I am a grammar Nazi: a sadistic, mocking, grammar Nazi. If I see a misplaced apostrophe, I sneer with disdain. If I come across a plural verb for a singular noun, I tut with Teutonic disgust. If I see a ‘your’ that should have been a ‘you’re’, I laugh with a condescending bark. And, whenever I encounter someone who confuses their there, they’re immediately labelled inferior.
I don’t mean to be so judgemental. I am only following orders. Strict grammatical orders.
Whenever someone asks me to critique a piece of work, I ask them to make sure they’ve gone through the spelling and the grammar. It’s a simple request. Or, I’ve always thought it was a simple request. It appears, too often, I am asking too much.
I don’t mean to sound like a bitch about this. I genuinely enjoy reading new fiction from new authors and I do try to be encouraging. But grammar is the backbone to clarity of writing. And, if it’s unclear what an author is trying to say, how the hell am I supposed to give constructive advice?
ME: Were you trying to illustrate the character’s vagueness of thought with the absence of a period at the end of the paragraph?
WRITER: No. I just forgot to put one at the end.
To illustrate: if I’m reading a piece of work that is original and innovative, I’d love to comment on the writer’s use of surprising metaphors, or the rich seam of symbolism that’s buried in their work. But, on more than one occasion I’ve had to preface this discussion with a statement that asks, ‘Do you understand the rules regarding possessive apostrophes? And, if you do understand them, why the chuff didn’t you obey them on page 1 through to 31?’
Or, since I seem to be ranting (again) this week: spellcheckers. Spellcheckers are a genius invention. Spellcheckers provide an easy option for finding a way to correctly spell words that are commonly tricky. I have sympathies for anyone who has difficulty spelling. English is a complex language with an etymologically rich heritage that spreads across the globe. The diversity of Latinate, Old English and French root words that support our lexis is enormous. Comprehending and memorising all the rules necessary to spell with consistent accuracy has always been an arduous if not impossible feat. Yet spellcheckers provide a safety net that highlight misspellings and allow writers an opportunity to check uncommon words.
And still, I’m asked to critique and consider manuscripts with spelling mistakes.
How thick does a person have to be to disagree with (or ignore) the computer’s spellchecker? More importantly, why should I be expected to give considered feedback to a piece of work when the author couldn’t consider it long enough to see that Microsoft Word had put a squiggly red line beneath the word clotoris?
I know I sound like I’m being picky. But that’s because I’m a grammar Nazi. Yet, without grammar Nazis, I sincerely believe this world would be he’ll.