Grammar Nazis rejoice as British children are subjected to new rigorous grammar tests. The tests will be implemented in primary schools this week and mark a return to more traditional attitudes toward correct spelling and grammar, the kind that are adopted by those known colloquially as “grammar Nazis”.
Grammar Nazis are not just influencing education. They are notorious in online communities where they chastise anyone who fails to adhere to the conventions of correct grammatical usage. Dating site, OKCupid has discovered that bad grammar and spelling are a major turn off for its users. The biggest passion killers were “ur”, “r”, “u”, “ya” and “cant”. Also damaging to online suitors were “luv” and “wat”. The correct use of grammar also improved response rates proving that grammar Nazis are sexy.
The Idler magazine’s Bad Grammar Awards recently named and shamed a letter by academics for saying that the national curriculum demanded “too much, too young” – thus confusing an adjective and an adverb. Another transgressor was Transport for London for its sign “It is safer to stay on the train than attempting to get off” – mixing up gerund and infinitive.
But the Times hit back in a leader attacking “grammar scolds” who worry more about rules than clear, idiomatic English.
People often argue about what constitutes correct grammar. Language is fluid so it is debatable when language usage should be fixed or when the grammar Nazis should just give up and accept the seemingly inevitable degeneration of grammatical convention. Grammar Nazis might can get furious at the modern substitution of “like” for “as if” such as in the sentence “I feel like I’m flying.”
Other pet peeves for grammar Nazis include mixing up modals – “might” and “may” and the grocer’s apostrophe, so-called for its frequent use by greengrocers advertising apple’s, pear’s and sundry other green’s. But there are many opponents of grammar Nazis, such as linguist David Crystal, who gives examples that defy conventions, “The rules of English grammar are often murky and can be ambiguous, such as in the case of King’s Cross, which is written with and without an apostrophe.”
The Oxford comma is another bone of contention. Crystal points out an answer on the new test: “We’ll need a board, counters and a pair of dice.” Placing a comma before the “and” – known as the Oxford comma – would be marked wrong despite being an accepted form of English he says
“If so, it means the whole output of Oxford University Press is wrong,” Crystal says.
But while some oppose the elitist grammar Nazis, it can’t be denied that grammar usage is a means by which we make value judgements about each other. Hannah Betts, a columnist for the Times thinks that this is better than judging people for other things,
“I’d never dream of ruling anyone out because of trivia such as their job, accent, class, or the like. However, grammar and spelling are absolute deal-breakers. I’m a stickler for apostrophes, the correct use of ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ and terms such as hoi polloi – so often blunderingly confused with its opposite.”
Such strict adherence to grammatical convention may not be necessary when texting or using instant messaging services on the internet, but copywriters have to be grammar Nazis. After all, when your grammar represents your company, its reputation is at stake.