Saturday, March 4, 2017

In (questionable) honor of grammar trolls.

www.grammarly.com
Alert hearth/myth readers will notice that I'm posting a day early this week. That's because today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day, and I promised the fine folks at Grammarly that I would give y'all a heads-up about it.

The topic for this year's observance is the grammar troll, as you can see by the graphic at the left.

If you've spent any time at all on social media, you've seen them: those all-knowing jerks who spring into action whenever they spot someone using to when they meant too. Or their when they meant they're. Or...well, you get the idea. It's embarrassing enough to be corrected in public, but the grammar troll kicks the correction up a notch by making sure you feel like an idiot.

The thing is, a lot of times trolls don't know grammar rules half as well as they think they do. For instance, there's no actual rule that prohibits a sentence from ending with a preposition. I know, I know -- you learned it in school, so it must be true. Except it's not. This so-called rule is a holdover from Latin grammar, and it doesn't really work in English. Consider this example:

Me (looking at the bottom of my shoe): "Eww!"
You (attempting to speak "correctly"): "In what did you step?"
Me (looking at you funnier than I just looked at the bottom of my shoe): ...

Yeah. Doesn't really work.

I attracted a grammar troll on Facebook a few years ago. Well, technically, I guess he was a punctuation troll. Another author had challenged me to post a few paragraphs from my current work-in-progress -- you know, one of those "turn to page 7 and post 7 lines starting on the 7th line down" exercises. I don't remember what the rules of the challenge were, and anyway, it doesn't matter for the purposes of this story. I duly went to my WIP -- a first draft which, as writers know, is often full of half-readable stuff that's pounded into shape during the editing process -- and copy-and-pasted the requisite number of lines to my Facebook page. And a fellow I barely knew took me to task for a misplaced comma. The sentence looked fine to me; it looked fine to a number of other authors, some of whom are professional editors (as am I, by the way); but this guy was sure he was right. He was, in fact, so sure he was right that he began insulting the people who disagreed with him -- especially when it became apparent that he had no professional writing or editing credentials and yet he kept arguing with us.

I ended up recasting the sentence in the final draft for other reasons. As for the troll, I booted him off my timeline. It's one thing to inquire politely after a perceived grammar or spelling infraction, and quite another to become insulting and abrasive in the process.

So a word to the wise on this National Grammar Day: If you're going to correct someone's grammar/punctuation/spelling, be kind. But first, make sure you're right.

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These moments of imperfect blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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