of a Recovering Grammar Snob

by Susan Dennis

I was raised in the 50’s, in the southeastern part of the United States. Rules were everywhere, and those rules were king. According to my mother, breaking a grammar rule was a Class A felony. She never, ever let a grammar error go uncorrected.

“You will not sound ignorant while you are living in this house,” was her battle cry.

When I got to 7th grade and learned to diagram a sentence, I was fascinated to find out that she wasn’t just making stuff up. There really were rules! And they made sense and you could draw them out. I was a lousy student my whole school career except when I got to diagram sentences. If there had been a parsing Olympics, I would have been in the center on that stage every time. My ear and my eye were locked in then and have never recovered. They have not changed with the times, or even relaxed a little. And it’s driving me nuts.

Felonious assaults on language rules these days are everywhere. I’ve seen them in books published by major publishers. I hear at least one a night on the news programs of major networks. NPR stabs my ears with several every morning. I have friends who write and who consider themselves both good writers and knowledgeable about grammar rules, often ignore them. It turns out that people who are paid to write, no longer feel compelled to follow the rules of grammar at all.

The straw that broke this camel’s back turned out to be a blogger I’ve followed for years. I loved what she had to say. Her blog is not about writing, and she’s broken a rule or two over the years, but yesterday, in her first paragraph, I read “…a few cute pictures of Scott and I.” It was like stubbing my toe on furniture – a big ouch.

And I realized as soon as the pain ebbed that the problem is me. I am not the grammar police. I’ve seen and heard enough people make grammar mistakes to know for sure that not adhering to the rules is not a sign of ignorance any more than adhering to them is a sign of genius.

I need to get over myself. I am a grammar snob and I mean that in the most unattractive way. I need to focus on the message and not on the delivery system and quit judging those to whom grammar rules don’t matter.

It’s not going to be easy. I’ve spent a lifetime looking down my nose at people like my blogger friend, but I can do it. I know I can. And, I’m pretty sure the world will not end.

(Susan Dennis is a web producer, living in Seattle Washington. Her interests are knitting, computers, tv, and baseball. She is a web producer, and has an online journal at http://susandennis.livejournal.com/.)

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6 thoughts on “Tales of a Recovering Grammar Snob

  1. You could have been describing me, all the way through the article. I forced myself to relax a little sooner than you, though we could still have a spirited “And would you believe X said it THAT way?” commiseration event.

  2. grammarly on said:

    So I shouldn’t point out the grammar errors in this essay, then? (The several sentences that end in prepositions and this little gem: “I have friends who write and who consider themselves both good writers and knowledgeable about grammar rules, often ignore them” –You should lose the “I have” or should include “who” prior to “often ignore”.)

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