Grammar nazis! I hate these guys.

Last December, I spoke at Ignite Seattle about my biggest language peeve: grammar nazis.

Yes, I dislike self-appointed usage experts even more than I do people who use “lay” for “lie.” (Though people who claim that something is “not a word” are way up there on my list, too.)

The speech speaks for itself — as well it should! — but a few points I didn’t have time to cover:

  • “Grammar nazi” is not the term I prefer, but I knew it would sell better to the Ignite crowd than “peevers.” I don’t really think you reach grammar nazi status unless you’ve annexed a grammar Sudetenland.
  • I love well-written prose. I’m happy to edit. I have my own preferences, and can follow a style guide. But I don’t pretend that stylistic decisions are laws, that breaking them is a sign of language decline or stupidity on the part of the author, or that all prose needs to be well-written.
  • There are many, many people who do excellent ongoing work explaining all of this in greater depth than I could in a brief, pro-editor speech. Recommended: Stan Carey, Motivated Grammar, and the ever-interesting Language Log.

Most people aren’t great writers, and most people are no better at editing or proofreading than they are at writing.