Why are people so inclined to be grammar Nazis and get such a high off of correcting people?

I helped to co found an print/internet publication back in the mid 1990's. I was a working as a freelance contractor then in three different fields plus I was sitting in with bands so I was all over the place.

I left the startup to work an eight month exclusive stint and when that job was completed the "magazine" asked me to come back for a deadline push at that point they were publishing two issues a quarter.

So I returned to an actual office with an editorial staff which seems nice until you reflect that us three knobs, who initiated the project, were all writers first, editors second, and we handled everything on the fly, in house, and with very little editorial oversight.

The old project head had long since vanished to promotion Valhalla. I never saw him again which was quite sad because among other things his talent was probably the main reason the project was spun up.

So I'm just back to do web stuff, which in that world at that time was considered a notch below high payed witchcraft. Everything was fine until they ran short on features and asked me to compose a music review feature just a few short hours before deadline. I had something in the can which had been passed over by another magazine due to length. I submitted it to my old boss who edited it down a bit, signed off on it, then sent it back for my approval. I looked it over, it was fine, so I formatted it and uploaded it to the website.

Some days later, while on another assignment i got a call from my old boss at the magazine. There was a problem with the feature. I pulled it up on the web and she wasn't kidding. It had been pulled down, reworked to the point where it was totally unrecognizable, and then ham-handedly re-posted.

The first thing i did was log in and remove my byline. Then I corrected the formatting and moved on. Not long after I got a call to come in and meet with the feature editor and when I got out of that meeting I vowed never to write a word for that publication ever again.

They didn't simply butcher the piece they completely renovated it and when i say "they" I'm talking about the feature and copy editors. Later on I looked on the server and saw that the two of them passed the piece back and fourth about six times and their notes were absolutely vicious.

In the end i had to threaten to file a formal complaint with the publisher to get them to pull my byline from the print version and to cancel the check they tried to pay me with. It was crazy but it taught me a big lesson about publishing. Some people really do get offended by this stuff and even get into editorial work not simply to put themselves in a position where they can tell people "no" but also to punish, and it's sad. The magazine failed about eighteen months later and one of the key reason was that feature writers stopped returning their calls because of their editorial practices.

TL;DR It's a chaotic world and people like to assert control over other no matter how insignificant the degree.

/r/linguistics Thread Parent