Confessions of a Former Grammar Nazi

Back in college, my favorite pastime was to point out the linguistic shortcomings of people. Whenever I spotted grammar or spelling errors, I’d unintentionally make the person feel bad for making such mistakes. What a bitch. If I’m being honest, I love to make a big deal out of trivial things. Naturally, I’d receive sarcastic replies or get removed from their friends’ list. I couldn’t resist the urge to point out those flaws, even in informal settings. I mean, what did these folks do in their English class?

At school, my best friend and I always sat next to each other to judge our classmates and professors. Our fetish: to make fun of people who incorrectly used the words you’re, your, they’re, there, their, its, it’s, stuff, paperwork, training, advice, and more. In our eyes, we were better than most of our classmates. In our classmates’ eyes, we were two arrogant bitches who loved to give out unsolicited grammar advice just to humiliate others.

Back then, my idea of an intellectual was someone who can write and speak fluently in English. I was so vocal about my dislike for people who make grammar errors to the point that some of my classmates and friends, especially the English majors, removed me from their social media for fear of being publicly shamed for a stupid grammatical mistake.

Recently, I found out that even my relatives have become self-conscious of their grammar, too, because of me. Ha! They told me they’d rather shut up than receive harsh comments from their Grammar Nazi relative.

My philosophy back then was it’s pathetic to try so hard writing or speaking in English when it’s easier to do it using our native language. If it’s not an academic or work-related endeavor, or if you’re not talking to a foreigner, using English isn’t necessary at all, unless you’re simply trying to show off or look and sound cool in social media (which is totally uncool).

Now, whenever I look back in my previous posts, I see errors every once in a while. Obviously, those errors are not the usual grammar or spelling mistakes that non-writers make. Half the time, I spot poorly constructed sentences, dangling modifiers, and parallelism issues.

To be honest, it is easy to miss those things when you’re a writer. Writing and editing are two different skills, after all. Although some multi-talented or gifted word wizards can do both, not all writers are good editors in the same degree that not all editors are great writers. Editors and proofreaders don’t exist for no reason.

Let’s take this as an example. In my previous job, I qualified as a one-pass writer. This means my works did not go through the editing phase–I sent them directly to the web designers. We had editors, but the purpose of the one-pass writing program was to expedite the entire production.

When I first learned that I was among the chosen ones, I cringed because I knew I’d never be good at editing (not true), especially if it’s my own work (still true). In a BPO setting, everyone needs to hustle because websites are being ordered in bulk and a company cannot afford a disruption in operations. Long story short, I had limited time for editing the pieces I wrote.

Normally, I have a tough time seeing my works from a different perspective. The trick is to change the font type, preferably to Comic Sans, so it’s like seeing the copy using a fresh pair of eyes. It works for me, but it’s not guaranteed to work 100% of the time.

Comic Sans and the Grammarly bot aren’t humans and humans aren’t perfect either. No matter how many times I comb through my content, my brain always beats my eyes. I found out that most writers experience the same. According to Wired, “the reason we don’t see our own typos is that what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.” This allows me to make errors that, no matter how minor, are enough to make me feel ashamed of myself and hide in my room 5ever.

But that was then and this is now.

I’ve long accepted that people make mistakes–both in the linguistics and moral sense–and there’s nothing wrong with it (pun intended). I mean, it’s obvious when some idiot is simply trying to show off–I’d say they’re pathetic, but I won’t judge their intellectual capacity (even though I just called them “idiot”). I am both introspective and perceptive, thank you very much, and I am learning to consider things from different vantage points.

Whenever I see a writer (as in a self-proclaimed writer or someone who writes for a living) make this mortal sin, I let them pass because I know the feeling. Writing, especially for personal blogs, is liberating when done without fears and limits. I do my best writing when I let out the exact words and thoughts going through my mind as I write. Although I usually hate my darlings by the time they become visible to the public, I am more comfortable publishing pieces that the grammar police in me didn’t inspect.

Now, if a Grammar Nazi were to visit my blog and judge me for all my grammar mistakes, I wouldn’t feel bad at all. Actually, I have a message for y’all:

Been there, done that, and I’d say it’s normal, that’s all.


a former Grammar Nazi


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