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Twenty Signs You Might Be a Word Nerd

I’ve been obsessed with words since elementary school. I would constantly write thank-you notes to my grandmother for her homemade cooking, news stories about pretend robbers vandalizing my neighborhood and book reports for English class. My mother wasn’t surprised in the least when I turned my love of writing into a communications career.

When Beth posted about signs of working in public relations, I thought there must be some common threads for us word nerds—individuals who are extremely passionate about grammar and writing. As InkHouse’s resident grammarian, I enjoy perfectly punctuated prose not only because my sixth-grade English teacher stopped awarding me extra-credit points after finding too many “edits for credit,” but because written communication is the heart of PR.

Here’s my map of the DNA of a word nerd. If you answer yes to at least three of these characteristics, welcome to the Word Nerd Club.

  1. You eat, breathe and sleep Associated Press style—and text and tweet it.
  2. Other people’s grammar mistakes are your treasured moments of celebration and correction.
  3. You know the difference between using more than and over.
  4. Hash marks aren’t proper typography, and you quiver when they appear in writing.
  5. It’s one space—not two—after periods.
  6. Your favorite authors are William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
  7. You dominate multiple Words with Friends games and strategically throw down words such as qi and za to further increase your lead.
  8. Excessive exclamation points drive you to drink.
  9. Unnecessary apostrophes such as 1990’s or 20’s ignite migraines.
  10. You have a special editing pen, and the color of your choice is always red.
  11. You edit copy with old-school proofreading marks such as STET.
  12. Your Twitter feed is full of best practices in grammar, hashtagged AP style.
  13. You never use “like” in any of your like writing.
  14. The Oxford comma is a serial offence.
  15. Words such as utilize and leverage aren’t in your diction.
  16. Your writing philosophy: deploying muscular verbs and varying sentence length.
  17. You call a colleague to debate the philosophical placement of commas (HT @Laura_PM).
  18. Chicago style doesn’t refer to deep-dish pizza.
  19. Compound modifiers? No sweat.
  20. You know how to “parse tree” a sentence.

I’ll be tweeting these signs with the hashtag #wordnerd and invite others to participate in the conversation by tweeting additional traits or posting them below as comments. Fellow word nerds unite!

Read more from Steve Vittorioso
  • AC

    I like the Oxford comma. It makes me feel balanced.

  • Stevie Godson

    How’s 17 out of 20?
    I agree with AC about the Oxford comma, by the way. I wrote a whole column about it, if you’re interested.

  • Bradley Walker

    I really like number 15. Why use an unnecessary word like utilize when you can keep it simple with use. Simplicity is often underestimated in writing.

  • Debora

    A helpful blpogost, I just passed this onto a fellow worker who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I discovered it for him. smile.. So let me rephrase that: Thnkx for the treat! But yeah Thank you for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and enjoy learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is very helpful for me. Big thumb up for this article!