**Editor’s note: After posting this, readers who speak English as a second language reached out to say that they’ve felt discriminated against, particularly on social media, because of their use of the language. Let’s stop alienating people on such arbitrary, pointless grounds.**
What more would we hear if we stopped grammar shaming?
I’m a fan of proper grammar. It’s pretty much a necessity in my line of work. You can’t wake up to write every single day for more than a decade and not have a decent handle on the language you use to earn a living.
It’s not just about work, though. I love the written word with every fiber of my being – when a person finds a way to say something completely new with the words I read every day, well, that’s just beautiful to me.
Perhaps that’s why it pains me when I see people using the very grammar and language rules that I love as a weapon and divider. You’ve probably seen it on Facebook — the person who comments on someone’s post with a correction to his or her spelling, instead of actually engaging with the content that person posted. Instead of congratulating, commiserating or LOL’ing, these grammar Nazis (self-proclaimed) reduce the person’s post to a high school (grade school?) English paper in need of editing. Bonus: Everyone else who reads the post/thread is super impressed with the person who commented!
Here’s the thing though: we shouldn’t care about grammar, or spelling, or the times people use “their” instead of “they’re” (or there) — at least not when it comes to social media. If I send in a writing assignment with the word “to” in a spot where it should read “too,” please fire me immediately and refuse to pay for that item. As a professional, you trust me to turn in perfect work in exchange for our agreed upon payment. That’s in my unwritten job description.
However, if I post a Facebook status update where I talk about what a busy week it’s been, or how I’m not feeling well, or how I barely slept the night before – don’t use the comment section to type “*too.” That just makes you an asshole and makes me feel even more overwhelmed by whatever my life circumstances are. I’ll even take this one step further: don’t ever use the comment section to correct my spelling or grammar, even if I’m posting a vacation pic from the Bahamas. Don’t do it to other people either.
Stop grammar shaming.
Social media is an amazing tool for communication that didn’t exist before the Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter/ Snapchat days. We can reconnect with long-lost classmates, keep up with family far away, and stalk exes with just a few clicks. Did I mention that social media is amazing?
All of those social media basics are incredible, but there are even bigger perks, like furthering dialogue on important issues, raising awareness for causes, and sharing information in exponential ways. Bonus: All of the Grumpy Cat memes.
When we reduce what people are trying to communicate to a missing letter, or the wrong homophone, we are dismissing what they are trying to say before we’ve even listened – and that’s pretty sad.
I’ve seen people, particularly in political arguments via social media threads, insult someone with a different view who used improper spelling or grammar. Most of the time, those insults come from people in my own left-leaning circles and it really, really bothers me. How can we expect to reach other people with our message, or explain our side, if we can’t see past an incorrect word typed in a comment box? No, proper grammar does not make you better than the person you are debating; it doesn’t mean you are smarter or that your opinion carries more weight. Grammar shaming, at its worst, is a form of bullying and is, at its best, a cop out.
I also know that in many cases (not all) people with higher levels of education tend to post within the confines of the English language. These educated people, of which I’m privileged to be a part, know a thing or two about strong communication through written language because it’s something they learned in AP English high school courses and on college campuses. Many of these proper English-language users likely practice that skill set in their daily jobs, whether they are writing news releases or sending an email to clients or colleagues. They practice proper spelling, grammar and syntax often – or at least have the background to truly understand its usage.
Does that mean that these people have an opinion that matters more than someone who is a clerk at Target or builds steel-frame skyscrapers? When we talk about class division, part of it stems from this war on language – a war that pits people against each other over silly rules that, by the way, evolve constantly. If we really want to hear each other, we need to rise above grammar shaming and actually listen to what people are saying.
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Tags: grammar shaming