I Don’t Really Care About Your Grammar

Grammar Dicussion

I love grammar as much as the next person.  I can tell you the difference between a hyphen and an em dash, point out your dangling participles and misplaced modifiers, and explain to you the difference between a restrictive and a nonrestrictive clause.  On some deep level, I am saddened by the passing of the word “whom” and annoyed by people who think the Oxford comma is optional.  However, in the end, I really don’t care if someone’s grammar is perfect or not–and society shouldn’t, either.

Despite the preference of employers and, if Internet headlines can be trusted, potential dates, for people who can write “proper English,” the reality is that what we know as standard English is only one version of the many English dialects currently in use.  Most of us probably use more than one dialect and it’s not immediately evident that standard English is superior to the others.

Of course, I don’t think anyone doubts that it’s useful to have rules to try to ensure clarity and fewer miscommunication.  Perhaps you’ve seen the alleged inscription “I’d like to dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God,” illustrating the usefulness of the Oxford comma.  Or maybe a professor has asked your class to punctuate “A woman without her man is nothing,” leading some to write “A woman: without her, man is nothing” and others to respond “A woman, without her  man, is nothing.”  Oh, the power of punctuation to create meaning!  And yet, we usually manage to communicate clearly even when we don’t understand the nuances between a colon and a dash, or have never heard of an Oxford comma.

There is now a false idea that a person is somehow less intelligence if he or she is less than fluent with in standard English.  But the insistence on facility with standard English has often been used to marginalize certain groups of society who may use other English dialects or speak English as a second language.  That is, the idea that standard English is the only English or the standard against which a person’s intelligence is measured has tones of racism, classism, and sexism.  Think of the people whose English has been condemned–peoples of color, people of a lower socioeconomic status, and sometimes women and teenage girls (you know, the ones who say “just” or “like”).

But different dialects have their own rules and nuances, and they are valid languages.  Think about the dialects you yourself use.  Do you talk to your parents or teachers or employers the same way you speak to your peers?  Do you speak at school the way you speak at home?  Probably you don’t and are thus are engaging in code switching–a valuable skill that shows you implicitly understand how to modify your communication style for the best results, whether that means being accepted into a cool group or getting the job.  Even if someone doesn’t know what the subjunctive mood is, that does not mean they don’t know how to communicate well or that they lack intelligence.

Furthermore, languages change.  Someone may not like the quotative like (“And she was like ‘ew! no!'”), but it performs certain work that a sentence such as “And she replied, ‘No, I don’t care for the snails'” does not as it allows the speaker to suggest or perform feeling.  Its usefulness means it probably won’t be going away soon.  But take heart.  Back in the day, people probably saw the change from Middle English to modern English as the end of society, too–but we’re all still here.

Finally,  in the age of the Internet, we don’t know what a writer’s first or second language is.  If someone learned English as a second language and is using it to communicate with others, we should be recognizing their effort, their skill, and their confidence, even if their prepositions aren’t quite right or their commas are in unexpected places.

It is far more important to me that someone is taking the chance to reach out, to communicate, to say something that they find worthwhile, than it is to me whether or not their punctuation is in the right spot or if they accidentally missed a typo when proofreading their work.  We can love grammar.  I do love grammar.  But let’s not shame those people who aren’t intrigued by the nuances of a semi-colon or in love with a smartly-placed comma.  They’re worth listening to, too.

Fun Fact since we’re currently holding our American Civil War Event: Stephen Crane, now a classic author celebrated as a realist or naturalist, was notorious for his bad grammar!

Krysta 64


9 thoughts on “I Don’t Really Care About Your Grammar

  1. Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

    Beautiful post, Krysta! I know people who omit grammar sometimes frustrate me – this is something I need to keep in mind whenever I read/talk to them! If I know someone is ESL, then I never get frustrated, but yeah I never remember that we talk differently to different people, and sometimes get super frustrated when I see some blog posts littered with grammatical omissions or mistakes xD I know I’m guilty of it sometimes, and that maybe those people feel that close to us…but yeah I STILL DO IT! Gotta work on preventing that!


    • Krysta says:

      Well, I think context matters because in many settings, grammar will be important. You’re more likely to get a job, for example, if your grammar is good. And I recognize that. Maybe we could argue that grammar shouldn’t be the basis on which a person is hired–but, honestly, in this job market, I’m not going to fault anyone for not trying to go up against the system.

      It also frustrates me if I read over someone’s paper and mark up all the comma splices and the typos and the punctuation, and nothing changes. I spent my time trying to help someone look more professional so they could submit their application or their schoolwork and they didn’t have time to change a comma to a period? Why ask me to read the work at all?

      But if I’m messaging or emailing a friend, I’m not going to sit there and correct their typos. Or their spoken English! It’s so awkward to be in a conversation and have someone tell someone else their English is wrong. It just embarrasses the person and it doesn’t really matter–we all knew what the person meant to say. And, honestly, sometimes stuff comes out of my mouth and I know it’s not even a word, but…there it is. I said it. I’d prefer we’d all just move along and pretend it didn’t happen. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

        Omg yes to this entire thing actually.
        Definitely with the spoken English – I always feel so awkward when someone corrects me…I don’t know how to react?? It’s just awkward for both parties :S
        The main takeaway with grammar for me, is that its always dependent on the context. Always.


        • Krysta says:

          Right? I want to yell, “I can English! I promise!” whenever someone corrects me. I don’t know what they’re expecting me to do, though. I never thought about it before. Perhaps I’ve been reacting wrong all this time! 😉

          Very true! Context is key! 😀


  2. danielaark says:

    Excellent post! I especially like the ESL part 😉
    Another thing is when working on your first draft, as I’m now (like I’m? as I’m? lol good example) I sometimes get so obsessed with using the correct grammar that it kills my creativity. I know it has to be polished before someone reads it but I wish I could stop worrying about it when it is not important.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I get obsessive about writing and it ends up that I can spend four or five days crafting two pages! But sometimes you just need to produce something. It’s better to have something that you can polish than to have nothing!


    • Krysta says:

      Wow! Three languages is impressive!

      Briana is the one reading Mechanica, so I don’t how how it is. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like it, though.


    • Briana says:

      I finished Mechanica recently. I haven’t changed the sidebar yet. 🙂 I thought it was alright. I enjoyed it, but it’s definitely not one of my favorite Cinderella stories. It wasn’t fleshed out, and I kept thinking she was going to actually discover something about how the magic worked, not just keep wondering if maybe the Ashes were evil and then keep using them anyway.


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