Is It Wrong to Correct Someone’s Grammar?

If you’ve been on the internet for any extended period of time, you’ve seen it — someone coming into a comment section not to argue with the point you just made, but to point out that you used the wrong “there”, or that you’ve mixed up “your” and “you’re”.  They’re not arguing with the content of your message, just the grammar.  It’s infuriating, isn’t it?  They’re in the wrong, right?

What the self-proclaimed “grammar nazis” seem to forget is that the point of language is to communicate.  At the end of the day, if your getting your message across clearly, a typo or grammatical mistake doesn’t matter.  It’s all about communicating an idea from you to your readers — if they understand what you mean to say, then you’ve done just fine.

Note that I didn’t capitalize “Nazi” in the previous paragraph, or that I used “your” rather than “you’re” in my second sentence.   Maybe you noticed that, and maybe you didn’t.  Odds are, though, you understood my point just fine, and the grammatical miscues didn’t suddenly turn my paragraph into gobbledygook that you couldn’t parse.  We were able to communicate.

People who live just to jump on other people’s grammatical errors  are overzealous and, frankly, a bit elitist.  They’re fighting a losing battle, too — take the word “literally” for example.  Grammar purists get really annoyed when you use the word “literally” to mean, well, figuratively.  You didn’t “literally” die when you saw your favorite singer, you’re not “literally” going to explode if you have one more cookie.  However, enough people use “literally” to mean figuratively that dictionaries have begun listing that as a secondary meaning of the word — if enough people use a word in a certain way, and enough people understand what you mean, it’s perfectly acceptable English — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should ignore grammar entirely.  It exists for a reason; there are plenty of cases when a lack of grammar can lead to confusion and a lack of clarity in your writing.  Double negatives, unclear pronouns and meandering sentences can lead to readers taking the wrong idea from your writing — or at least, have to struggle to figure out what you mean from context clues.  Similarly, when you’re doing formal writing for school or to apply for school or a job, incorrect grammar can make your reader think you don’t know any better, and question your competence — a nightmare scenario if there ever was one.  This isn’t a free pass to get rid of grammar entirely.

But next time you’re in a casual conversation, or just chatting with friends online, and someone comes up and tries to correct your grammar, tell them that you could care less.  That will really set them off.

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