I see it in all the reading groups:
Arguments about how to use words. What’s proper? Who should we damn for using the wrong spelling? Or is that ‘whom should we damn’?
Have you EVER read a book and said, ‘God DAMN that book had good grammar'”
Have you ever read a book and remarked on how well the person did at spelling?
NO! You know why? Because those things aren’t content. It’s stories that matter, not spelling and grammar. Historically speaking, those things have never mattered because inflicting a tight structure on language takes away from the voice of the author.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put work into editing afterwards, spelling isn’t too difficult and badly misspelled words tend to jolt people out of the story, especially if it’s something that goes through the entire manuscript. Grammar and making up words to express yourself are two things that are supposed to be flexible. Grammar is something that was inflicted on language to make cadences clear. Using it as a straight jacked for your story makes stories sound rigid and conformist. It’s a sign of mental illness to find constant fault with others and to need everything to be precisely lined up and ordered.
This detracts from the entire concept that should be burning you when you write: Your Passion. That is what should matter. Did you use a word in an unconventional way? Did you use the wrong word?
Using a word in an unconventional way is fine if it’s part of your voice. If you just plain old used the wrong word as a mistake or because you didn’t know the actual meaning of the word then you might want to work on that. On the other hand, we are always learning and there is never going to be a time when you stand up, survey the work you’ve done and say, “There, I’ve learned everything there is to know about the English language”. If that’s your goal and if that’s the standard you hold other writers too then you are hurting yourself and hurting the ambition and passion of other writers.
If your feedback to an impassioned anything is ‘you said council when you should have said counsel’ and that’s all you have to say then you are cutting the author of the piece down. You have contributed nothing constructive and have cut the legs out of the author while ignoring their entire point. If you talk to the author and have a conversation about their writing and then mention that, ‘oh, by the way, I noticed you used the wrong ‘counsel’ in the third paragraph, that’s a different story. When you’re only feedback is,’ ummm, I think there should be a comma in this sentence.’. Then you know what? You’ve missed the point of writing.
Grammar and spelling structure should be a tool that helps you to express yourself. If it ceases to be a tool and becomes a constriction on your passion or the passion of others, then it’s time to put it aside. Deal with it later. The important thing is what you’re saying. If you are clearly showing through whatever language or grammar you choose to use what you want to say then grammar and made up or creative word usage ceases to be important.
This whole business of there being absolute ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to write it a clever way to get lost in a maze of confusion and self doubt. If you inflict that on other writers then you are sowing seeds of confusion and insecurity in other authors. This makes you a negative influence on other writers. This makes you someone to avoid.
If someone is only interested in how many faults they can find and has nothing to say about the words and emotion in your writing, then they are only interested in tearing down other writers and making themselves feel important. If someone is so threatened by a piece that they read that they can only point out one error in a piece that is pages long and have nothing to say about the content: Tell them where to shove their judgements.
If Shakespeare was around he would go off his nut listening to the crap these grammar nazi’s spew. I can tell you that he would probably have given up on writing and gone out and got drunk because what is the point of Shakespeare without his awesome voice.
Go ahead: Put a Shakespeare play into proper grammar. Don’t use any of the words that he made up to express himself. You know what you have? A boring piece of crap.
So, Grammar Nazi’s, I’ve got to tell you, you’re doing it wrong. You’re stifling and if someone is creative but speaking with a legitimate voice then you need to respect that. Keep your insecurities to yourself and try looking at what the person has written. Try finding the good in it because spelling and grammar are easily fixed if they aren’t an expression of that person’s voice. If they are part of that person’s voice then dictating their voice and what it should sound like is a tyranny power trip and you’re in the wrong.
Who gave you right to be the rule keeper of all the other writers? Ask yourself how petty you’re being in fixating on a tiny thing like a comma or one misused word. How small can you possibly be? How much do these tendencies cause you to stumble in your own writing? Maybe you should grow up and be a bigger person because there are ways to help people with their writing without picking their grammar apart.
How much of your negativity and nit-picking are actually fear of what other people are saying? How much of it is guilt that your own word count isn’t higher? Are you insecure and can’t handle their passion? Is what they are saying making you afraid? Are you disassociating from the spirit of the words by obeying and enforcing the letter of the grammar law? When has being dogmatic ever worked for creative professions? When I see a grammar nazi I see fear. I see that you are afraid of listening to the words of anyone else. I see someone with an obsessive compulsive need to put people down, to put yourself down. Your dogmatism is a dam to hold back the flood of passion you feel. It is a dam to hold back the passions of other from touching you. What are you so afraid of?
Whatever it is, being a grammar nazi is a shield, it’s a place to hide from others. A place of defense where you can throw rocks down on anyone trying to climb the mountain of creation. You are afraid of something. When you compulsively must pick out every mistake the flaw is in you. You’re doing it wrong.