Grammar gets a bad rap even without the help of the vigilantes who use it to take the moral high ground. So when a few haters decide to reduce learners, those who make grammatical mistakes, and even old-school grammar pedants to lifeless sea scum, it doesn’t do grammar any favors. It only means true and noble grammarians need to work harder to destigmatize the institution. So, if you truly adore the conventions that structure and shed light on the English language, give some thought to what we think are the guiding principles to a society where everyone understands each other easily and clearly. After all, that’s the point of good grammar. Make grammar love, not war!
1 Thou shalt not take the name of grammar for vanity.
Grammar is not a mechanism for one-upmanship, nor is it a device that devalues one person’s existence while causing another’s to appreciate. All are equal in the eyes of grammar.
2 Thou shalt remember National Grammar Day (4 March) and keep it holy.
Grammar is the bedrock of communication, and if we want to continue understanding each other, it’s essential we celebrate its existence and advocate its importance. And if that’s not reason enough, we’ll remind you once more that punctuation saves lives.
3 Thou shalt honor the fact that grammar is not static.
The rules that govern language constantly change and are growing more and more situational as the way we use language expands. It’s key to acknowledge that grammatical correctness is not so much a case of right or wrong as it is contingent on context. Push yourself to think in gray before you settle for black and white.
4 Thou shalt not murder a learner’s passion for grammar by belittling them.
Rather, respect their curiosity and be compassionate. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process. If you point out a correction, do it kindly and in a way that will motivate learners to embrace grammar—not turn their backs on it.
5 Thou shalt not steal another person’s confidence by inappropriately correcting their grammar.
There are certainly contexts where giving grammatical advice is warranted (during grammar discussions or when helping someone with a piece of writing, for example). But otherwise, calling out a wrongful verb conjugation or misused word in a situation that isn’t language-centric or language-dependent is about as welcome as an insurance salesperson’s call during dinner. If you truly feel the need to have a grammar intervention with someone, think long and hard about the most tactful and most productive way to do so.
6 Thou shalt not worship false grammar gods.
If someone brags about the way they corrected a shopkeeper’s grammatically incorrect sign with a Sharpie or humiliated a public speaker for their poor use of language, stand up to them—don’t side with them. By condoning this kind of behavior we’re supporting and encouraging it.
7 Thou shalt not commit grammar schadenfreude.
Don’t revel in another person’s grammatical mistakes or wait with bated breath to break someone down the second they slip up and insert a me where an I should have gone. Taking pleasure in other people’s misfortune is only an indication of your own insecurity.
8 Thou shalt not bear false witness against grammar pedants.
They’re people too! Talking smack about a purist is as problematic as their penchant for unnecessarily crossing other people’s t’s. Respect their religion and encourage them to respect yours.
9 Thou shalt give people the benefit of the doubt.
Even the most brilliant grammatical minds have a mental fart every now and then—that is, a lapse in concentration that results in an error. It will happen to you, and that’s why you shouldn’t venomously censure or harshly judge people when it happens to them. After all, you’ll likely be in their shoes at one time or another. Not to mention, it’s not their intent to blow the English language to smithereens, so try not to act as if they’ve channeled Guy Fawkes.
10 Thou shalt not repress your urge to make the world more grammatically correct.
Just because there’s a time and place for your grammatical two cents and a certain way to best deliver it doesn’t mean you should shy away from expressing it. Shout it from the rooftops! Just make sure you’re doing it in a positive, considerate way that illuminates, not chastises or derides.
Help spread the grammar love. Don’t forget to share this post via Facebook or Twitter if you’ve ever been the victim of a grammar hate crime or if you simply want the world to be a more grammatically correct place.
Stephanie Katz is a San Francisco–based writer who, contrary to the way it may seem, won’t correct your grammar over beers, coffees, or any other normal life interaction. She tells stories about health, history, travel, and more and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.