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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Do the ‘Grammar Police’ Lack Communication Skills?

By Peter DeWitt — March 21, 2017 4 min read
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Grammar doesn’t define the importance of our message.

We all have them in our lives. A few of them will be reading this blog with disdain. They have spent years perfecting their craft on correcting the way they...and everyone else around them...talk. And they want to be able to use their grammar intelligence on anyone they can.

They’re called the grammar police...

We see their comments on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and at the end of Blogs. They are quite proud of themselves when they fix our mistakes. You know, the huge mistakes to the world like you’re and your...or worse...they’re, there and their. They ignore the content of the article, blog, interview or conversation and go right for the jugular...by correcting a grammar mistake.

Oh, the horror they must suffer from having to listen to a mistake!

A few months ago a friend posted one of my blogs on their Facebook page. The blog was getting rave reviews for the content, and then one of their friends posted that although they loved the blog, I used it’s in stead of its...and they ended with “Seriously!” I responded that “even writers make mistakes.” Oops...the commenter didn’t know that the author of the blog was a friend of her friend.

The truth is, I make many mistakes when writing blogs. Guilty as charged! On average I write two blogs a week, and I’m bound to make mistakes. I enjoy when my editor contacts me or even a friend to say some word is misused. Why? Even after reading and rereading the posts, we as writers, are bound to miss mistakes that we have made. However, because we write professionally we are fair game and should be corrected.

Making fun of others for their lack of grammar shouldn’t be fair game.

We Have Far Bigger Issues

Over the last few years I’ve seen more and more people make fun of others for not using you’re correctly or there, their or they’re. They post comments on Facebook, and draw attention to their superior knowledge about grammar. Is a lack of grammar really the worst thing in the world? Don’t have bigger problems these days? Our country is divided and grammar is the least of our issues. Working together is what we should spend our time on.

If we focus on how well someone uses their words, don’t we miss out on the meaning they’re trying to convey?

The grammar police are actually, in my mind, quite elitist...but I don’t know if all of them mean to be so elitist. Unfortunately, they seem more concerned about using big words and correcting some silly grammar instead of actually listening to what their family member or friend may be saying.

In pursuit of being right about grammar they are missing a far bigger point. Some of the people I listen to the most are the ones who could be accused of having grammar that is not up to par. And some of the people that talk far too much are the ones who have the best grammar.

Grammar doesn’t define the importance of our message.

Family Engagement
Most times the grammar police tout their grammar expertise to others, and don’t make fun of someone when they’re standing in front of them. However, the grammar police can’t always hide their distaste for bad grammar and it comes out in parent meetings. And the parents know it.

We are sometimes the reason why parents don’t come to school to meet about their child. They hear the judgment when they can’t use the big educational words that the grammar police can use. They see it when they don’t have the multiple degrees hanging on the walls that grammar police do. They feel it when they walk into our meetings and there are multiple educators around a table and only one of them sitting at the table.

Instead of focusing on their degree or lack thereof. Instead of focusing on their grammar or lack thereof...maybe we should be listening to the thoughts they are trying to convey using the words that they only know how to use. I would venture to guess that no matter the words they use and how they use them, they are trying to tell us something important.

And it doesn’t matter whether their notes to us use they’re, their or there wrong.

Maybe they would come around a bit more if they didn’t feel judged.

In the End

Instead of only focusing on your and you’re or they’re, there and their maybe we should be listening to the thoughts instead of the words they may be misusing or miswriting. I’m not saying we don’t need an educated workforce and that grammar isn’t important (Calm down grammar police!). However, the grammar police may want to use that same energy it takes to post about their grammar expertise and use it to build bridges instead of walls.

What I am saying is that there are more important things than just grammar, and we should think about that the next time we want to show our friends how important we are by using the right words or chastising them for not knowing the right words to use.

Maybe our friends and family would think we are more important if we actually listened to them instead of correct them.

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is the author of several books including Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (2016. Corwin Press/Learning Forward), and the forthcoming School Climate: Leading With Collective Efficacy (Corwin Press/Ontario Principals Council. August 2017). Connect with Peter on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.