July 9, 2012

Grammar Nazis and What They are For?

I hate to use the word Nazi lightly because I have written Holacaust memoirs. So know that when I use this word, I am not joking.

Grammar Nazis are horrifying to me because they crush a lot of writerly spirits before they have the chance to fly. When I used to tell people I was a writer, about half of people I told would get very stiff and worry that I was going to correct their speech or critique their spelling in an email.

I dislike grammar nazis for this reason. True, I have my own pet peeves, (like 'lol' and lots of exclamation points), but they don't bother me enough to write hateful emails to people. I get several emails per year from just such people. As I read I get the feeling that a blood vessel is about to burst in the writer and I am sorry that I caused them so much pain. But not really.

The truth is, I sometimes inadvertantly, and sometimes on purpose, add grammatical errors in my Memoirs Ink messaging--just to weed out those people. God forbid one of them take a class and be mixed in with some fledgling writer who is just getting over her 3rd grade teacher or her college sentence diagramming professor.

And did you notice the title of this post? It makes no sense grammatically. That was to attract the audience I am hoping to sway. To all of you out there who have your hands on your hips defensively, I invite you to take a deep breath. If you feel passionately about good grammar, know that I understand the pain it causes you when you see or hear things out of place. But we are here to promote writing and the genre of memoir. Sure, people aren't going to win a writing contest with lots of exclamation points all over the place, but they may very well change lives by writing down that story that was inside them for so long. And they may very well be great writers who just need a good editor.

I have one very good example of this in a student to who took my Writer's Mind class last year. She had no writing experience, yet blew us all out of the water with her excellence and her ability to be vulnerable (I have to take some credit for creating the environment that allowed this). She was a much better writer than the MFAs who often submit to our writing contest--who do not all have perfect grammar either.


  1. I had the same thing happen to me the first time I summoned up the courage to post a short story I wrote. A well meaning critic pointed out every grammatical error that she spotted, but didn't take the time to voice her opinion of the piece. It was hurtful, especially since it was my writing debut. I am a member of a Creative Writing group, and I must admit that I still want to point out an occasional missing comma. The lambasting I received did help me to study punctuation, and I learned a great deal, but I don't want to be remembered as the person who did that to someone else.

  2. The same thing happened to me the first time I summoned up the courage to post my first short story. A well meaning critic pointed out every grammatical error she found, and then didn't even voice her opinion on my piece. It was hurtful. It did teach me to be more careful with punctuation, and I read books on the subject to improve, so though painful, it was a learning experience. I am a member of a Creative Writing group, and I must admit, I find it hard not to point out the missing commas etc..., but I refrain because I don't want to be responsible for anyone else to feel like I did.