Since I frequently work in the fantasy genre, and since I’m something of a gamer and a geek by hobby, fantasy elements are bound to creep into these posts fairly regularly. With that in mind, Monday’s post seems like a good segue into the introduction of one of my favorite terms, as well as a fairly important concept: the grammar vampire.
You’ve probably heard of grammar nazis, or maybe grammar police: these are people who patrol vigilantly, armed with their dictionaries, their thesauri and their love for words. They answer a deeply-rooted calling which urges them ever onward to stamp out typos, improper subject-verb agreement and rogue apostrophes wherever they may dwell. It’s a noble battle, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the defenders of grammar get a little… well, overzealous.
I am not a grammar nazi. I’ll state that right now. For one thing, as much as I can appreciate the term in the proper spirit when others use it, personal beliefs and cultural heritage keep me from ever being comfortable applying it to myself. For another, it’s not really my style.
I eagerly seek out errors on menus and signs; spotting them is something of a hobby (albeit a shamefully geeky one), and often a source of great amusement. These are in the public domain, so I consider them fair game. I don’t, however, pounce on my friends, my family, my acquaintances, my casual email conversations, my forum discussions… you get the idea.
I fully appreciate that proper writing is important, and that pointing out an error is a necessary step to prevent its repetition. At the same time, I feel just as strongly that there’s a time and a place for such things, and I think it’s equally important to keep a sense of perspective about it. I may choose not to get into deep online conversations with someone whose spelling and grammar are atrocious, but at the same time, there are some situations where all that really matters is that people can make their points understood. Everyone makes typos. Everyone lets their fingers get ahead of them now and then. I see no benefit to antagonizing my peers by pouncing on their every mistake. All that does is, well, antagonize people. It doesn’t show off my knowledge or earn me any respect.
I like to think I’m a bit more subtle than that. I don’t rage about grammar; I’m not militant or aggressive about it. If I’m asked to beta-read or offer advice I’ll gladly do so, but I don’t force my red pen upon my friends or anyone else.
That’s the key to grammar vampires: they’re perfectly capable of correcting your mistakes, but they’ll only do so if you invite them in.