I want to start on the right note, which is why I’m not going to call you a Nazi.
Yes, yes, I’m sure you’ve been called “Grammar Nazi” before, possibly even by your loved ones, who might bandy that word about willy-nilly when you correct their use of “its” vs. “it’s” on Facebook. You mean well, but they get all reactionary.
I don’t really find the word “Nazi” all that constructive or creative, and you probably don’t, either. Calling someone a “Grammar Nazi,” is just taking “grammar” (a relatively innocuous concept in the grand scheme) and sticking it next to an easily recognizable signifier of horror and genocide.
That’s a bit over the top, don’t you think?
What’s strange is how easily these reactionaries throw around “Grammar Nazi.” No one says “Math Satanist,” “Chemistry Fascist,” or “P.E. Taliban” if you publicly correct someone’s command of those disciplines, but “Grammar Nazi” just rolls off the tongue.
Effective communication skills are essential. Most adults know this. I’m sure you have the best intentions when you correct someone else’s grammar (in writing, in a public forum), and you probably don’t appreciate or deserve it when others equate your efforts to those of Adolf Hitler.
(Of course, Hitler probably thought he was helping, but I digress.)
Dear friend, you’re not Hitler. You’re not even Goebbels or Himmler or any of those guys. You are a human being with thoughts and feelings, and to the best of my knowledge, you have never led or participated in a continental campaign to eradicate minorities you arbitrarily decided were bad. At worst, you probably just routinely shame and embarrass other people on a regular basis. That’s not the same thing as Nazism. It’s not like you wrecked half of Europe by correcting your bro’s use of “your” vs. “you’re.”
I’m here to help you avoid this unfortunate yet strangely popular comparison in the future. I offer a simple proposition.
At some point, you decided your ability with standard written English was more competent than other people’s (and you might be correct), so you decided to pay it forward. That is noble of you.
However, dear grammarian, that is where you erred most egregiously. Please, allow me to point out your mistake in front of everyone:
You chose social media as your arena.
Why? Why spend time lurking on social media sites, waiting to point out someone else’s mistake or discount everything someone said because he/she did not use a comma? That’s a lose-lose situation, my friend.
Three platitudes come to mind:
- If you’re good at something, then don’t do it for free.
- If you love the work you’re doing, then it doesn’t feel like work.
- If you find the thing you love to do with your time, then do it forever — unless you love hurting people, and in that case, knock it off.
You don’t belong on social media, trolling for victims. You belong in a classroom, friend. Why not contribute to this great American experiment in one of our nation’s many public schools?
Maybe you’ve missed your calling. Maybe you’d like correcting hundreds of grammar mistakes all day, every day, only to see the process restart every few months with new students who make all the same mistakes all over again. That sounds like a grammarian’s paradise.
Imagine a never-ending supply of people who make mistakes all day long, and you can get paid to correct them in front of other people! You could make your living reading phrases such as “irregardless,” “never-the-less” and the ubiquitous “I seen.” You could stop people before they write the phrase “for all intensive purposes.” You are the answer!
Consider the opportunity. Make as much as $26,000 per annum to start, spending hundreds or even thousands of your own dollars on supplies for your classroom. Work upwards of 50 hours per week during the slow times. Spend your summers recuperating and preparing for the next barrage. Assume responsibility for as many as 30 to 40 young people with wildly divergent learning styles, attention spans, disabilities, and dysfunction at home. Use a state-of-the-art computer from 2005. Read textbooks laden with graffiti and full of “character” from years of authentic abuse. Work for exciting, dynamic administrators who make six-figure salaries and tell you with a straight face that the budget is tight. Again.
Best of all? Politicians and other non-teachers are not afraid to tell you how to do your job all the time. Apparently, no training or experience is necessary! (Well, actually, you need six years or so of college, plus a teaching certification, plus student teaching experience, but whatever.)
“Wait,” you say. “How do you know I’m not a grammar teacher?”
Simple: If you were a grammar teacher, you probably wouldn’t be correcting other people on the Internet because you’re smart enough not to work for free.
So think this over. Become a grammar teacher. Then, when you’re finally worn down, bleary-eyed, and delirious, and you make a little mistake in your own writing—”its” vs. “it’s” in a status update, comment, tweet, or something else that doesn’t matter—someone else will correct your grammar for a change.
With that, you’ll look up at the sky in bemused resignation (and perhaps some relief), because for the first time, you’re not the one people are comparing to Hitler.