the grammar police

The Grammar Police

Maybe you’ve seen them on Facebook, posting in frustrated shouty caps about the difference between your and you’re.  Maybe you have seen the memes on Pinterest, begging the reader to take a few minutes to learn to differentiate between their, there and they’re.  Or maybe you have a parent/friend/spouse who corrects your grammar mid-sentence.  Maybe you are the person posting on Facebook, Pinterest and sharing your knowledge with your beloveds in real life. 

You know who I’m talking about.  It’s the Grammar Police.  They are always there: waiting, listening, and ready to pounce on incorrect grammar at any moment. 

Okay, okay, I admit that I used to be one of them.  Not the most aggressive of the breed, but I have certainly taken up the role of grammar police in my home.  

In my defense, it is hard not to correct someone’s grammar. My mom teaches high school English, after all.  Ever since I remember talking, I remember her correcting my grammar (she is probably making mental corrections to this blog post, right now), and I am grateful to her for it. 

Somewhere along the line, I became the self-appointed grammar police.  I thought my services were desperately needed and appreciated. I didn’t mind correcting anyone, mid-sentence, for using an incorrect tense of a word. If someone around me used a double negative, you could see me visibly cringe. 

But here’s the thing.  People don’t like to feel dumb, and if you are constantly correcting people, they are going to naturally feel like their language skills are inadequate.  They may feel frustrated, unintelligent, or even angry at you for trying to correct them, when all they are trying to do is tell a story. 

I realized this after 7 (okay, maybe 8) years of marriage.  

My husband is a smart man.  He can fix anything that breaks (which was hugely convenient on Christmas Eve when our water heater went out!).  He is great with technology, electricity, fiber optics, and all things that deal with communications.  For all that he is smart, he has horrible grammar.  Some times I feel like he took a book of grammar no-nos and memorized every. single. one. in order to use them in front of me and see my reaction. 

He also hates it when I correct his grammar.  He has told me that he is able to get his intent across when he speaks, without the assistance of anyone else.  Then I have to ask myself a question.  If he has been able to hold a great job for 16 years without the help of the grammar police (read: me), why am I so hell-bent on correcting him?  Furthermore, after 8 years of marriage, 8 years of correcting his grammar and 8 years of him ignoring me, why am I continuing to waste my time?  

It just makes him resent me, and leaves me feeling ignored. 

About a year ago, I decided to throw in the towel and admit defeat.  My role as the grammar police was done.  No more judgmental Facebook postings about “it’s Happy New Year, not Happy New Year’s!”.  No more correcting my husband’s grammar every time he talks to me. 

I will live, and let live.  

Except with my daughter.  While my husband may not see a future need for correct grammar in his life, I certainly envision my daughter may go into a field where professional dialogue and writing will be necessary, so I will ingrain in her the habits that were ingrained in me.  

I will also teach her to listen to people’s words instead of their sentence structure.  It is kind of like looking past the cover of a book, because the inside may hold true treasures.  If you are so focused on the outside that you never open the book, it is a loss for you, not the book. 

My point is this: you do not need to be educated to be intelligent.  You don’t need to use correct grammar to make insightful comments.  And, as it is with all things in life, there is not only one way to peel an apple.  We all have different parenting philosophies, lifestyles, and preferences.  All of us are human, and not one is better than another.  Love and accept people how they are, for who they are, and don’t try to change them.  

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