Why I Am A Prescriptivist Grammarian

First, let me make something abundantly clear: I am that girl.  The one who hovers over my parents’ respective shoulders while they’re writing an email and corrects their grammar with cool, indifferent efficiency.  The one who has gleefully adopted the role of household dictionary, taking pride in being able to spell any word asked of her without missing a beat (except those darn French loan words).  The one who shrieks “Apostrophe!  Apostrophe!” at billboards that advertise their creators’ ineptitude more than the actual product.  The one who judges her classmates purely based on their writing skills, knows it’s not fair, and maintains a rigid apathy towards that fact.

I’m the girl who uses phrases like “creators’ ineptitude” and “rigid apathy” with a straight face.

I can tell you when to use a comma vs. a semicolon and the difference between an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen; I shake my head in dismay when people dislike the Oxford comma.

But, frankly, my grammar Nazism is…well, to put it frankly, it is generally met with confusion or a simple eye roll.  We live in an age in which the practicality, beauty, and art of well-used grammar is scorned, and communication suffers for it.

But this is my slightly early graduation present from the universe, the reason I am a prescriptivist grammarian; it is the reason my Nazism persists in the face of ignorance and scorn:


I told my school that their grammar was terrible (because it really was disgraceful).  I used a contact form with a disclaimer at the bottom that said that they couldn’t respond individually.  I expected it to pass unnoticed, quietly ignored like the rest of the feedback I have submitted throughout the last four years at this school.

They listened.

They responded individually.

They forwarded it to the head of curriculum.

They cared.

Do you have any idea how often that happens‽  It doesn’t!  It has never, ever happened.  I have pointed out more errors than I can count.  I’ve told restaurant managers about the errors on their menus and advertisements, I have responded to classmates in discussions purely to correct their grammar, not a day goes by that I don’t scream “APOSTROPHE!” at that darn billboard; it never makes a difference.

And the corporation that runs my school cared.  They listened.  They responded.  They forwarded it to the head of curriculum.

It’s a good day to be a prescriptivist grammarian.

Cara Kennaway sig


2 thoughts on “Why I Am A Prescriptivist Grammarian

  1. Cool…

    Well, I’m not going to pretend to be appreciative of grammar…. I’m not. But… it’s cool that they took the time to listen to you!

    (sorry that’s basically the best response I can muster… I know… I fail sometimes…)

    1. Correction:

      Well, I’m not going to pretend to be appreciative of grammar, because I’m not, but it’s cool that they took the time to listen to you!

      (I’m sorry; that’s basically the best response I can muster…I know…I fail sometimes…)”

      Note the capitalization, full sentences, and semicolon. :-D :-D :-D

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s