Beware the grammar sharks
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
You know who gives grammarians a bad name? Internet trolls--and more specifically, the Grammar Police. I refer to them as Grammar Sharks because they’re always circling, looking for their next victim (but that’s actually not very fair to sharks, who are often less predatory--if you don’t believe me, check out the Instagram account @whysharksmatter to learn more). Back in the day, we called these people Grammar Nazis, but please don’t do that. It’s insensitive and wrong on so many levels and makes me cringe whenever I hear it, especially when people self-identify as Grammar Nazis as if it’s a point of pride. Grammar Sharks are the people who love to tell you that you’re wrong. You messed up. You made a typo. And they’re going to make sure to publicly shame you for it. If you have a business, you've likely encountered a Grammar Shark at some point when you accidentally typed "your" instead of "you're" on a social media post. That's blood in the water for a Grammar Shark.
Eek. Now admittedly, I used to be that kind of person (a grammar pedant, if you will), but I blame that on being immature. By my sophomore year of high school, I realized that no one wants to be friends with someone who corrects their grammar (unsolicited). It’s obnoxious and inappropriate. And yet, every day I see fully-formed adults snidely correcting others on Facebook posts and bemoaning the fact that no one uses “proper” grammar anymore. Spoiler alert: language, and therefore grammar, is constantly changing and evolving, so although there are conventions around grammar and usage, these are not hard-and-fast rules.
I have theories about these sticklers (which is, honestly, way too nice of a euphemism for them). I think they are the kind of people who believe rules are meant to be followed to the letter. I’m no therapist, but I suspect they feel self-conscious about themselves, so their coping mechanism is to assert their superiority by showing that they know more than you do. They are smarter. They are more sophisticated. They are important. They won by catching your mistake.
Here’s the thing. I’m a professional copyeditor/proofreader, and I never correct people’s grammar or spelling online. Heck, if you’re not paying me, I will ignore any and all of your typos. The same thing applies if you email me and you mistype a word or end a sentence in a preposition (so please don’t obsess over your email to me when you contact me--I promise I’m not going through it with a red pen)! In fact, if we work together, at least one of my emails to you will likely contain a typo! It’s not my business (pun intended) to point out others’ errors unless I’ve been hired to do so. And if you do hire me, I don’t want you to feel bad or ashamed about your mistakes. Mistakes are just mistakes; no biggie. We fix them in the editing process so that no one ever needs to see them--especially the Grammar Sharks.
If someone is going to get fired up enough about your typo to publicly shame you, that’s a reflection of their own issues, not yours. On a similar note, if you ever find yourself working with an editor who makes you feel terrible about your writing, fire them. Nobody has the right to make you feel insignificant, especially over something as minor as typos.
That said, if you want to avoid the Grammar Sharks and need a gentle, friendly editor who will suggest changes with professionalism and respect, you can contact me for a free quote.