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.

Panel Discussion: Ask the Content Strategist [video]

On September 8, I hosted a panel I’d been plotting since founding the Content Strategy Seattle group last October: Ask the Content Strategist.

My idea: Get a group of professional content strategists together and let people ask them questions. It worked great, and here’s the video to prove it.

Watch live streaming video from contentseattle at

The participants: Ariel van Spronsen of POPVanessa Casavant of AdoptUsKidsPatty Campbell of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Tiffani Jones Brown of Second and Park and Things That Are Brown. (Scott Pierce provided invaluable behind the scenes techie magic. I moderated.)

Questions included:

  • What are the differences between a content strategist and a writer or journalist?
  • How do you differentiate between a content sitemap and a IA sitemap? More broadly: Now that we’ve covered the differences between a content strategist and a writer, what are the differences between a content strategist and an information architect?
  • What’s the most effective way to explain the importance of content strategy to a team who doesn’t understand why site architecture would come before design?
  • Is workflow analysis always a part of content strategy, or is there a way around it?
  • What’s the ideal interaction or workflow between content strategy and search engine optimization (SEO)?
  • Knowing that content is king, a call to action is imperative, and the company or website will fail without a good content strategy, when do you throw in the towel?

Many thanks to all four panelists, and to the Watercooler for the venue.

And don’t miss next month’s meetup: Margot Bloomstein talks about Waking Up in Seattle: You’re the one that they want.