What Can You Learn from Your Favorite Grammar Nazi?

Do you have a Grammar Nazi among your family or friends? If you’re one of mine, you do. Me! I correct a lot of grammar mistakes, although as a freelance editor I typically get paid to do it. And I tactfully ignore the mistakes my friends and family make.

(I’m actually not a fan of using the term “Nazi” so casually, but for the time being “Grammar Nazi” is relatively innocuous in that it just means someone who polices grammar and, annoyingly, corrects it without being asked.)

Even if you don’t know a Grammar Nazi personally, you’ve probably seen posts on social media expressing grammar pet peeves. I’ve shared more than a few.

So why should you pay attention if someone corrects your grammar, whether it’s face-to-face or through some impersonal, albeit funny, meme? Because if you’re being corrected, your grammar is probably wrong. And following the advice of the grammar police means you’ll sound smarter.

The following is a list of my top pet peeves when it comes to grammar mistakes. Unless you’re a client, I haven’t corrected you for committing these errors. But I’m willing to bet you know you’re guilty!

  1. Lose vs. loose. Too many times I’ve seen people say they will loose something. What they mean is that they will lose their temper or they want to lose weight. Loose means that something doesn’t fit right, i.e., it’s not tight enough.
  2. Your vs. you’re. This is an easy one to check. If you can substitute the words “you are” in your sentence and it still makes sense, use you’re.  Your refers to something that belongs to you, as in your impeccable grammar.
  3. There, their, they’re. I occasionally will get this wrong as I’m typing quickly and have to correct it when I’m proofreading. There refers to place, as in “over there.” It can be used in other ways, but that’s a subject for another post. Their is possessive, showing who owns something, as in “their house.” They’re is like you’re … if you can substitute the words “they are,” you’ve used it correctly.
  4. “Their” as a substitute for “he or she.” What do you suppose is wrong about the following sentence? A person really needs to figure out their purpose in life. What’s wrong is that the possessive their refers back to “a person,” and they should match in number, but they don’t. That’s because a person is singular and their is plural. There are two ways to fix this problem: A person really needs to figure out his or her purpose in life. OR, even better:  People really need to figure our their purpose in life. 

So, don’t get too annoyed with your resident Grammar Nazi. He or she might just save you from some embarrassment when you send an email, submit a resume or proofread that presentation you’re designing for work or school.