Grammar Libertarians Unite!

I was arguing with a moron on Twitter earlier. He kept using There/Their/They’re and Too/To wrong, couldn’t spell, and didn’t know how commas worked (including at one point when he ended up accidentally calling himself a gay moron) so I started correcting him so he’d get all rage-sputtery. He called me a grammar nazi. My response was “I’m more of a grammar libertarian. You’re a grammar rapist.”

Because I freely admit to violating the rules all the time, I’m hereby proclaiming the existence of Grammar Libertarians. So I believe in freedom of grammar, but I also believe in the Non-Aggression Principle of Grammar, which requires you not to be a complete friggin’ idiot with your spelling and punctuation.

So now we have a middle ground between the hated Grammar Nazis and the incoherent Grammar Rapists.You are welcome, internet.


I posted that on Facebook yesterday, but decided it needs to go on the blog too. I think this is brilliant. For too long there hasn’t been a middle ground! I make my living by communicating with written words, yet I despise the statist Grammar Nazis nearly as much as I loathe the incoherent babbling of Grammar Rapists. I’ve long wanted to mock them, without becoming them.

Normally when I’m arguing on the internet there are two types of grammar extremists. The people who are so incredibly stupid that you wonder how they are actually capable of operating a computer. You might find yourself saying: How are his clumsy ape thumbs able to tweet? Is English his first language? Were his parents first cousins? Your stupidity is making my eyes bleed. If so, those are the Grammar Rapists.

On the other hand there are the Grammar Nazis, who would immediately point out that I used a colon incorrectly in the paragraph above. These are the annoying types who will look at your 10,000 word, well researched, essay which totally debunks their position, and they’ll dismiss the whole thing because you had a dangling participle.

Nobody gives a shit about dangling participles.

Since the Dawn of the Internet the non-psychotic masses have been forced to read exchanges that go something like this:

GR: you’re mom is fat moron. their isnt a reason. racist. Bushs fault

Normal Person: I can’t even read that.

GR: U now what i meant GRAMMER NAZI!

or something like this:

Normal Person: So you can see from the giant post above and  the fourteen different links to respected sources I provided that everything you said is factually incorrect. I’ve included all of my math and calculations for peer review. I’ve documented your mistakes, and even used footnotes. You are definately incorrect.

GN: You spelled “definitely” wrong. DISMISS!


From now on I am a Grammar Libertarian!

I am not bound by every petty rule of grammar. I have the freedom to screw with the English language to make a point. I have the right to dangle my participles. I have the right to keep and bear colloquialisms and hyperbole. I don’t know how semi-colons work and I don’t care!

Yet at the same time I vow to obey the Non-Aggression Principle of Grammar. My grammar should not infringe on other people’s grammar rights. I alone am responsible for any grammar crimes I commit. If I commit acts of grammar rape I should be held accountable and make restitution to those who I have wronged.

So the next time a Grammar Nazi corrects some nitpick I will proudly proclaim my Grammar Libertarian status. But if a Grammar Rapist assaults me with his bizarre sentence structure and extra apostrophes I am allowed to defend myself. There is now a middle path for the masses who can actually spell and string words together into coherent sentences, but who don’t masturbate to Strunk & White.

Who will join me?

You may take our contractions but you will never take our FREEDOM!

New Baen dramatic audio productions, fully voice acted.
Into the Storm review from Bell of Lost Souls

125 thoughts on “Grammar Libertarians Unite!”

  1. Sounds great to me, at least in theory…although I suspect that the “right to keep and bear colloquialisms and hyperbole” will last here just as long as it takes somebody to call a gun magazine a “clip” and no longer.


      1. Perhaps, because they are completely and utterly ignorant about any topic related to firearms, and terrified of someone finding out about their ignorance – and then giving a Correia-grade fisking to said ignorant people.

        In addition, The Intenational Lord of Hate now has my undying ‘Thanks’ for giving me (and the rest of the world) a new and delightfully powerful weapon with which to chastise illiterate morons and doofi (plural of doofus) who think themselves “empowered.”

        I shall pass on this outstanding development to my circle of minions during the next meeting of P.O.E.T.S. corner at the local pub.

        Thank you, Sir.

    1. That’s correct. Clip != magazine: semi-auto != assault rifle: bolt action != sniper rifle.

      As this is a libertarian post, I am allowed to use Unix negation.

  2. THANK YOU!! I was raised with a mechanical typewriter and “Elements of Style” on my home desk, but I love to throw a pointless Ellipsis into things just to annoy the obsessives… You know how they can be sometimes… No humor… No flexibility…

    I love walking up to those sorts and whispering “irregardless” over and over till their heads explode.

    Weird Al gets a pass however, If he ever wants to grammar Nazi me I’m ok with that. (“Word Crimes” was awesome!)

    1. Every time you use “irregardless” unironically, a kitten cries. Please… save the kittens.

      But rock on using (abusing?) the ellipses. 😉

  3. You know, I did actually break out the popcorn for Mr. “Doesn’t-Get-the-Irony-of-his-own-Avatar” even though you told me it wasn’t worth it. The opportunity was too good to pass up.

    1. “…cis-comma grammar-normative fascist…”

      Ok, that is now one of my favorite phrases. I have to find a way to work it into casual conversation.

    2. *joins applause* I am so borrowing that. With attribution (footnote, parenthetical citation, or endnote as appropriate).

  4. I would love to join you but I am atrocious at spelling. I tend to write words so badly that auto correct can not help. 🙁

      1. Hey, I was born in 1966, and my spelling is fine. Then again, both of my parents were big readers and my father was a librarian. I grew up in a house where over half the walls were covered in books.

        That said, I learned long ago that if I stressed out over and tried to correct every grammar/spelling/punctuation abomination on the net, I’d need hard-core pharmaceuticals and never get anything else done. These days, I confine myself to correcting (or mocking, if I don’t like the individual) things that are the reverse of what was obviously intended — proscribe/prescribe, raise/raze, etc. That and mocking the hell out of any borderline-illiterates trying to claim the title of Smartest in the Room. There was one memorable troll on Q&O who managed to misspell ‘ignorant’ in his first sentence, and just went downhill from there. So, I guess I’m a Grammar Libertarian.

        I do reserve the right to take up righteous sword and shield in my capacity as Knight-Defender of the Apostrophe, though.

        1. I HAVE hard core pharmaceuticals, seldom get anything done and the internet is STILL a mess.

          Really, I don’t think there is much hope for it because too many people believe that the burden of communication resides with the listener / reader. They are thus under no compulsion to express themselves clearly because any failure to communicate resides solely with the person unfortunate enough to have stumbled across their sialorrhea.

      2. Born in ’68, but my parents bought me the hooked on phonics records (yes, records!) I remember they weren’t your standard black vinyl, they were yellow, blue, etc., really cool.

  5. I am so in this club. Put me down for a lifetime membership. On one hunting forum I frequent, the homonym abuse sometimes borders on a hate crime.

  6. But-but-but-
    The reason for precise language is to avoid misunderstandings, like when “eats shoots and leaves” turns into “eats, shoots and leaves” (the Murderous Panda problem). If we don’t insist on precision, then the likelihood of ambiguity leading to communications failure increases to …
    Ahhh, screw it. Grammar Libertarianism rocks!

    1. What is so bad about “Sipping a Mojito, I watched the full moon set over the ocean.” ?

      You get both beautiful imagery, and giggles at the thought of the Moon sipping a planetary-sized cocktail.

      1. Actually, you messed up there by making the order of events too clear. It’s obviously you drinking the cocktail, not the Moon. You should have written ‘I watched the full moon set over the ocean while sipping a Mojito.’

      1. Larry needs recharge time, just like the rest of us. If he chooses to use it in a way that generates amusing commentary for us to read, that’s a bonus.

      2. That, plus . . . it’s not _that_ hard, physically, to do 10-15K words a week. (Physically, note. Mentally is clearly another matter entirely.) It’s less than 4 hours of keyboard time every day, assuming you do it 5-6 days a week. Leaves a lot of time in the day for whatever ideation rituals one has to employ.

  7. But-but-but-
    The reason for precise language is to avoid misunderstandings. If you fail to maintain discipline in written form, the opportunities for communication failure increase immensely, and you risk not getting your point across to ….
    Ahhh, screw it. Grammar Libertarianism rocks!

    1. Lately I’ve been referring to the Grammar Feminazis, you know the ones who not only use those cutesy misspelled words, but who have successfully gotten us to throw out number agreement in pronouns because saying “To each his own” offends them mightily.

      (If they really hate the use of the male pronoun as the gender neutral one and still wish to be grammatically correct, they should say “To all their own,” but for Grammar Feminazis, correct grammar is not as important as stomping out male pronouns and -man words.)

      1. I think you mean “Grammar Femmunists.” All that appealing to the proletariat to throw off the shackles of the bourgeoisie language! Women of the world UNITE!

  8. As my respected colleague warpcordova states, er, *as me matey warpcordova sez*, there are days in which we carefully parse the tangled prose, but TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY! I will be a Grammar Pirate. I will take what I please, to use as I please, to say what I please, *and I will wear a really cool hat while doing it!*

    And if any man jack o’ ye say me nay, well, to the de’il wi’ ye and say I sent thee thither!

  9. Please tell me that “who” instead of “whom” was DELIBERATE. Because it’s way more hilarious that way.

    Is there a 12-step program for Grammar Nazis who would like to become Grammar Libertarians? XD

  10. An e-mail list that I used to be a part of had a guy with the following issues –

    1.) English was his second language.
    2.) He’d write huge posts with no paragraph indentations or line skips to break things up.
    3.) He used no punctuation whatsoever.

    Item #1 complicated things somewhat, but overall it was one of those things that you just get used to dealing with in this day and age. If someone isn’t a native English speaker, then you shrug your shoulders and try to figure out what they really meant to say.

    But when combined with #2 and #3, that meant that we had to deal with a massive block of grammatically screwed up misspelled text, and with no clue where one sentence started and another sentence ended.

    The worst of it was that the guy had a massive chip on his shoulder, and didn’t care much for Americans, which resulted in him blaming the reader whenever someone pointed out that his posts were a massive, unreadable mess.

    1. My personal pet peeve is long paragraphs or no paragraphs. It makes my eyes cross, and my concentration plummets. I am kind of obsessive when I post on that point when I update my own blog now that I see how horrible it is to read. But I am certainly no grammar nazi. I’m thinking Larry meant something more along the lines of what used to be called more politely “prescriptive grammar” and “descriptive grammar.” I’ve always fallen into the latter camp. Pinkert’s Practical Grammar and all.

      Years ago when I took a class on the history of the English language, one of the comments in our textbook mentioned some medieval bishop who decided it was a cardinal sin to split prepositions. I think people generally have a tendency to just like to make ridiculously nitpicky rules when they have the power to do so. Personally, I constantly end sentences with prepositions, and I know I use semicolons more than allowed. I once had a creative writing teacher who said we should act like we were given about five semicolons for life and we’d run out of them if we used them too much. I would have run of them about about a month after he told us that. Fun stuff.

  11. It’s totally in the realm of possiibility to Godwin oneself gramatically, but wouldn’t a Grammar Libertarians be more apt to Gillespie themself?

  12. I prefer to label myself a “grammar minarchist.” To borrow from Heinlien:

    I will accept any grammatical rules that you feel necessary to your comprehension of my writing. I am free, no matter what style guides surround me. If I find their impact on my writing tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally and intellectually responsible for everything I write.

  13. I have two comments– 1. where do I enlist in the Grammar Liberation Brigade? 2. I got your dangling participle right here!

  14. We also need a Society for the Promotion of Shift Key Use, to promote awareness that there is a middle ground between ALL CAPS and no caps.

  15. I’m not so much a grammar Nazi as a spelling Nazi. Almost anything capable of internet access has a built-in spayul chequer, yet not only do they ignore or override it, they spell the same word *differently* wrong six times in the same message…

    For some reason, such people get upset when I reply to them in correct, grammatical Klingon. I’m even polite enough to send it in English characters since they probabl;y don’t have Klingon fonts installed. But alas, they seem to be illiterate in Klingon as well.

    1. Spell checkers are for the weak… and often come with automatic grammar abominations that perform horrificly unatural rituals on otherwise sane sentence structure.

      1. *laughing* Sometimes, one hears about weird reactions to words, and your comment reminded me of one.

        My housemate does tech support, and recounted how a woman called up, wanting to have the computer returned. There was nothing actually wrong with it, but there was something there called an ‘installation wizard’ and the woman didn’t want anything to do with ‘evil magic.’ She flatly refused to listen to the explanation that it had nothing to do with magic, but was just a funny name.

        Utterly gobsmacked, housemate blurted “I take it you don’t like the spell checker either?”

        (The refund was issued anyway.)

  16. Poor spelling are huge peeves of mine–especially text ‘shorthand’. Except when typing colloquial speech for humor or to make a point, I try hard to use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
    While correctness and clarity is essential to communication, creative errors can make it more INTERESTING and ENTERTAINING!
    Apologies for caps, but italics are not possible here.
    Thanks for posting your thoughts; they are informative and as much fun as your ‘regular’ writing!

    1. Apologies for caps, but italics are not possible here.

      Au contraire. 😉

      Some html tags work here, including i. As a serial italics abuser, I was very happy to discover that.

      1. Thanks Achillea. 🙂 I don’t think my smart phone is that smart…but then sometimes I wonder about myself! :p

  17. Can I talk about the errors in Strunk and White? Yes, there are things in it that I disagree with. So why does is sit on the shelf next to my desk? Because it is USUALLY a reasonable guide. I also have a 1970 edition of the handbook of Chemistry and Physicsit is considered obsolete. If you follow both intelligently you can communicate effectively and rebuild the world.

  18. Attributed to Winston Churchill, when faced with a report which was grammatically perfect, but incomprehensible: “This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put.”

  19. I AM WITH YOUUUUUU (running out of the frat house door waiting for the others to follow, especially after the great speech about the German’s bombing Pearl Harbor)

  20. What is the difference between a grammar libertarian and a grammar centrist. It sounds to me like you are espousing grammar centrism. I’m not sure what grammar libertarianism suggests. Is there a Pournelle two-axis chart for grammar?

    1. Quietly, and by simply adopting the usage when approriate. If it’s amusing enough, more like minded people will…

      Ah, hell… just troll the appropriatly incoherent locations until you can vindictively correct their “Grammar Nazi!” cries. That’ll be faster.

  21. I SPIT on Strunk and White. The idea that anyone can think it a useful grammar guide when it fails to identify the Passive Voice correctly in 3 of its 4 stated ‘examples’ baffles me to this day. S&W is the Budweiser of grammar guides: the triumph of marketing and ‘standardization’ over quality.

  22. These are complex issues that can even lead to litigation. I have a training program for your university or government contractor that can aid in navigating these sensitive issues and train your personnel to respect our diverse grammar paradigms….for a modest fee.

  23. My only reservation is….Look, I used to work in a welding shop. A major part of my job was turning the shop notes from the floor into parts lists and billing statements. Although the majority of welders get into welding early because they don’t like school work, they should have some ability to not have grammar to make a textbook bleed, or spelling so bad it nearly made me aphasic with the written word.

    1. Not really. I always thought it made a page of prose look sloppy… unless you were writing calligraphy and leaving the space for a small illumination, but I think that’s probably both off topic and a bit esoteric for about 99% of anyone on the intarwebs.

      Now indenting in code, on the other hand…

      1. The one problem I have with OpenOffice is as far as I can tell, there’s no good way to convert between the two formats. I can’t even search and replace double returns.

        Back when I worked for Apple/Claris, I wrote a reformatting wizard that could do that, and even unwrap 80-column formatted text files intelligently.

        Of course, it also allowed you to force double spaces after sentence-ending punctuation, which apparently isn’t done anymore.

    2. Miss indenting? Why, it isn’t lost.
         Granted, it isn’t used much on the Web, but it’s not entirely gone even there. There’s something about the web page format that makes space-separated paragraphs easier to read, but books—even well-formatted ebooks—still use it.
         And even here, indenting remains an option.

  24. “English does not borrow woods from other languages. It follows them down allys, knocks them on the head and rides through their pockets for loose syntax.”
    My favorite comment on language.

  25. I was having a rational discussion with a liberal friend (that I actually consider a friend, because we have actual conversations using facts and things) when one of his GN cohorts pointed out I had dropped the ‘ from use of the word “they’re”, so of course my entire conversation was instantly invalid. I replied that dropping a punctuation might make him feel all superior, and able to call me an idiot and all that, or it might be that the prebiopia and typing on the stupid mini keypad on my phone was just too difficult at the time.
    Anyway, he obviously won because I couldn’t work my keyboard so was unfit to converse and he could be all smug while eating his humus for dinner.

  26. It has always been my scholarly opinion that if you can’t write, you can’t think. That is not to imply that those that can write can also think; many writers are fully capable of elementary writing but aren’t worth the time of day to read.
    Also, you will never win an argument with an idiot regardless of your position or how well thought out it may be. I will not empower my enemies by caring what they think.

    1. I think it comes down to being able to organize your thoughts in some kind of coherent structure in order to put them down on paper (or pixels, as the case may be) in a comprehensible form. A disturbing number of people (particularly on the left side of the spectrum), seem to be completely unable to do that, because they’ve never learned to think logically. There’s nothing in their heads but a tangle of fallacies and emotional responses, so when they try to write that’s what gets barfed up onto the page.

      Note that I don’t include people in the above whose illiteracy springs, through no fault of their own, from not ever having been taught how to write. There are so-called teachers out there who are far more invested in preserving their students’ ‘self esteem’ than making sure they learn about contractions, possessives, homophones, and all the other things that trip those students up later.

  27. For me, it depends on the circumstances. When I see atrocious writing on a blog site or a comments section, I just think, “Must be an Obama voter,” and press on. But when it’s a professional writer (newspaper writer, professional blogger, etc.), I’m a lot less lenient, especially when there are also editors involved. Not knowing the difference between “to,” “too,” and “two” or “your” and “you’re” should be a firing offense.

    I know mistakes happen, and I’m willing to grant an occasional exception, but if doctors, nuclear reactor engineers, and bridge builders have to suffer for their mistakes, professional writers should also.

    I would like to note that I don’t go on-line to correct anyone; I just sadly shake my head and press on with my life, ignoring repeat offenders from that point onward.

    But intentionally using bad grammar in a good cause? That’s to be commended. Write?

  28. Thank you, sir.

    Commas frighten me. I’m never sure where to put them. If I don’t use enough commas, the offended punctuation coalition might have me brought up before the EEOC Inquisition. If I use to many commas, then I’ve got the Comma Union to worry about.

    As to dangling participles, those can be very dangerous. They might get snagged on something. That’s why I wear tighty whities.

  29. I run a play-by-post rpg online. One of the players is actually a professional author, the rest of us just love to write. There’s a huge PBP gaming community online, and periodically people in it will see one of my ads and come apply to play. Most are adequate to exceptional writers, but some of them … lord love a duck. Capitalization, spelling, grammar, punctuation, these are all foreign concepts to them, and it baffles me. PBP games aren’t video games. You can’t just wiggle a joystick or mash a button, you have to write. And yet this hobby they’re willing to invest hours into doing is something they don’t care enough about to learn how to do competently. To top it off, even lots and lots of practice never seems to make them any better at it.

  30. I want it fully understood that as a Grammar Libertarian acronyms such as LOL, OMG, and TNSTAAFL are legitimate uses of Grammar.

  31. As someone whose grammar sucks, I blame it on growing up in the hollers of WV, i now feel a little better about myself. Love to read just about anything new or old. Do not ask me to write with out spell check.


    OH Almost misspelled grammaaar twice


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