Why I’m proud to be a grammar snob
Hi I’m Beth, the latest addition to the Write My Site team! I’m really looking forward to delving into the big wide world with you and discovering all there is to know about content marketing, copywriting and your general everyday musings! First up is a piece inspired by a rather questionable video that popped up on my news feed …
Recently the Guardian released a video declaring that grammar snobs are ‘patronising, pretentious and just plain wrong’. Understandably, grammar fans like me who saw this video were a little miffed at the affront to their characters.
Is grammar really becoming obsolete?
What is grammar?
Grammar is a pivotal part of communication, equally as important as spelling and a vital part of everyday language. A staggering number of people do not use correct grammar in written communications such as emails, texts and online messages and consequently, their messages sometimes get a bit muddled.
Grammar, in short, is a collection of rules about how words change their form and combine with other words to make sentences. Without these rules, many conversations would not make sense, and written communications would be very confusing: the correct use of tenses, for example, indicates whether the story is set in the past, present or future. Quite simply, grammar is a system that signposts a conversation or piece of content so it can be easily understood.
Why do I need to use correct grammar anyway?
Using grammar incorrectly can be detrimental; imagine that you have made a mistake on a CV, some persuasive content or even a national ad campaign. Your audience may feel uneasy about you because you hadn’t paid attention to the finer details of your work, and you could end up conveying a negative impression no matter what point you were trying to get across.
Mona Chalabi, the narrator and creator of this film, argues that these “archaic” grammar rules do not help those who speak English as a second language, but there’s a good argument that actually they need these strict rules more than anyone else. When first learning English, they will be taught about the grammar rules, syntax, punctuation and spelling used in formal English, not in colloquial phrasing or vocabulary. Therefore, using correct grammar in your written communications will make your copy easier for second language speakers to understand.
What is a grammar snob?
A grammar snob, according to the Guardian, is someone who uses grammar correctly and despairs at those who do not. Call them pedants, purists, snobs or literalists (though after recent changes to the dictionary I’m not sure the latter applies any more), but I think they are just people who have remembered their Key Stage 2 Literacy lessons and wish others had done the same.
This video identifies grammar snobs as older, wealthier, academic people. As a 21-year-old laden with student debt, I think the demographic is quite a bit wider than that! Persuading everyone to rally against text speak such as ‘lol’, ‘BFF’ or – shudder – ‘bae’ and embrace correct and proper grammar can only be a good thing, in my opinion!
Grammar and social media
One of the reasons grammar snobs get a bad press is because of the tendency for social media wars to break out. Usually, the poor use of grammar in a tweet is pointed out and used to nullify the person’s argument. While picking out mistakes like this can be great entertainment for a grammar snob, Chalabi makes a good point that grammatical mistakes shouldn’t be seized upon to dismiss people’s views. We should be pushing for correct use of grammar to avoid social media mud-slinging, because if more people were educated about proper syntax, they could communicate their ideas without being misunderstood or laughed at.
If we omit grammar as an unimportant part of our language, as Chalabi suggests, we may start omitting other vital parts like punctuation – and it might be Grandma who pays the price!
Grandma ending up on a plate is definitely not a good thing if you want another jumper for Christmas!
Why I’m proud to be a grammar snob
People are quick to condemn the grammar snob, but never think about the terrible affliction of being such a pedant; frustration, confusion and sheer bewilderment are all symptoms of being a grammar snob. It’s not just limited to grammar – we cringe at a spelling mistake, baulk at a misplaced apostrophes and burst into tears if we spot an errant comma (well, almost). My own personal pedantry emerged at age 6 when our local park had had small metal signs stabbed into it that read ‘keep of the grass’. I told every grown-up who would listen that I had foiled the park’s evil plan to stop us playing on the grass, until eventually a park warden called me a smart arse … even my literary powers couldn’t help me then.
Despite this, many years later I am still just as specific about spelling and grammar, to the point where I’m now making a living out of it! It’s extremely important that companies send out messages to their clients, customers and associates that convey exactly what they mean. Grammar is an essential part of this. All major forms of communication would dissolve and it would be nigh-on impossible to express ourselves effectively without the power of punctuation, grammar and spelling and a unified understanding of these concepts.
Embrace your inner grammar snob! There are definitely worse things to be!