There’s another wave of writing mistakes that I’m noticing crashing on the vast shores of the Internet. It probably already existed in writing previously, most likely in students’ first drafts, but this is my only access to such mistakes right now. I know that I’m not the only one that has noticed this, either. I’m talking about the wave of contractions ending in “of” instead of “have.” Examples include “could of”, “would of” and “should of.” It’s annoying although one can see the confusion. Each of these examples can be written as a contraction: “could’ve,” “would’ve” and “should’ve.” Said out loud it sounds like “of.” That reason alone would be enough to not use the contractions anymore so one could get that sound of the words out of their heads. Alternatively, one could intentionally get it wrong to start with: “coulda,” “woulda,” and “shoulda.”
(Interestingly enough, when I ran spell check on this post it turns out that “could’ve” and “should’ve” are eye dialect and therefore aren’t technically standard spellings. This doesn’t change my main point, however.)
The other problem that I have with using the above examples at all is that whenever one uses them one risks making a weak argument. I’m just as guilty of this but I am trying not to write about things that I could have done, should have done, or would have done. I’d rather write about what I’ve done or what I’m going to do. “I should have written at least a thousand words today in the new novel” is whiney and uninteresting. “I’m going to write a thousand words today in the new novel” is hopeful, albeit not a solid fact. It’s still more interesting.
With all of my picking apart of language I realize I open myself to criticism. I’m surprised that I haven’t really received any. Maybe it’s because I’m not trolling a message board or commenting on somebody else’s blog. I’m keeping my remarks to this blog only, hoping that somebody else reads it. Yet I know that if I do make a point like the one I started this post with on somebody else’s message board I’d be called a “Grammar Nazi.” I don’t want to open myself up to that—and not because I couldn’t deal with the criticism. I just really hate the term. It’s both weak and inaccurate.
To call somebody a “Grammar Nazi” when they point out that you wrote something badly is really just lashing out. A person write something badly, somebody else caught it and said something, and the first person got angry with him- or herself. He or she took it out on the person that said something. Did the other person do something that only an asshole would do? Probably, but if the first person didn’t want to attract assholes he or she shouldn’t have made the mistake. If a person is presenting an argument in written form they need to learn how that written form works. Thanks to the Internet a huge chunk of our world’s communication is performed with written language. Adhering to the rules becomes more important.
The other problem I have with the phrase “Grammar Nazi” is that what it describes has nothing to do with Nazism. This reflects a larger problem with language, when people use the word “Nazi” when they mean “fascist.” One could make the argument that fascism was an aspect of Nazism but Nazism included a lot more elements that have nothing to do with fascism. So if somebody calls you a “Grammar Nazi” explain to them that you’re a “Grammar Fascist.” I’m sure they’ll understand and like you more.
To finish, I want to make a point about my own writing mistakes. I fully admit that this blog may have a lot of them. I never did have full, formal training in grammar other than bits and pieces I picked up in the public school system. When I got to college I took a lot of writing courses but nothing to do with writing mechanics. I can figure out how a plot works but I might struggle with how a sentence works. It’s time I worked on this. I would love to pick up a book or two that would help me learn. I’ll do my own research on this but if anybody has any tips on what books to look out for let me know.
Also, if you’re a Grammar Fascist feel free to point out my mistakes in the comments section. For that matter I welcome all comments on this blog. I’ve become convinced that the page view stats that WordPress gives me are inaccurate. Even seeing “likes” on blog posts gives me a better idea who’s reading which posts and why. Obviously you don’t have to but if you did from time to time I do appreciate any feedback I get, no matter how small.