by David J. Sirois
Everyone hates a grammar nazi. There are certain people out there whose eyes are twitching after reading that first sentence because I didn’t capitalize a proper noun. Sure, they’re nowhere close to a Rick Spencer, but when someone interrupts a conversation or goes out of their way to try to publically embarrass and/or belittle someone or tries to show off their fancy education or knowledge of esoteric grammar rules, it’s totally natural to want to punch them in the face.
But. As someone who edits for a living and spends his free time helping to make this little PunkHouse readable, I’ve been called a grammar nazi more than once. I won’t lie and say I’ve never used my abilities for evil (sorry to anyone that got into an internet debate with me around or before 2011), but correcting others’ grammar often starts with the best of intentions. My entire philosophy for editing words boils down into a single question: Will people understand this? I really believe that language is one of the most powerful tools we have, but only if they reach as many folks as possible. That’s why I consider myself more of a grammar Anarchist.
Yeah, cheesy, but follow me for a minute. Grammar is a set of rules that guides how we communicate with each other. Government is a set of rules that guides how groups of people live with each other. Fascists, in both cases, are all about abusing those rules for selfish reasons. Anarchists, at least how I’d define them, use what rules make sense–and sometimes make their own–and ditch what doesn’t in order to help the most people. In other words, they try to make sure as much people as possible understand what you’re writing. You know, like that philosophy I mentioned.
Quit getting pissed at people that mix up “your” and “you’re”–if the sentence can be understood in context, then let it go. If it can’t, gently suggest an edit so that you (and everyone else) can understand the meaning better. Use Oxford commas as often as possible, but don’t push up your glasses and lecture about its benefits unless the sentence it’s in confuses you. Kill. All. Semi-colons.
I’ve broken at least a dozen grammatical rules just in this article, but I bet you didn’t have to struggle to figure out what I’m trying to say (thanks Deanna!). The best writing disappears as you read it. Let’s focus on content and clarity instead of rigid (and honestly classist and sometimes racist) rules of grammar. Words are for the people. Use them however you want.
Fuck “covfefe” though. No one needs that word.