Grammar Phobia vs. Grammar Snobbery


Definition 1:  relating to a virus, a disease that poisons the system.

Definition 2: relating to any media that circulates widely on the web.

Late April 2016:  a video blog (vlog) from The Guardian earned this “viral” cachet when the presenting editor inferred that grammar rules are made by the white, highly-educated segment of the population, and thus grammar rules are designed to be prejudiced against those who break them.

What?  Wait.  Standard English rules are prejudiced?  No.

Actually, what the vlog editor inferred is that grammar helps communication, but some people become snobs when applying the rules.  I agree with this.

Look, here it is, in 15 Points.


Communication is both non-verbal and verbal, and verbal means spoken and written.


The audience needs guides to follow communication.  Those guides are tone and gestures that accompany spoken communication.  Punctuation provides the guides in written communication.


These guides help the audience “read” spoken and written communication.


The guides are what became standardized into common rules to assist communication.


Unfortunately, certain rules of grammar became imposed on the English language, which is itself a huge amalgamation on a Germanic root with a heavy Latin/French influence.

These rules often confuse communication.

For example, one of the confusing rules is now a famous statement by Winston Churchill.  About the preposition at the end of sentences, he quipped, “That is a rule up with which I will not put.”


The common grammar rules became a mark of the highly-educated.  This highly educated class also happened to be the wealthy who could afford tutors and governesses who ensured the next generation knew the rules.  And the wealthy, as always, form the established (predominant) culture.

One could say that the grammar rules are more economic stratification than anything else.


Business wants to stay in business.  It is able to do so when it caters to the established culture.  Therefore, business hires the people who will present the best image to their clientele.

Image is non-verbal communication.  Spoken (and gradually written) communication are also key elements of creating an image that will have people with money maintaining an association with that business.

To sell its product, business hires those who present the best image, non-verbal and verbal.  These sales people do their job best when they are not noticed at all by the purchasers.

The people who buy the products of a business have more influence than the business itself in determining a particular product’s success.


To create a larger work-base for business, the middle class ensured that its children also learned the common grammar rules.  [Originally, rhetoric (communicating to persuade) was the mainstay.]


Gradually, public education spread beyond the upper and middle classes and to the lower classes, and the teaching of the common rules became a mainstay of the curriculum.

Public education purported that its raison d’etre was to improve the lives of those not in the upper echelons of society.  Therefore, the claim was that these grammar rules would assist the lower strata of society escape dead-end jobs.  That did happen.



Imposition of the grammar rules by certain grammar snobs gave grammar phobia to the many who were learning the rules.


We have forgotten that the rules are guides for communication—and that communication creates community through commonality.


Commonality is necessary for community and is not antagonistic to diversity.

E.D. Hirsch (whose work Cultural Literacy has weathered a lot of controversy) stated that a common background created through education will create a more unified culture.  While many argue with his choices for the topics in the common background, his theory of a common starting point is valid.


Diversity in communication keeps the audience interested.


Too much diversity, however, may obscure communication.


Any communicator’s believability (credibility, ethos) is based on how well s/he communicates.

The Editor from The Guardian :: Does she have the final word on grammar rules? Or will the rules remain to aid communication? See below to locate the vlog.

If you watch and listen to the vlog, you can not fail to notice that the presenter, Mona Chalabi, explains her points in absolutely correct Standard English with an upper-class accent and fully rounded tones.

Even as she debunked grammar snobbery, she proves through her very presentation that she is a proponent of grammar snobbery.

Listen to the vlog.  Would you believe this denunciation of grammar snobbery if Chalabi broke numerous grammar rules?  Or is she more persuasive because she follows the grammar rules?

Chalabi’s side point is that grammar should not disrupt communication, which is the whole purpose of this writing and any other writing I will do about grammar in my attempt to help people understand.  We use grammar to increase communication, not to browbeat others.

As writers, we use grammar to manipulate our readers’ impressions of our works.

We can enchant with lyricism.

Or convert with suasion.

We can entertain.

Or we can turn off our reader.

Communication is all that matters.

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

You can see the original vlog—as of this writing it’s still available—by searching “Grammar snobs are patronising, pretentious, and just plain wrong.”

(That’s the British spelling of patronizing in your search, BTW).