Grammar police

Recently I came across this article: “Stop shaming people on the Internet for grammar mistakes. Its not there fault.” The author urges more compassion for the oh-so-common grammar mistakes that we are all prone to and provides an interesting dissection of the cognitive reasons for those errors.

“Mocking another person for making one of them is like mocking a heart for skipping a beat. Errors are a routine part of our cognitive systems,” the author, Andrew Heisel, claims.

While “mocking” isn’t productive, I think “awareness” is. Some grammar rules do seem needlessly arcane, but others have evolved to reduce ambiguity and increase communication. And so I find the Twitter bot called Grammar Police, which automatically detects and tactfully points out grammar errors in tweets, to be both fascinating and useful.

Mr. Heisel introduced me to this bot by way of criticizing it. But the bot has 19,500 followers, and I don’t think that they all subscribe merely “to pretend, 25 times a day, that you’re perfect and other people’s foibles are not your own.” In fact, I observed that some of those whom Grammar Police called out in an automated post actually thanked the bot. The bot’s postings might even inspire some readers to look up “nominative case.”

Now I’m thinking that a statistical analysis of the bot’s 85,400 tweets (and counting) would be quite interesting. What are the most common types of errors? And how many of them inspired a thank you?

1 Comment
1 of 1 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Susan said,

    April 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Yeah, I don’t know what the balance is between awareness and shaming.

    I make plenty of grammar mistakes merely by finger-memory or whatever you might call it. The one that bugs me most is that I frequently type the wrong version of they’re/their/there despite knowing full well which is which. The presence of the apostrophe in it’s/its is also pretty random before I edit, even though I know the correct usage. This is definitely a different kind of failure than typos.

    I realized a while back that being conscious of other people’s grammar errors made me reluctant to use more complicated constructions myself for fear of embarrassment. So I’m over bothering other people about their grammar. OTOH, I’m a weirdo who actually loves grammar, and I think grammatical rules are a big part of clarity. I do try to be a positive force for grammar awareness without being a jerk.

    And sometimes I break the rules on purpose ;-).

Post a Comment

I knew this already. I learned something new!