It’s 6:30 on a Friday morning and I’ve been awake for a couple hours. As I lay in bed, I found myself thinking about the Grammar Police. Now, when I first introduced the Grammar Police into the Aunt Ruth stories (I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head), I thought it was humorous, and probably justly so. Imagine being arrested for saying something incorrectly.
But, having seen my kids take on the self proclaimed Grammar Police role in my household — and having been issued a few citations recently by these same officers — I think it is time to distinguish between Grammar Police and Grammar Gestapo.
In the United States, the police officer has the duty of protection and enforcement; he (or she) is a friend; and philosophically the intent of a police officer is to encourage and promote reasonable behavior and safety. That’s why you don’t get a speeding ticket for going 56 mph in a 55 mph zone. Yes, technically it’s speeding, but the offender is still going “reasonably close” to the limit, by some definition of reasonably close.
That being said, I think it is important to establish that the Grammar Police Department needs to have the same type of role. The encourager, the helper, the friend — these roles will promote correct English faster than a more Gestapo-like officer who whisks away the offender, beats the living daylights out of him, and then places him back in society, expecting him (the offender) to be happy with his now correct grammatical wherewithal.
In other words, all you erstwhile Grammar Police out there — be gentle! Go easy on those who didn’t grow up knowing the difference between Hopefully and “I hope that” …
Let’s save the brutal beatings for things that really matter (like conjugation of irregular verbs).