In Defense Of Poor Grammar

by Jessie Roberts

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A self-described “recovering grammar snob” explains why she overcame her rigor:

[T]here are two schools of thought when it comes to how we should use language. One is “prescriptive” and it’s backed by grammar snobs and the kind of people who froth at the mouth over the decline of “the King’s English”. The other is “descriptive” and it’s more about accepting that how people use language is how language works. A prescriptivist believes in the idea of standard English and sees mistakes everywhere. A descriptivist sees many englishes, and none of them are standard. …

The way people speak and write is based on a lot of factors. Geography, for one.

The various communities you belong to are also a big influence. Most of us belong to several communities and speak a little differently in the context of each one, whether that community is found at work, on a sports team, in a particular ethnic group, or in a religious community. We’re all fluent in more than one english, for example the language of our peer group and the language of our parents’ generation.

And then there are the two factors that have possibly the biggest impact on how we use language: education and socioeconomic status. When you judge people for what you consider to be poor grammar, you’re judging them for not being as good as you at something that might be a challenge because they didn’t have the advantages or experience you did. Maybe they haven’t had the luxury of worrying about their grammar. Maybe their use of language is right in line with their community. Maybe you’re just being a pedantic, prescriptivist jerk.

(Photo by Flickr user dullhunk)