I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar

Thanks to my daughter Rachel who just gave me a copy of I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar by Sharon Eliza Nichols. It’s based on the Facebook group of the same name. The group has just short of 420,000 members, who amuse themselves by posting examples of bad grammar and spelling and feel superior by ranting about them. You can check out the flavour of the group here.

Some of the images are pretty funny:

Bad Grammar FargilBad Grammar English is our languagebad grammarBad Grammar tattoo

Other zingers in the book include the nursery selling “Fresh Cut Penis $7.99,” the road sign that reads “Dont’t Drink and Drive,” and some college’s “Homecoming Spirt Week” sign.

On one level, it’s fun to mock bad grammar, spelling and punctuation. It feels good to be part of the elite club that knows better. But the thing is, when you get all snobbish and judgmental it’s pretty much certain you will make your own mistakes, which is exactly what happens to Nichols—she’s gone and misspelled ACKNOWLEGMENTS in her book. And on behalf of all the people she humiliates, her mistake gives me a whole lot of pleasure.

Okay, it’s important to use standard grammar and punctuation. I make a living by teaching people how to do it correctly. I care about grammar and find language endlessly fascinating. I know how poor grammar can erode credibility and inhibit communication.  I feel frustrated when I read bad spelling in restaurant menus, on billboards and especially on expensive signage. I always wonder why they didn’t ask someone to proofread before they went to print? Part of my curse is constantly editing the world around me.

But I’ve learned to be tolerant. Sure, if you constantly confuse their/they’re/there or it’s/its I hope someone points it out because people will judge you for being sloppy, lazy and ignorant. But if you mostly get it right and make mistakes once in a while, I’ll assume you were rushed and forgive you. I’ll focus on your overall message, not on the minor mistake.

I’ve also grown more tolerant of mistakes made by writers who speak English as a second language. Consider the courage it would take to speak and write in a foreign language—consider the minefields! If my life circumstances or choices forced me to speak and write in French, Russian or Chinese I know I’d make tons of mistakes. So I feel sad when these signs are mocked—the writers are doing their best and they deserve some credit for that. Still, how hard is it to check a dictionary?

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Do you think I’m getting too soft? What’s your stand on poor grammar?