I am not a fan of the term “grammar Nazi.” I refuse to use it in reference to myself or others. The term may be meant as a jest, but I’m not sure that it is. It smarts just a little too much. Even if it is a jest, it’s not a flattering one. I know I joke about wielding a red pen, but such jokes are meant in good fun. No one gets hurt when I say I wield a red pen. While I am serious about writing better and encouraging others to write better, I’m equally serious about poking fun at my own obsessive-compulsive behavior when it comes to finding the right word or punctuation mark.
Thus, when I am called a grammar Nazi, it hurts. It grieves me because the word “Nazi” is not one I use lightly. I don’t care that World War Two was over fifty years ago. The word is still not a nice word. I can’t bring myself to use it or see it in a joking manner. Some words simply shouldn’t be.
Maybe I’m too sensitive about the term. Fair enough. I am sensitive about it. I’m sensitive about it because grammar Nazis are people who uphold the letter of the grammar law at the expense of the spirit of it and of the people trying to write. That is not me; at least, I hope it isn’t. My Write Right posts are meant to encourage not to discourage. They are supposed to provide illumination about a particular rule. They address words or punctuation marks that some readers ask me to explain. They are not a gun held to a person’s head. They are not a boot kicking a writer into a mass grave.
I guess all I’m asking is that people think twice before using the term grammar Nazi. Maybe some editors and writing coaches do act cruelly or inhumanely. That is not an excuse to refer to them as grammar Nazis. That is an opportunity to extend grace to another human being and to find a different editor or writing coach, one who understands what it is to be human, what it is to fail and try again.
Photo: Brett Jordan (CC BY 2.0)