Grammar snobs are patronizing, pretentious, and just plain wrong. Put “grammar” in front of the word “snob,” and suddenly, some people feel strangely proud. They shouldn’t be.
Most grammar snobs use an elite and increasingly outdated form of the English language, and they think they’re somehow superior because of it. In most cases, the mistakes being highlighted really don’t matter at all.
If I look around a room and say, “There are less people here than I expected,” does it really, really need to be pointed out that because people can be counted, I should have said, “There are fewer people here”?
The fact is, most of us use the words “less” and “fewer” interchangeably without much confusion. I’ve never been to a supermarket where shoppers are scratching their heads about the “ten items or less” lane. We get it.
Some of these snobs believe that language evolves but grammar doesn’t. That’s not true. It was once considered incorrect to start a sentence with words like “and” or “but.” And what about the rule that the standard pronoun in writing should be “he”?
There are some grammar snobs who will say that we need some sort of a common language, a set of rules that everyone can understand. But all too often, they conveniently overlook the facts that the rules they’re talking about aren’t commonly held at all. They’re just their rules.
Take the word “literally” for example. I “literally” don’t care if I’m using the word “literally” in the correct way according to some Elizabethan definition of correctness.
And neither does the Oxford dictionary. They’ve updated their definition of the words to reflect modern usage.
It doesn’t take much to see the power imbalance when it comes to grammar snobbery. The people pointing out the mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, whiter, or just plain academic, than the people they’re treating with condescension.
All too often, it’s a way to silence people, and that’s particularly offensive when it’s someone who might already be struggling to speak up. We should spend more time listening to what others have to say and less focusing on the grammar what they say it with.