coworkers are attacking people over grammar, responding to alumni networking requests, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Two coworkers are attacking people over grammar

At my company, we have a couple of grammar fanatics who go out of their way to correct people even when they’re not in the conversation. Sometimes this will even occur during important one-on-one meetings on projects that have tight deadlines. These two people will interject to say exactly what we said wrong, and how we should have said it. It annoys everyone, and we tried several times to get them to stop correcting everyone to no avail.

We have tried several things like stating that we don’t care if we are saying it wrong, throwing the logic out that if you understand what I am saying there is no need for correction, and some of us have even started changing our speaking habits so that we can stop being pestered over little mistakes. We have even found that sometimes they’re actually wrong on how they corrected us. When we confront them with this, they get extremely defensive, and more or less call all of us stupid for trying to look up something we clearly can’t understand.

I am at a loss of what to do here. At first I didn’t mind the occasional feedback, but they are starting to get more and more aggressive with their corrections and starting to blatantly call people under-educated, unprofessional, or just out right stupid. Half of me thinks its time to go to their manager (they have the same manager), but in the past when other coworkers would go to the manger over other issues with these two people, there would be a backlash from them. They would say that everyone is too “sensitive” and “can’t pull up their big boy/girl pants so they had to go to management.”

Is this something we should even bring up, or are we being too sensitive? Would just ignoring it be better to keep the relationship up with two people who I really don’t see leaving the company any time soon? (Seriously, several people have gone to their manager over similarly obnoxious things and nothing has come out of it.)

Normally would this would be something to address with their manager, because not only are they being annoying by weaponizing grammar like this, but they’re actually insulting people. Regularly, it sounds like.

But if your experience is that their manager won’t act, then you might be better off just ignoring them. They interject to correct something, and you just going right on talking as if you didn’t hear them. Or, when they correct you, you can say “I’m not interested in grammar corrections while I’m in casual conversation” — and repeat that as needed. There’s also, “It’s so weird that you think that’s appropriate” — but with the way you’ve described their hostility, I’d lean away from anything that might spur further engagement or attacks.

It’s also pretty messed up that their manager is allowing aggressively hostile behavior like insulting people, and you might consider whether there’s anyone else you could bring this to — your own manager or, ideally, someone who’s senior to their manager and has a track record of being willing to take on problems. If you do, part of the message to that person needs to be that these two have a history of attacking anyone who complains about them, and so part of addressing the grammar weaponization has to include laying out clear prohibitions on that as well.

2. Information interview requests from fellow alumni

I’m wondering what you think of the career advice that tells current students or recent alumni of your university to reach out to you, as an alum, without ever having met you, asking to learn more about the work you do or where you work because they’re interested in doing the same thing. I find this happens mostly on LinkedIn because that’s where you can see where someone went to school (assuming it’s on their profile) and send them a message even if you’re not connected.

I had heard that advice before and thought it made sense — school pride and all. But now that I’m on the receiving end of these requests, it feels odd and I’m hesitant to agree. I’ve never met the person, and I have absolutely no connection with them beyond having gone to the same university (no mutual friend or anything). But then I also feel like a “bad” alum for not being willing to help out someone who’s in a position where I used to be.

What do you/your readers think? Is this good advice to give to current students (or recent alumni)? Do most people have a more positive reaction than me, and are more open to helping out?

A lot of people do feel a connection to people from their school and are more willing to help them. The thinking is that you’ve had a shared experience, to some extent have a shared frame of reference, and are part of the same network, and you may have benefitted from alumni’s willingness to help you (or might benefit from it in the future).

But some people don’t feel any particular connection to fellow alums. If you’re in the latter group, that’s perfectly okay; you’re not ever obligated to grant strangers’ requests for your time. (Although if you found that alums helped you when you were starting out, you really should pay it forward to keep that network going.)

But enough people do feel that connection and are willing to help that it’s still worthwhile advice to give out.

3. My new manager accused me of timesheet fraud

I am stunned by an email I just received from my new manager. She has rejected my timesheet because she believes I padded my hours on last week’s timesheet. I work part-time in the field and assist sales reps doing customer visits, trainings, and sales presentations. She went through my timesheet line by line and explained how it wasn’t possible that I worked the hours that I had recorded.

She is mistaken. When recording hours, the system is not great and allows very limited room for notes or description. All hours are recorded on one of two timesheets, either customer-facing or non-customer-facing.

Last week at 7 am on Monday morning, I got a call from my manager and one of the reps requesting I extend the assignment I had that week from an overnight to a full five-day week. Many coworkers were unable to attend a conference due to extreme weather and despite record-breaking extreme weather. I agreed to help. I proceeded to field phone calls from the rep and my manager as the schedule was worked out and travel arrangements were made and I rearranged things to be gone for the week instead of overnight. I recorded this time (from 7 am until I left my house at 9:45 am) as non-customer-facing time. My manager emailed explaining it was impossible that I was driving at that time based on the time arrived, etc. I never said I was driving, I simply indicated that I was working and not customer-facing. This is one example of many she listed throughout the timesheet submitted.

I am blown away. I think I have been accused of committing timesheet fraud through an email and don’t even know how to respond.

It sounds like you need to more explicitly explain to her how you were using that time; she may not realize you were doing work tasks during that time. (It’s even possible she doesn’t consider those activities to be work time, although she should.) That of course doesn’t make it okay for her to accuse you of misreporting your hours; if she has questions, she should ask them, not make accusations.

The best way to respond is to indicate that you take that kind of accusation really seriously. Say something like this: “I take the accuracy of my timesheets seriously. Misreporting my time would be a serious violation, and I’m taken aback to hear you’re worried I would do that intentionally. I’m attaching a detailed account of how my time was spent on the days in question. As you can see, all the time I reported was for work activities. Can you please confirm that this clears this up, and that there aren’t questions about my integrity?”

4. Are my hands keeping me from getting jobs?

I’ve been out of the full-time-employment game for a little over six months now but have been doing freelance work and applying for jobs every single day. I’m doing phone or in-person interviews almost every weekday which is good and promising, but nothing has stuck. I’ve had a litany of different circumstances lead to me not getting a job (positions losing funding, employer ghosting, interviewers finding a better candidate, etc.) but lately I’ve only been getting one in-person interview before I get the dreaded “thanks but no thanks” email.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out just what could be going wrong so I can find a reasonable solution. I’m preparing for interviews the best I can, I’m dressing professionally (though on some days, my non-offensive forearm tattoos are visible — but if they can’t deal with that I don’t want to work there). I worry it may be the state of my hands.

I gesture a lot when I speak as well as take hand-written notes in interviews to help keep me on track and lessen my anxiety. I am a chronic nail-biter and cuticle picker and the stress of job hunting has made it almost worse than ever. My hands, particularly my thumbs, look a little worse-for-wear these days. Do prospective employers actually care about stuff like that or am I being a little paranoid?

It is very, very unlikely that having hands in rough shape is preventing you from getting hired. I mean, maybe if they looked like they had gangrene, in which case some unconscious bias might creep in, but bitten nails and picked-at cuticles are not likely to be a big deal. Most people won’t even notice. (To be clear, there are some hiring managers who have nitpicky things they hold against people — the the person who scrutinizes candidates’ shoes or how clean their car is or so forth, but those people are outliers, not the norm. They’re also bad at hiring.)

The exception to this is if you’re applying for jobs that expect an unusually high degree of polish — like some types of fundraising, pharmaceutical rep, hand model, etc. But otherwise, your hands are probably fine.

5. Leaving a thank-you note immediately after your interview.

Is it okay to leave a thank-you card with the interviewers immediately afterwards?

Don’t do it! If you arrive with pre-written thank-you notes, you lose out on the whole benefit of sending a post-interview note. The point of the note is supposed to be to indicate that you reflected on the interview and are still interested in the job, and to build on the conversation you had. You can’t do either of those things if you wrote them beforehand.

Plus, it makes the note look entirely perfunctory — like “I heard I’m supposed to send these, so here, I’m checking that off my list.”

{ 530 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Holy Toledo, OP#1, what is wrong with these people? First, how do they have so much extra time to eavesdrop and “correct” others, and second, why do they think it’s remotely acceptable to routinely insult your coworkers? If the manager has been useless in the past, I would escalate the issue to their manager’s manager or to HR (assuming both are functional), as Alison notes. You may also want to report this to your manager if you’re supervised by different people.

    Don’t focus on the grammar correction—focus on the disruption of productivity and routine harassment of coworkers for completely unimportant reasons. And assuming you’re in the U.S., you may want to consider reporting this as bullying because it puts the managers on notice that they may be open to legal risk. There are an increasing number of states that have anti-bullying in the workplace laws, and most of those laws open the company up to liability.

    Ignore them when they talk about someone not wearing their “big boy” pants—people who routinely trade in banal insults do not merit consideration or brainspace. Don’t feed their crazy by engaging with them with logic or any other counterarguments. Treat them like monkeys at the zoo flinging poop (i.e., amused disgust, ignoring, and lots of loudly speaking stares with “wtf?” expressions).

    1. Jasnah*

      Yeah, their corrections are not about being helpful or educational. They “blatantly call people under-educated, unprofessional, or just out right stupid”! There is nothing logical or reasonable you could say to convince them to stop–they are so desperate to feel superior that they are reaching for anything to put you down. This needs to be escalated to their/your managers/HR, and I would outright ignore them when they correct you, or say “Knock it off” and continue with whatever I was saying.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If the corrections were in written, public facing communication, I’d understand the reasoning. But spoken conversation? Who cares? Unless the ungrammatical are your own junior employees, you let it go.

        As for their correctness: The blog comment rule is that most spelling/grammar corrections themselves contain a spelling or grammatical error. I imagine the record is similar for spoken grammar derailments, it’s just easier to bluff without the written record of who said what.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I have been in publishing for over 20 years. I am careful in print. I allow myself to relax in conversation. And if I’m seriously trying to learn something, all I care about is the content – I’ve been known to say “I’ll probably slip and use the old vocabulary for this but let me explain how I understand it so you can tell me I’ve got the concept right, before I write it down.”

          I would not return a copy-edited document to a co-worker without having been requested to do so. Likewise I would not give immediate grammar feedback in spoken conversation unless someone has asked me to do so. (I’ve had that request from friends born overseas who are consciously working to improve their English skills, and Toastmaster’s looks for grammar feedback.)

          It also sounds like these co-workers are eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation — and that is another layer of inappropriate that should be addressed.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            This. I am as bad a grammar fanatic as any sane person needs to be and I would tell these people where to stuff it.

            1. Anonandon*

              Right? I’m a grammar nut, but I recognize that most people are not and find that input neither helpful nor welcome. The only time I put on my “grammar hat” is if someone specifically requests me to review something they’ve written.

            2. emmelemm*

              Exactly. Bad grammar hurts me in my soul; I was raised by an English teacher. But only in really, really rare circumstances would I think there was any opportunity to correct someone *out loud*. Usually I just grimace in my head.

              1. Wintermute*

                Exactly, there are TWO and only two times when it’s appropriate to nitpick spelling and grammar.

                The first is when it’s customer-facing and would hurt the image of the company, the second is when the alteration changes the fundamental meaning of what was said so that you’re unclear what they actually intended to say.

          2. xarcady*

            Yes, this. I’m and editor. I correct written work all day long–my company cannot allow typos of any kind. I never say anything about people’s speech, because that’s different.

            Why the OP’s company seems to have attracted two members of the Obnoxious Grammar Police, I cannot fathom.

            If one of them told me that a minor slip in spoken English indicated that I was uneducated or stupid, I’d have a difficult time refraining from pointing out that their constant nitpicking makes them look terribly insecure.

            1. delta cat*

              “If one of them told me that a minor slip in spoken English indicated that I was uneducated or stupid, I’d have a difficult time refraining from pointing out that their constant nitpicking makes them look terribly insecure.”

              Especially since these types of people are usually parroting something that they picked up in sixth grade English that (a) they’re misapplying because they didn’t fully understand it, or (b) isn’t a real rule of English anyway, just a relic of an old-timey attempt to impose Latin grammar on a Germanic language. (Or (c) a dialect difference, which is a whole different level of obnoxious.)

              I have a background in linguistics, and I’m enough of a nerd about it that I actually could get into the weeds with someone trying to explain why their correction is incorrect, just because language is so interesting, and these misapplied or incorrect “rules” can reveal some really cool things about how language actually works.

              The wide-eyed, oblivious enthusiasm about how totally neat grammar is doesn’t tend to come so easily when the other person is being obnoxious about it… which is a shame.

              1. matcha123*

                I also have a background in linguistics, and I would be willing to bet that someone who feels confident calling out “errors” in spoken English has probably never set foot in a linguistics class or cracked open a book on linguistics.
                People have strong opinions on what is Correct English, and when they barf up a line of prescriptive grammar rules, people assume that the speaker must know their stuff. *rolls eyes*

          3. iglwif*


            I worked in publishing for 2 decades — mostly as a copy editor, line editor, and proofreader, meaning it was literally my job to spend all day correcting people’s grammar (and other stuff).

            In writing. While being paid to do it. Not in meetings or conversations! Not when it was totally irrelevant!! Not in a mean, snarky, haha-you-suck way!!!

              1. AnnaBananna*

                I would – but only if it was my own child. You know, a young person that doesn’t know better, not a full grown a$$ person.

                I bet there’s actually only one bully, and one parrot. Get rid of the bully and the parrot becomes a total bunny kiss a$$ when they’re left on their own.

          4. TootsNYC*

            also–in speech, we don’t get to edit ourselves. We start the sentence with a singular subject (“I”), and mentally switch over to “us” before we get to the end.

            We’re thinking and composing at the same time.

            I’m an editor as well, and I do NOT correct people’s speech. Hell, I don’t even have energy to NOTICE things very often.

            I will say, if I have a colleague who makes a mistake more than once, and I think they’ll be a stronger colleague if they know the accurate form, I will approach them privately and tell them–always being careful to frame it that it comes from wanting them to make the best impression. And I’m really careful about who I do that with.

      2. Snark*

        I would upgrade “knock it off” to “Hey, piss up a rope, grammar nazi.” Or maybe just “f*ck off.”

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “Desperate to feel superior.”
        Bang on! <—Oh, wait, did I just end that sentence with a preposition? Bad grammar RUK!

        I fully admit that I will cringe if someone is really …off the charts… bad, whether speaking or writing. I can be very critical with formal writing (as opposed to internet comment sections), but even then unless it is within my purview to correct I rarely say anything eve if it's really, really, really bad.

      4. sfigato*

        It is also potentially really culturally insensitive. What if you have employees who are non-native speakers? what if you have employees who have less formal education? The idea that how well you adhere to the formal rules of the english language corresponds to intelligence is offensive. I know plenty of people who don’t talk so good who are smart and productive, and more than enough super-eloquent dumb dumbs.


        1. delta cat*

          Yes. Also, language disorders and learning disabilities are a thing that exist independently of overall intelligence.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, I’d just go “no one asked you” every time they said it. If they try to defend themselves, just repeat, “no one asked you,” and continue with the conversation.

      That or get a little spray bottle, like you would with a cat, but that might be pushing it.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, I think that IRL, the only possible time you could get away with a spray bottle is with a nonconsensual toucher (hugs, back rubs, etc.) – and even then, it’s a stretch. Still, it’s fun to imagine.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            (This made me smile thinking of how a handful of my co-workers used to get into Schmingus Dingus Day with tiny water pistols. Then our Polish instigator left the companies, others retired, and another got a major promotion…. by now only I have a water pistol in my desk drawer. Alas.)

        2. froodle*

          Though arguably more professional than calling co-workers uneducated or stupid. Gosh these co-workers sound like a GD ‘mare.

          1. Anonny*

            I am so glad I only meet these kinds of grammar pedants online, where I can block them. If I met them IRL, I’d probably just start screeching like a banshee and/or kicking them in the shins.

          1. MassMatt*

            Oh my god, I wish I had thought of bringing this cat discipline to work! I used to have a very tedious coworker, not a grammar nazi, but one who would argue every little thing to death, including (not kidding!) what TIME it was! Evidently he alone had the most accurate timepiece in all the world and everyone else’s was wrong. And that’s just for starters. Rattling a can at him would have been perfect.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Yeah, the trick is to be absolutely dismissive of them. Tone is everything. Grammar Nazis tend to be annoying about grammar because they don’t feel in control of other things in their lives, so they’ve picked up grammar as their thing. A well-delivered “whatever, loser” should cut deep and get them to back off.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          As sad as that is, I feel there’s some truth to that, I posted down below. But I personally would never have behaved this way w/ my coworkers when I was still like that.

        2. Zip Silver*

          People who try and police language and vocabulary like this are honestly as annoying as Grammar Nazi. It’s literally the same thing as what OP is describing in her letter.

          1. Crivens!*

            Definitely not. Pointing out that calling anything other than a Nazi (which, unfortunately, there are still plenty of) a Nazi can be offensive or outright hurtful is not the same thing as policing incorrect grammar, which does literally no harm to anyone.

          2. Lady Phoenix*

            Not really because “Nazi” is a word for a group of very vile people who seek the EXTERMINATION of people… which is a far cry from that insecure asshole that tries to correct the way you type.

        3. Dragoning*

          I understand that these coworkers are being outright insulting, but I don’t think calling them “loser” is going to help matters.

      2. Trek*

        I think a small horn blown in their face each time would correct them, also not professional but it would probably work.

      3. mcr-red*

        “No one asked you” – I’d definitely go with that. Or even, “I don’t care” and continue with the conversation. Honestly, when they get to straight up calling someone undereducated/stupid, I see nothing wrong with looking directly at them and saying, “Shut up.” I know its incredibly rude to tell another adult to shut up, but they’re being incredibly rude and sometimes it’s the best way to shock them into silence.

          1. A tester, not a developer*

            If they bug you about it being incorrect, you can reply with “Oh, I *could* care less – but it would take more effort than I’m willing to put forth on this”. :)

        1. Snark*

          Yeah. I very rarely think being insulting or profane with a colleague is ever a good idea, but the bridge here isn’t burned, it never existed.

        2. Lady Phoenix*

          I want a button where a super polite British Man or Woman says “Please, would you kindly Shut the eff up?”

        3. Burned Out Supervisor*

          If someone were to call me or someone else stupid, I’d go with a firm, “Please don’t talk that way about me/[person not in the room].” Make sure you look them dead in the eye with the most neutral face possible and then continue what you were saying. If they continue you can either continue to ignore it or you could, and this would be a very bold move, say something like “I’ve asked you to not call me/them stupid. Perhaps we should continue this conversation together in Manager’s office? As a matter of fact, let’s go right now!” and then GET UP and go to your manager, even if you’re in a meeting. It doesn’t matter if they go with you, or not, just that they know you’re going to talk to your manager. I know you’re worried about retaliation, but make sure you document everything. If your manager won’t listen or commit to addressing the behavior, I would keep going up the chain. No one deserves to be called stupid, either to their face or behind their back in meetings.

      4. TootsNYC*

        “no one asked you,”

        Love this.
        You should all use the exact same phrase, and you should never deviate. Not ever.

        Them: It shouldn’t be “targeted at,” it’s just “targeted,” the “at” is implied because it’s a transitive verb.
        You: No one asked you.
        Them: But you should get it right.
        You: “No one asked you.”
        Them: You’re ignorant if you keep using it wrong.
        You: No one asked you.
        Them: But Julie won’t understand what you mean.
        Julie: No one asked you.
        Them: You guys are rude.
        Julie and you: No one asked you. (bonus points if you can get good enough at this that you say it in unison.

        1. AKchic*

          Not only in unison, but with blank expressions and with absolutely no inflections when saying it. Completely deadpan. “Come play with us…”

          If anyone has a handheld tally counter handy, it would be amusing (to me) to see if someone could start clicking *that* anytime those two started in on their would-be grammar policing. Then a secondary clicker for every time someone has to say “no one asked you” (because they felt the need to argue). Maybe the clicking could retrain them. Or, it would at least be noticeable enough for them to realize that they are now being documented or tracked in some way new and they aren’t exactly sure what the purpose is for.

          The purpose of the counting? To see how many times a day/week they “correct”. Take bets. How many times they argue after being told off. What the record is for saying “no one asked you” in one interaction or one day. At least make a game of it if it’s something you are now required to go through.

        2. MM*

          I’m really glad I’m not in OP’s situation, because while I have no interest in going around correcting people, I am deeply interested in *grammar*, and would get sucked into debating with them since clearly it’s something they want to talk about (and in my experience, people who love to make this kind of pedantic correction are often wrong). This occurs to me now because my immediate inner response to your comment was immediately to think of all the situations in which the preposition actually is necessary. (The passive voice, or a sentence including both a direct and an indirect object, or…)

          1. delta cat*

            Oh hi MM, are you me? I could grammar nerd all day. And I have a particular fondness for those “rules” of grammar and usage that don’t mean what most people think they do, or that are outright wrong, because they open doors to some really interesting things about grammar and about variations in usage and about the history of language, and, and, and…

            I’m pretty sure I’d bore those grammar police to tears.

          2. Wintermute*

            Indeed! Often pedants of this type fall into the typical hypercorrection traps rather predictably, or internalize rules which are actually subjective and far from set in stone. E.g. the idea that sentences shouldn’t be ended with prepositions is really a fringe idea from one specific prescriptive grammarian that never had wide acceptance until it was included in elementary school curricula. It was always, and continues to be, perfectly good English to end a sentence with a preposition.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Wintermute, I completely agree. As an amateur linguist, I absolutely *love* it when I’m able to cut down some grammar pedant with my version of AYCHUALLY…

              However, you will pry the Oxford Comma from my cold, dead hands. (I know, punctuation and not grammar but when it’s not employed, some rather amusing grammar issues arise.)

          3. TootsNYC*

            there are no situations in which the preposition is necessary.

            A marketing campaign targets the under-34 crowd; it is never targeted at the under-34 crowd. As for the passive construction, well, transitive verbs don’t belong in passive construction. And transitive verbs always take a direct object, so there’s no confusion there.

            Now, I tend to be an “English is a democracy” type person, so the “targeted at” construction is used enough that I can’t really argue that someone is wrong–but “target” is a transitive verb, and it does not need the help of any preposition to hold onto an object. And I always change it when I find it.

      5. TinLizi*

        I think a cold, “Please, don’t interrupt me,” and turning back to the person you’re talking to would do it.

      6. Glitsy Gus*

        This would actually be my tactic. “This conversation does not concern you,” and then look at them until they go away. Just let the awkward linger and keep repeating “this doesn’t concern you,” until they go away. This is, of course, assuming they are interrupting a conversation they are not a part of.

        If they are part of the conversation then, “I am not concerned with that right now,” and again, silence until they stop. I think especially if they pull this in a meeting a good, “wow, that is not the thing we need to be focusing on right now,” and then go right back on topic. Just diffuse and redirect and don’t give them any kind of energy to feed on (or should I say ‘energy on which to feed’ ;) ).

    3. Kit-Kat*

      I might also focus on how they are interrupting one on ones? It doesn’t seem appropriate for them to insert themselves in serious conversations between others unless it’s an emergency request.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The more I think about it, the more I agree with this concept. Ignore the content of their interruption and focus on the interruption itself: “This is a private discussion. Please stop eavesdropping, or at least stop interrupting us when we’re on deadline. Every time you interrupt us delays our project.”

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Wait, are they eavesdropping on and interrupting other people’s one on ones? That’s bonkers. Somehow the way I read it was that each of these people would pipe up during their own one on ones, and tell the other person “your grammar is incorrect”, but that did not make a lot of sense.

        1. AKchic*

          When my 2nd son would interrupt to “correct” adults, we had to go to extreme measures. For some reason, he got it into his head that he was the smartest person in the world. We blame a couple of teachers at school who inflated his little ego and let him get away with interrupting all the time. Unfortunately, at the age of 9, he did not have the tact, or the common sense to understand that he wasn’t the smartest person in the world, and was frequently wrong, and didn’t have all the information at hand. So, when he was interrupting people, after only hearing part of the conversation, he was giving out not only erroneous information, but completely off-the-wall information to boot. No amount of reasoning would get through to him that he was being rude. He *knew* he was helpful and smart and dammit, the adults *needed* his advice. We had to get tough on him. If he interrupted, it literally was “this is an A/B conversation, C your way out” and we would turn our backs on him and ignore him until we were done. Unless it was a life or death emergency, we would ignore him. It took him 3 months because my mother couldn’t bring herself to doing it when she had him, until he embarrassed her in public with some ridiculous interruption while she was talking to someone that she finally came around. Within a week of all adults ignoring his interruptions, he stopped interrupting.
          He’s 16 now, and does not interrupt and correct people.

          I’m wondering if treating these two like children might work.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I had to employ something similar with my now-13 year old who felt the need to not only insert herself into *every* conversation, but offer correction and/or criticism as well.

            The stock answer became, “We are talking. When we want your input, we’ll ask for it.” Made her nuts but it finally worked.

    4. Al-ster*

      Ahh Grammar Fanatics, don’t you just love them. What I do to shut them down is to ask what period of grammar they are quoting from, historically speaking. Then they need to prove this. As grammar has changed over time and location there is no right or wrong grammmar, only accepted norms. So if their grammar is for instance 1950’s US standard they need to say so and then you can say that you do not follow that grammatical period.

        1. Carlie*

          That was going to be my retort too: “No thanks, I’m a descriptivist!”
          Seriously, these people are ridiculous. And by their actions, classist and xenophobic as well, since requiring perfect grammar is a way to stigmatize people who didn’t get the best schooling or who are speaking in a second or third language.

          1. De-Archivist*


            Strunk and White can pry ending sentences in prepositions from my cold, dead hands.

            Composition and rhetoric person here. I write a lot about “right to language” and Standardized (over Standard) English. I can’t stand people’s “helpfully” correcting conversational vernacular. One, that’s not how people learn. Two, how dare people use their purported education as a cudgel against their colleagues. It’s straight up bullying, and grammar just happens to be the weapon of choice.

          2. pope suburban*

            Yes, this! They’re also being quite rude to people with learning differences, or hearing/speech issues, so they are really going for the gold in Being Objectively Terrible. I agree that they’re bet not engaged, but rather dismissed with a “No one asked you,” or “And?”

            I’m pretty upset that they are descending into personal attacks, and that management will apparently accept this. Like, seriously, there are things that are not work-appropriate, full stop, and one would think that a couple of self-styled geniuses would know that. It’s a shame that I think shutting them down with “That’s not work-appropriate” would likely just blow up in everyone’s faces, because, well, it IS work-inappropriate. Shockingly so. I think this may be a workplace of bees.

        2. froodle*

          I wish we could post gifs because this is the perfect comment for the clip of Kelso shouting “BURN!!” from That 70s Show

      1. Bluesboy*

        I do genuinely love this, and would like to do the same myself (and actually do with one colleague who is trying to insist that in my second language I should use a form that was really already out of date 50 years ago)…but I think the issue is more serious here. It’s not about the grammar anymore, it’s about the rudeness and the insulting people.

        Ideally the manager would fix it, but it seems that isn’t going to happen. So the aim has to be to try and keep the workplace as pleasant as possible, and get the work done. For me, the best thing in this case is just a bright “Thanks!” and then move on with the conversation as though they hadn’t interrupted.

        They can’t say you were rude, you thanked them. They haven’t dramatically disrupted the conversation, you moved on immediately. You avoid confrontation, but still get to carry on with what you are doing.

        Must admit though, I would find it more satisfying to call them out (“You don’t still follow Strunk do you? How quaint!”). I just don’t think it’s the right call in dealing with these people, and with an ineffective manager.

      2. MattKnifeNinja*

        Stealing Grammar Fantatics.

        They are using the excuse of bad grammar to drag their coworkers as sub human. Bad grammar? It would take everything in my power not to go Sam Kinison on them.

        I have relatives that are wannabe Gore Vidals or Bill Buckleys (both politics and in speech). They slam everyone so their sun is higher in the heavens than the great unwashed. They leave me a lone after a few go f*ck offs.

        It’s not about grammar, it’s control. I might fire this up as a reduction in productivity, but in reality it’s bullying.

    5. KimberlyR*

      And if you go to HR or another manager, mention your fear of retaliation. That’s another buzzword that should make them pay attention.

        1. AKchic*

          As well as “potential racial, economical, and educational background discrimination by their continued, pointed harassments”.

    6. WellRed*

      I cannot believe there are people in the world who attack people’s VERBAL grammar and you actually have two at your office. I agree with Alison’s advice but definitely think you need to bring this up again to … someone.
      Also, the first time someone calls me stupid, I’d pause and then ask, “Did you just call me stupid?” I’d love to hear the reply to that.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        They are probably feeding off each other’s behavior – escalating because it feels safe to with someone else doing it to. I’d bet they bonded over how they feel superior to everyone else. The social repercussions aren’t as bad for them because they already had a friend. If there was only one of them it probably wouldn’t be that bad, and they would have to face the fact that no one else in the office liked them.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        There have been exactly two people whose grammar (verbal) I have ever corrected. The first one was my son because…he was a child learning language. The second is Husband because English is only his seventh (yes, really) language, I taught him to speak English. Ergo gently, encouragingly, etc. correcting grammar went along with the territory. He’s basically completely fluent now and has been for a long time, though he will occasionally ask me for the “past/future” tense of ‘X’ word…though there are plenty of native English speakers who do that kind of thing as well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    7. J*

      >”focus on the disruption of productivity and routine harassment of coworkers for completely unimportant reasons.”


      The grammar correcting isn’t the real problem, here. It is the symptom but not the cause. The *real* problem is that you work with toxic assholes. And it very much is the manager’s problem to solve, because when team members don’t trust each other, and hurl insults and abuse, they are degrading the performance of the entire team. Teams work best when they feel safe and believe they are being helped and supported by their team-mates. This is the exact opposite.

      But yeah, OP really has three options: (1) Bring it to the manager’s attention with a well-crafted argument about how it damages productivity. (2) Treat them the way you would treat any other bully, by establishing and then ruthlessly defending your boundaries. You tell them LOUDLY that their behavior is not okay, and you can’t let even a single remark go unchallenged. (3) You get out, because you are dealing with toxic co-workers and apathetic managers.

    8. anon*

      OP#1 – these coworkers sound just like the fool in the Mitchell and Webb sketch ‘Grammar Nazis’. (It’s almost exactly what these people are doing, only with guns). It’s on youtube and pretty funny.

      Correcting people’s grammar, unless it’s (say) your own children or you’re a teacher, is incredibly low class and rude. I like Alison’s ‘It’s weird that you think it’s appropriate

      1. AnonAnon*

        The grammar thing is the symptom and not the cause. The *real* problem is that they are hateful, toxic, bullies. Correcting grammar is just the way they express that fact.

        1. straws*

          This, exactly. I’m a grammar enthusiast, although probably not at the fanatic level. I don’t correct people unless asked or something egregious is being sent somewhere important. If someone corrects me, I’m mildly embarrassed but mostly excited to learn something new. Their behavior is ridiculous.

          1. CarolynM*

            Seriously! Unless I am asked or its my explicit role, I am not going to correct your grammar! Not like I am anywhere close to perfect, and who likes a pedant?

            (But I will always secretly agree and giggle INTERNALLY, TO MYSELF whenever someone I don’t particularly care for says “I’m nauseous.” XD )

            1. Myrin*

              Isn’t that correct usage, though? Asking earnestly, since I’m not a native English speaker. I know that it can mean “nausea-inducing”, which I think you’re referring to, but isn’t it also a valid way of saying “I want to throw up”?

              1. gecko*

                It is, of course–and I get the feeling you know this but it’s always worth emphasizing—but that’s the issue with folks who correct grammar or word usage. If a grammatical construction or a use of a word would feel correct to someone who speaks the same dialect as you, then by definition it must be correct.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  Yup, and in general, people who are sooo annoyed by “wrong grammar” only think it’s wrong because old Mr. Johnson the English teacher told them in second grade that it was, and they’ve kept on believing it for decades.

              2. KimberlyR*

                “I’m nauseated” is the correct way to say that you need to throw up. If something is nauseous, it causes the nausea. So if you say that, you are basically saying that you cause people to throw up.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  well, what do you mean by “correct”?
                  Meaning 2 at says “nauseous” means “affected by nausea.”

                  And here is their usage note:

                  Nauseous vs. Nauseated: Usage Guide
                  Those who insist that nauseous can properly be used only to mean “causing nausea” and that its later “affected with nausea” meaning is an error for nauseated are mistaken. Current evidence shows these facts: nauseous is most frequently used to mean physically affected with nausea, usually after a linking verb such as feel or become; figurative use is quite a bit less frequent. Use of nauseous to mean “causing nausea or disgust” is much more often figurative than literal, and this use appears to be losing ground to nauseating. Nauseated is used more widely than nauseous when referring to being affected with nausea.

                  The words switched (or maybe expanded is a better term) meanings a few years ago.

                2. Spencer Hastings*

                  This is factually incorrect. The OED has pretty continuous attestations of “nauseous” with that definition dating as far back as 1839, from sources including medical journals and major newspapers. So this doesn’t even fall into the category of “things that are unobjectionable in speech but avoided by careful writers” — it’s a pretty venerable usage even in writing!

                  Furthermore, there was an even older meaning of “nauseous” that could be used to describe people — it meant that someone was generally inclined to nausea (and the progression from a term describing a general disposition to a term describing a specific instance is pretty easy to understand). In 1651, you could say things like “It may be given to children or those that are of a nauseous stomach”. Today, “he is nauseous” means “he is experiencing nausea right now” rather than “he habitually experiences nausea” like it originally did, but to say that describing people as “nauseous” is some kind of bad innovation is just wrong.

              3. Spencer Hastings*

                Yup, that’s exactly right, and the latter meaning has been around since at least 1839, according to the OED: “In speaking of the effect of bloodletting, Mr. Lizars says that ‘the patient feels nauseous and sick even to vomiting’.”

                The first attestation of the word in the OED is also a meaning that describes a person — it was used to mean “prone to nausea” (which is a meaning it no longer has in present-day English). The first attestations of that meaning and the “causing nausea” one are pretty close together, though (1613 vs. 1618).

                So yes, someone who insists that “I feel nauseous” is incorrect is almost 200 years behind the times. Even more, if the archaic definition (1a in the OED) is taken into account.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  And, heck, even if this were not true, that wouldn’t change the fact that “nauseous” is more commonly used to mean “sick to one’s stomach” in current US English (at least), and the nausea-inducing things are more commonly described as “nauseating”.

                2. Myrin*

                  @ your second comment because I’m out of nesting: Yeah, that’s what I’d figured from how I’d seen both of these expressions being used, but reading that comment I suddenly wasn’t sure anymore (it’s totally possible I’d only ever seen people use it wrongly and then it stuck with me, so I wanted to make sure).
                  Also, I’m geeking-out over your first comment. I have an academics background so yes please give me all of the sources and citations!

                3. Spencer Hastings*

                  Yeah! And I know that not everyone has access to resources like the OED (I’m lucky to still have a university login that gets me into databases), but the domain of usage and “grammar” is one where people seem to care shockingly little about whether their beliefs are actually true and well-supported. People enjoy using their “knowledge” for social signalling way too much to bother with fact-checking.

              4. CarolynM*

                Yes – it is accepted use both ways – in the strictest definition, nauseous means nausea-inducing, but it’s so commonly used to express feeling nauseated that it’s ridiculous not to understand it that way, too.

                It think I was less clear than I intended? It’s something that I think internally – to myself! I don’t say that to the person or start laughing at them! :) I do not correct the person or insist they used it wrong (because THAT would be wrong – it is common usage to mean feeling nauseated!), it just makes me laugh to myself (not out loud!) if I happen to find the person nauseous as well … that’s all! I tried to make that clear by saying that no one likes pedants and emphasizing that these thoughts are kept to myself in my original comment, but it seems I have expressed myself badly.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              I have a coupel that will just make me really cringe.

              1. “I don’t feel good” bugs the hell out of me. It *must* be “I don’t feel well.” Because I say so!

              2. The “I/me” thing being used incorrectly. Ex: “This is s picture of Stand and I” when it should be “Stan and me.” I get it, “I” being ‘correct’ has been drilled into our heads since birth, but it isn’t always correct.

              I still don’t go around correcting people, particularly adults or others not directly under my influence.

              1. CatMintCat*

                I was always taught (in the 60s) to remove the other person from the sentence and see how it worked. Would I say “This is a picture of I”? Of course I wouldn’t, so “This is a picture of Stand and me” is correct. “Molly and me went to the shops”. Would I say “Me went to the shops”? Nope, so that should me “Molly and I …”.

                That’s what I teach in my classroom today.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yup. I probably qualify as a Grammar Fanatic, but I was also raised with manners, and no one likes being corrected. (Working on this with my pedantic 10-year-old right now.) My mom was an English teacher and was a stickler with her own children, in her own home, probably because she knew someone was going to knock off a few IQ points for the accent to start with, but that is NOT the same as walking around in life correcting people in whose conversations you’re not even participating! That’s just insanely rude behavior, and I’m disappointed neither of their managers have told them to knock it off.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I was also raised with manners,

            There’s a rejoinder you guys could use!
            When they interrupt, just say, “Manners!” in a slightly outraged tone (like Steve Rogers says “Language!” to Tony Stark).

            1. AKchic*

              I like this. If they want to make themselves Grammar Police, then everyone will just have to appoint themselves the Manners Police and patrol accordingly.

    9. restingbutchface*

      Princess CBH, you’re right as usual.
      OP#1, I would be incandescent with rage if I worked with these people. I think you should follow the advice here but it’s such a hot button topic for me that I would just go bananas. Being called stupid is something that I can’t manage, probably due to the fact my education wasn’t great and I taught myself a lot. I still mispronounce a lot of words and it is humiliating when people point this out.

      Anyway, just wanted to post in case there is someone like me in your office who didn’t have the best start in life and can’t be as calm about this as others. I would be devastated, so if you can do anything, please please do.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        As an aside to you, RBF … I have the highest respect for self-taught people. The most successful businessman I ever knew? He never made it past 8th grade because his dad died and he got a job to help pay food & rent for his mom & siblings.
        His reasoning skills were impeccable, as were his evaluations of people and product and markets — Really when you come down to it, that’s the key to success right there.

        (He told me he always watched the bosses so he could act & dress like them…and taught me that dressing well didn’t indicate someone’s worth because ANYONE could buy a good set of clothes. And anyone could have an accident ruin the outfit.)

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, don’t get me started. Show of hands: how many single women have encountered educated, well-dressed jerks and creeps? And how many less-educated, casually dressed gentlemen?
          And that’s just one example of hundreds.

        2. restingbutchface*

          Oh my gosh, what a story. To me, that businessman is the definition of success. Just going along with what’s handed to you (like your parents paying for three degrees) isn’t that impressive to me. I’m proud I got my “sub par” degree while cleaning toilets at night. This post made me write to Alison to ask how to manage when people don’t agree with me though, so maybe she will reply!

          1. Michaela Westen*

            IMHO degrees are the new weapon of the classists. When they could no longer get away with discriminating by race and gender, they started using degrees as their weapon. :/

      2. KTB*

        I had a great education, and I still regularly mispronounce words because I’ve only ever seen them in print. I’ve always been fascinated by language and have always had an expansive vocabulary, which can cause me to embarrass myself when I bust out a new word verbally.

        All of that is to say, RBF, that I would also want to strangle both of these pedantic jerks, and your feelings are 100% valid. I also hate being called stupid and would not react in a particularly professional manner after about the second time.

    10. LQ*

      Definitely don’t feed them.

      …well maybe a little. Don’t feed them logic. Stuff them full of errors until they explode. I worked with one of these once. I had a slight habit of making up words/using words inappropriately but effectively. I leaned hard into that tendency. I did it with great joviality and pure unadulterated glee when they’d get upset. Luckily most people were already annoyed with this person and were unbothered by me so when this person would turn to others there wasn’t sympathy. Dealing with two definitely means they are feeding off each other which makes it a lot harder.

      Watching them attack and when they leave shrugging and laughing and getting back to it is a good tactic.

      (But yeah, grammar as a weapon is a pretty classist and racist thing.)

        1. Renamis*

          This was my suggestion too! Go to the manager and if they really won’t do anything, just… make up stuff. Get worse and worse. Eventually they’ll either stop or get so bad that management has to step in. Either or.

      1. LCL*

        Another effective tactic in the same spirit is to really dumb down your language to caveman speak and talk real slow every time they correct you. Then watch their eyes bug out.

    11. Arya*

      I am the writer of OP#1, first THANK YOU EVERYONE! I feel so empowered and motivated after reading everyone’s response. I should clarify that their manager really dose care about this stuff and has in the past reprimanded these two for other behavior, but there is always this excuse of “We can’t do too much, because it is too hard to re-hire for their positions” that gets thrown out. It drives me nuts that a company would be enslaved by their employees this much, and I think it is a pretty lame excuse.

      I also have an update! One of the higher ups was in my office yesterday and during our conversation about a yearlong project I have been working on, we were interrupted to be told that we misspoke. The look on the higher-up’s face was priceless! He turned around and pretty much said, “What the hell?” and then we continued. The two coworkers were so embarrassed and so far, haven’t corrected anyone (although it has only been a day). But I think I am going to stick with that from now on. Just the blatant, “Why do you think that is appropriate?”

      Again, thank you everyone, this really helped! I honestly thought that we had done everything we could do, I love the new perspectives!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Any chance that higher-up is someone you can approach about the situation, framing it as “as you saw the other day…”? If it’s a big company and he’s more than a layer or two above you, you probably can’t — but if it’s a small company, that may be an option.

        1. Arya*

          It is a small company (about 50 people), so yeah I could go to him. I never thought of going to someone that isn’t their direct manager. I will try and speak with him today, and send in an update. Wow, I am so happy I wrote in!

          1. Sharrbe*

            You can even frame their behavior as a time management issue. Each time they interrupt someone they are taking their attention away from the tasks that they realistically should be doing. If I stopped and listened to the conversations around me I wouldn’t get any work done. These two are either willfully neglecting their job duties or don’t have enough to do and that’s a problem the bosses might respond to in a more proactive manner.

          2. AKchic*

            I am trying to muffle my cackling in my office right now.

            Seriously go to that manager and bring it up with him. All of it.

      2. DM Farmer*

        I have come across this kind of snarky behavior and have found the “Spock” eyebrow, “did you really walk in dog mess” mom look combination to be very effective in curtailing it. I don’t need to say a word, just the look usually has them fumbling and backing off.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        This made me cackle with glee.

        Added bonus, now that Boss has done the “what is wrong with you?” type response it kind of gives you extra confidence to use it yourself. Plus a well placed eye roll here or there if you so choose.

    12. Ann Nonymous*

      If you’re saying “I seen”, LW1, then I’m totally on the side of the grammar correctors! j/k! Seriously, what kinds of spoken grammar mistakes are you allegedly making?

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, to your broader question, I think it’s good advice if you also prep students/new alum on how to solicit an informational interview or reach out to another alumni in a tactful and considerate way. Sometimes people don’t realize that an informational interview is a generous courtesy, not an opportunity to try to hard-sell the interview into a job. (But it may increase their job prospects in the long term if done well.)

    I’m generally happy to take an informational interview without knowing the person, but I prefer to keep it to a short phone call unless the person develops a longer-term professional relationship (which requires more of an investment on both sides).

    But I also think it’s 100% ok for you to decline if it gives you agita or makes you uncomfortable in any way.

    1. Annette*

      Sometimes I get these requests and suspect the student has emailed 20 other alumnae an identical request. Other times they are tailored and specific. Over time LW will likely develop a sense for distinguishing between the two. Let that be her guide.

      1. Washi*

        One thing I do, especially if I think the student is kind of spamming alums, is write back to say that I don’t have time for an interview, but if they send me their questions by email, I’d be happy to give them my thoughts. Only a few people have ever done this, and then for those folks I’m glad to put in the effort to give them the information they are looking for!

      2. TootsNYC*

        I agree with this.

        I’m far enough away, geographically, from my alma mater that I’d absolutely take time out of my day for someone who pinged me on LinkedIn, even if they didn’t do much tailoring.

        but if I lived closer, I’d probably only make time for people who somehow appealed to me. They know someone I know; their approach was tailored to me.

        And I wouldn’t feel guilty in the slightest.

        As far as whether it’s good advice in general–I think it’s one of the areas that sort of can’t hurt, but I’d add the “be more personal, don’t let it look like a mass mailing” bit to my advice if I were giving it out.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          I was thinking the same thing. I don’t have a sentimental connection to my alma mater, but I no longer live where I went to school, so it would be more of a unique connection if a fellow alum reached out to me in my current city. I’d definitely meet for coffee if the request was tailored and showed that the person had at least looked at my LinkedIn profile enough to know what I do for work, and seemed genuinely interested in it. For a generic “I’d like to learn more about your job,” I’d be less inclined.

    2. Flash Bristow*

      *adds “agita” to my “words I’ve learnt” file*

      Thank you! I was interested to learn that it’s not derived from agitation, either, but from acid. Interesting! Yesterday’s word was lumpia; I learn a lot here.

      1. Mercurial*

        I’m exactly the same – looked it up, went “huh, interesting, I been eddycated today!” (and entirely failed to find the need to correct anyone’s grammar, I might add).

      2. TootsNYC*

        thanks for looking it up and mentioning its origins! I knew the word, but I’d never really looked into its etymology.

    3. BTDT*

      I’m in grad school and literally got advised yesterday to reach out to alumni for informational interviews. Ugh. I’ve done it twice in the past few months just to get a better idea of the state of the industry in my area (genuinely not interested in/asking for a job from the person) and it was helpful. But that was after being given actual names/emails for people who had previously agreed that being contacted was ok. Yesterday I was advised to do exactly what #2OP says – find random alumni on LI. I promise you the students messaging you know it’s super awkward and annoying. I couldn’t go through with it but I know other students who did. If you have even 10 minutes to give them good advice by phone or email it would be such a kindness (assuming the students seem genuine and have decent questions to ask).

    4. KTB*

      I went to two rather large schools for undergrad/grad school and I’ll generally respond if someone is very specific in their ask. I recently went to coffee with a grad student from my undergrad alma mater who made it clear that she was looking for my advice in particular about her potential career path. That kind of conversation can benefit both people, which is a nice perk. I also don’t get a ton of requests, so it’s easier to be generous with time in that regard.

      1. Belle8bete*

        I think it’s legit to make them do a little work to weed out the copy paste folk (like send me more specific questions, etc). But I know a lot of folks in my field who got help from someone when they were starting out, but then are loathe to help out others just starting out. I hate that bs. You know, “the cow forgot when she was a calf” type of thing.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, unless your cuticles look like Sadako’s from The Ring, they are not likely to be the reason job hunting has been tough. Unfortunately, it’s often the litany of reasons you described, which can be maddening because they seem chaotic and aren’t within your control. All you can do is polish up your resume, cover letter, and interview skills, and make sure that your qualifications align with the jobs you’re seeking. It sounds like you’ve probably done all of those things.

    I know job hunting can be crazy-making, but it may help to get some time each week when you put it entirely out of your mind? It may help make the arbitrariness feel less chaotic or cruel. I’m sorry it’s been so tough and anxiety producing. :(

    1. EPLawyer*

      As Alison has noted more than once, when job hunting, we tend to focus on every little thing hoping to find meaning that will unchaos the chaos. You have chosen to focus on your hands. I doubt your hands are holding you back. Even if they are, if you don’t want to work somewhere that your tattoos are a negative, you don’t want to work somewhere that your hands are judged.

      It is sadly just that things happen in job interviews. You are just not the right candidate for THAT particular job at the moment. Doesn’t mean the right one isn’t out there. Just hang in there. Check in here regularly for a pep talk.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      I kinda disagree here. I work with a colleague that constantly picks at his cuticles in meetings. He is extremely competent and excellent at his job. But when we have 1-on-1 meetings and he starts picking, it makes my skin crawl.

      Would picked-at cuticles and chewed on nails dissuade me from hiring someone? No, of course not. But if they picked at their cuticles during the interview? That could make a difference between two roughly equal candidates.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        My mom is a mostly-recovered cuticle-picker and nail-biter, and it drove me crazy and grossed me out (and I’m not easily grossed out, but your nails can harbor for so many things!). Her fingers were constantly a scabbed-over mess from the chewing and picking. She finally stopped about 10 years ago, and I still smack her hands when I see her starting to pick at them because she just doesn’t realize she’s doing it. I probably wouldn’t notice picked at hands in an interview either (because I’m very used to seeing them), but nail-biting or any sort of picking in an interview would give me pause, particularly because many of the roles are client-facing.

      2. Delphine*

        If you recognize this about yourself, I don’t think you should lean into it. It’s not good practice to make such a small, petty thing the deciding factor between two candidates–even if it happens a lot in the world.

      3. Kat in VA*

        I have a boss who chewed his nails and bit his cuticles (along with cracking his knuckles and clicking his pen) during meetings which made me entirely nuts.

        Half as a joke, half seriously, I bought him a set of magnetic balls and an aluminum infinity flipper cube for Christmas.

        Then got the magnetic balls for two other execs because they – as I put it – “Kept stealing and playing with Boss’ balls.” (I’m not above a joke every now and then.)

        I was told today by said Boss to buy – on the company credit card – several more of the infinity flipper cubes. I guess I was on to something? Boss doesn’t chew his cuticles any more!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I used to work with someone whose hands were distractingly chewed. It wasn’t the painfully short nails that was disturbing – it was that her hands were always at her mouth, even in flu season. Sometimes she dropped bits of nail & skin where she stood.

      It made me really aware of my own smaller-scale nail-biting habit, so I’ve been working on it ever since. I’m having luck with the trick of consciously putting my thumb against a finger in order to keep my hands still. Sometimes I squeeze my thumbnail into that finger, or rub thumb & finger together. It’s a more socially acceptable way to look nervous than putting your fingers into your mouth…and curling your fingers under also hides the nails if you’re uncomfortable.

      What I’ve found to help in the long-run is preventing my triggers: moisturizing in the morning (Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion unscented is my current favorite), keeping a nail file in my bag so I can rub away snags before my teeth find them, and using nail polish if I’m going to be under stress. (Admittedly I’m female… I don’t know if there’s a clear/matte option for men in conservative industries for this.)

      And really, it’s okay to be nervous & show it. Just do try to keep your hands away from your mouth until after you shake hands at the end of the interview, because that will draw more attention to your fingers than short nails alone.

      Break a leg!

      1. NicoleT*

        I have this problem and have found nail/cuticle oil to help immensely. I keep tiny roller bottles of it on my desk, in my coat, my car, etc. Rubbing it in helps replace the picking habit and moisturizes the skin to help it heal. I sometimes sit on my hands in meetings (if seated at a table where it is less conspicuous) or take copious notes to keep my hands busy. I also will wear band-aids over the affected thumbs or finger.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and a shout-out for the new clear bandages! Some of they have very tiny pads int he middle, but they cling really closely.

          (though I wish they’d make those little pads in a darker brown for people whose skin is darker toned)

      2. Anonym*

        This is great advice.

        If you’re looking for a more subtle way to direct nervous energy, I’ve found that wiggling my toes inside my shoes actually helps! In my case, marking out rhythms. Sounds strange, but it helps me focus when knuckle cracking, foot tapping or getting up and pacing would be inappropriate or distracting. Secret fidget!

        1. TootsNYC*

          I love when the commenters get specific about tactics that make their worlds work–everything from calendar hacks to toe wiggling.

      3. SoonToBeRetired*

        I had the same problem for many years. After a serious health problem, my nails started to grow again, but they are like paper. I solved the paper nail problem by getting the fiberglass stuff from a nail salon. Big side benefit of this was, I gradually was able to stop picking at my nails, and now the lifelong habit has been extinguished. Highly recommend and at least locally it is only about $35…if you don’t mess with them you can make them last a month.

      4. noahwynn*

        OPI has a clear matte polish that I use. If my current workplace wasn’t quite as conservative I would just paint them a dark color like blue or black but for the moment clear it is.

      5. Michaela Westen*

        I keep my nails short, I hope they don’t look “painfully short” to anyone!
        I have to make all my food because of allergies and short nails are much more sanitary and comfortable for cooking.
        Even before the cooking though, I found short nails more comfortable. Stuff doesn’t get caught under them, they don’t snag…
        I did have a phase of about two years when I grew them out and buffed them, but the maintenance got to be a bit much. Now I keep them short and buffed. :)

    4. Boop*

      OP#4, I’m not sure if this is an option for you, but if you know you’re going to an interview perhaps you could try a professional manicure? I don’t normally bother with my nails but for interviews I get a gel manicure – it lasts a long time, looks great, I can’t pick/bite the nails, and I feel more put together in general. It is EXTREMELY unlikely that your hands are the reason you have not had any luck, but a manicure may help you feel more confident.

      Good luck!

      1. BelleMorte*

        Even if you are a male, I would still agree with getting a manicure. It can do wonders for cleaning up your nails, skin etc. Even if this is not really the issue, it may allow you to feel more confident about it.

  4. tra la la*

    OP #2: my alma mater’s online alumni directory gives alums the ability to opt in or out of being contacted for mentoring purposes like this. I don’t feel much connection with alums as it turns out, and I appreciated being able to check the appropriate box and avoid awkward exchanges. I’m not on LinkedIn, so I haven’t had the experience of being contacted by alums there.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      People’s connections with their alumni networks vary so much, and I think the smaller the school or program, the more likely people are to want to help. I’d meet for coffee with anyone from my grad school lab in a heartbeat – we’re pretty much guaranteed to have similar professional interests. I’d meet with someone from my small liberal arts college where I did undergrad if they sounded like they actually wanted to talk to me because of my particular experience, but I’d be less excited if it seemed like they were just emailing everyone from my city in the hopes of landing a job. If it were someone from a totally different school within the huge university where I did my graduate work, then meh. If they sounded super interested in my specific field, I might still talk to them, but that’s because I care about talented young people getting into the field (we need them!) and not because of the alumni connection.

      When I was switching fields about 10 years out of college, before grad school, alumni from my undergrad were very helpful with informational interviews that helped me decide on my new path. I like to pass the favor on when I can, but I totally understand that not everyone feels that way. And some people get contacted a lot, and have to be a bit pickier about what they spend their time on.

    2. DAMitsDevon*

      My grad school has something like this as well. The career center has a website just for alums and current students, and alums can opt into having their information put into the alumni directory if they volunteer to make themselves available for informational interviews. The directory also includes their current place of work, the department/certificate program they graduated from, and the field they’re in, to try to make sure that people send out more targeted emails to alums that are actually working in they field they want to work instead of just spamming people.

      Also, I think the directory is set up so that you can only actually get direct contact information for eight to ten people a month, because even though everyone in the directory has agreed to help out students and younger alums, they want to make sure that they don’t get bombarded with emails, and that the people sending out emails make them count.

      1. SWOinRecovery*

        Yep, my undergrad has a similar program and I love it. I work in one of those sexy industries that could lead to endless requests. In this program, I’m signed up so that no more than 3 new students/alumni can contact me a quarter. My directory information contains my military background and boring information about my current job, minus the name of sexy industry or company. So far, I’ve only had respectful students who shared my major contact me. Success!

  5. mark132*

    @lw1, this is nuts. Is your employer actually conducting psychological experiments? I just don’t get the motivation. I admit certain grammatical mistakes annoy me. But not enough to offer corrections, except very occasionally.

      1. Arya*

        That is a good question. I have never raised this to my manager, because she is very rarely in the office due to the fact that she now works part time as she is going back to school. We do have weekly meetings so I can talk to her about it then. My manger is pretty awesome about having my back, and has in the past helped me through some tough situations.

        1. valentine*

          Since he’s experienced it himself, I’d speak to the higher-up first, then your manager. She’d probably like to know how annoying and time-sucking the self-appointed grammarians are.

    1. Annette*

      People who do this have serious issues. I saw someone do that to another commenter yesterday during a somewhat heated argument and suspected that the passion of the moment simply overtook them. At work? Never.

      1. Bee*

        “At least my grammar isn’t as bad as your manners” would be an interesting retort, but unfortunately I can see that backfiring really quickly.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Good one, Bee! I’d love it if OP1 used it and reported back to us what happened afterwards.

        2. Human Sloth*

          Now see, I would love to be quick witted enough to say this. Having a bad filter with slow with sucks!

    2. Myrin*

      I was especially surprised to read that this happens regarding spoken conversation. Reading the headline, I expected this to be a variation of the relatively common “coworker sends back corrections to every email I send” theme, not “I can’t speak two sentences without these two random weirdos inserting themselves and correcting me”. How extremely off-putting.

      1. On Fire*

        +1. I’m a professional writer and former editor (and I’m human, so I occasionally make mistakes). I *notice* errors, both written and spoken, but it would never occur to me to correct the person, especially by interrupting a conversation.(!) Of course it’s a different matter to correct public-facing documents before they’re published, but this situation really isn’t about the grammar. It’s about two people who get their kicks by harassing and demeaning others.

    3. Minocho*

      The only time I offer corrections is if it is written communication where polish is essential, or if it is someone I have a good relationship with, and I know they desire correction (usually because they were still learning English). And even then, I am careful to say something like “I noticed something about your English that I thought I would bring up. Please feel free to tell me not to bring things like this up, though! [The thing]. I understood what you were trying to say, though!”

  6. WS*

    I thought I was a spelling and grammar nit-picker, though I do my best to stop myself. I only correct documents or signs that customers will see, leaving badly spelled notes alone. I see now that I greatly underestimated the degree to which such nits can be picked!

    1. Rebecca*

      This is where I’m particular at work – communications with my customers. I’m from rural PA, and wow do I have some weird ingrained speech patterns and ways of saying things. I shift into Work Speak during the day, especially when communicating with people “from away”. But in the office, and I work with someone I’ve know since childhood, I tend to slip back to my PA Dutch shortcuts with her, and a few others, but most of the time I keep things on the grammatical level.

      I’d never think it appropriate to correct someone in a meeting, or in the hallway, or while someone was chatting with coworkers at lunch. If I saw an email to a customer, or another customer facing communication that’s blatantly incorrect, I’d suggest corrections as I think it’s important that we look as professional as possible, but that’s it.

      1. cartoonybear*

        I’m into these regionalisms! I have fam in Lebanon PA, but I have never particularly noticed any weird speech patterns (maybe cos they’re not from there). What are some of the things you have to suppress?

        1. Rebecca*

          Examples like, “redding up” instead of cleaning or tidying an area, saying “the lawn needs mowing” instead of “the lawn needs to be mowed”, or, if I want you to do something, like toss some laundry downstairs, I might say “throw me down the steps the laundry”. Another odd thing, things are “back”, so if we have only 1 bagel on the break room table, but there are more in the fridge, I might say “there’s more back”, meaning, we have more than that one thing on the table, they’re just not right here. Those are just some examples, I’m sure there are more, it’s just that I really guard my speech patterns when I’m not at home or with my friends/relatives.

          1. ElspethGC*

            Huh. I know that PA Dutch sentence structure is heavily influenced by German structures etc, and I can see that in some of those examples, but with the lawn one – do most people in the US not say that something needs mowing or cleaning etc?

            In the UK that always seems to be by far the most common way of constructing a sentence like that. Someone saying “The lawn needs to be mowed” rather than “The lawn needs mowing” (or cut/cutting, which is more common in my corner of the world) would be seen as rather pretentious, or at least someone using too many words to say something that could be said much more simply.

            1. Hodie-Hi*

              I don’t often encounter the “dishes need washing” construction in the US, but I suppose it is more common in some regions.

            2. MM*

              I had the same thought. “The noun needs verbing” is by no means wrong, and I hear it in UK dialects all the time; it’s just not super standard in the US. Sort of like how “job” means both “ongoing role” and “task,” but the latter usage is used more broadly in the UK than it is in the US (I’ve never heard an American refer to, e.g., “a job of work”).

          2. TootsNYC*

            “there’s more back”

            In southern Iowa, we grew up saying just the word “one” from “one or the other.:
            A common structure would be: “I need to get a bigger garbage can or empty it more often, one.”

            I love it! I miss hearing it. And I sort of miss saying it, bcs I don’t much use it anymore.

            I like this use of “back.”

              1. TootsNYC*

                Cedar Rapids is not southern Iowa. You guys are north if Interstate 80.

                I left out “southWEST” Iowa, which was a factor as well, and you guys are east of I-35 by quite a bit.

                By “southern Iowa,” I generally mean the southern two tiers of counties. I don’t know if it was in use as far north as Creston, but I think so.

          3. Lucky P.*

            Ah, I’m from Pittsburgh, and we say all those things! Usually with needs it’s the past tense: “The lawn needs mowed.” “The dog needs fed.” I also tend to use “anymore” in place of “lately” or “recently”: “Anymore I’m thinking of going vegan!” People sometimes call me out on it, but to me it sounds right!

      2. Human Sloth*

        I’m from Texas. If I am preparing to do something, it’s “fixin’ to”. Example: I’m fixin to mow the lawn.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I work in publishing; everyone is supposed to nitpick the grammar of customer-facing things. Even here, nitpicking anything written in an email (or said in person or over the phone) would result in some version of *stop… everyone stares at Fergus… everyone makes mental note that Fergus is a jerk and to avoid being on the same team in future*

      1. londonedit*

        Yup. Sometimes I may inwardly cringe when I’m copied in on an email from a non-editorial department that contains spelling/grammar errors, especially if it’s gone to an author. And of course we have to check and re-check everything that we actually publish. But a) everyone who works in publishing knows that no matter how many rounds of edits you go through, the odd mistake will still creep through, and b) emailing my colleague in Marketing to correct a spelling error in an email she’s sent will just make me look like a complete arse, let alone *actually interrupting someone’s speech*

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I only correct people’s grammar and spelling if I’m being paid or otherwise asked to do so.

  7. Willis*

    I agree with this. I enjoy hearing from someone from my grad or undergrad programs who’s interested in what I do and would take an occasional call or coffee meet-up with a recent alum or current student. But, my interest would nosedive pretty quickly if the requests became too frequent, like multiple times a year. So if the school is giving out people’s info (I think I’ve signed up for some kind of contact list like that), they should be judicious in how often they’re going to the same folks. And in addition to prepping students about how to ask for an interview, give them some tips on what to do during it (i.e. have questions ready). It does feel annoying if I have to come up with conversation topics when they asked for the meeting!

  8. valentine*

    OP3: If you couldn’t note “phone/manager” and she doesn’t know the calls/tasks continued for two hours, it may look to her like you’re lying about something she was part of. I like the suggested script.

    1. Annette*

      She probably thought LW was putting her drive down as time worked. Too many conclusions, not enough communication.

    2. Woodswoman*

      For OP#3, the lack of trust from your manager is a red flag. Imagine if she had emailed you instead saying, “Can you please talk with me about your timesheet? It would be helpful to clarify some of your hours so I can understand when you were working.”

      It’s terrible to jump straight to accusing you of fraud, in writing no less, when she’s new to being your manager and it sounds like she’s not familiar with your work. Since conflict is best resolved in person when possible, rather than email, I suggest you ask for a conversation with your manager to go over your timesheet. Then you can document what you discussed in an email afterward along the lines of, “As we discussed, I take the issue of fraud very seriously and all of my hours aligned with actual work time.” Etc.

      Good luck!

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, I know someone who quit over that. I mean, it was definitely a “last straw” sort of situation, but once the boss accused her of faking hours, she responded with a resignation letter.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, going straight to the nuclear option is a very bad sign in a manager. The default opening, especially with someone who is an unknown quantity who has no history of dodgy time sheets, should always be “I don’t understand this; can you explain?”

        Personal recent example went something like:
        “You list 22 pages here; that chapter is 20.”
        “The first version was 22 pages. In revisions it was cut to 20, but for most of my time investment it was mapped as 22 pages.”
        “Aha. Okay, submitting invoice as is.”

        Where the second most likely explanation (after ‘project changed between versions’) is a sincere mathematical error or typo on someone’s part. You always give it a chance to be an honest mistake until you have built up some body of evidence that this person always makes accidental errors of a few units in their favor.

        1. Hush42*

          This- I am almost positive that one of the people who’s time cards I approve, but over whom I have no managerial authority (it’s complicated), is committing time card fraud. While dealing with this it has never once occurred to me to send her an e-mail flat out telling her that her time card is wrong. Were it one of my direct reports I would be having discussions with her to find out whats going on and see if there’s a reasonable explanation to what I’m seeing. Since she doesn’t actually report to me, I brought it up to HR (she only sort of has a manager at all, it’s a weird reporting structure where she’s concerned) and our HR person is going to have that conversation with her. Everyone who knows the issues is trying not to jump to conclusions until we have all the information.

          1. AKchic*

            Arg. Agreed. Outright accusing in writing is very much Red Alert, Nuclear Option, last chance to turn back (with full and effusive apologies).
            Last job, we had a girl who was padding her timesheet. She would show up at a minimum 60 minutes late daily (usually 90 minutes late). She would take 90 minute lunches, and then ask to leave early, or duck out 15 minutes early. She would spend at least an hour a day at her desk doing her make-up for her next job. She did hardly any actual work. Still billed for 8 hours a day every day she showed up (and she showed up every day she didn’t have a full 8 hours of paid leave available).
            First, we were restructured and my manager became her manager. Then we were supposed to email from our work emails to verify when we were in and out of the office (well, we all had our work email on our phones, so that kind of defeated the point). Then we had a time-clocking system put in on the reception desk. On top of that, he receptionist was surreptitiously tracking her time as well. It took 4 months before her timesheets were finally fully accurate once all the changes were in place, and not once did our manager (or payroll, or HR, or anyone) outright accuse her of timecard fraud, even though they probably should have.

    3. snowglobe*

      The big issue – if OP is non-exempt, then it is illegal for the manager to decline to pay the time that she is owed. If the manager digs in, OP needs to go straight to HR; presumably they would know the trouble that this could cause.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      More cynically, I think OP3’s manager thinks that the calls/tasks should be done off the clock and are unpaid time.

  9. Drew*

    OP#1, I’m a professional editor and I am telling you: these guys are assholes. (I doubt that you needed me to tell you that, but I hope independent confirmation is helpful.)

    If their manager isn’t doing anything, would it be appropriate for your manager to step in and talk either to their manager or to a shared boss further up the chain? This is the kind of thing that, once you have said it is inappropriate and unwelcome (especially from a peer!), should be curtailed if not stopped entirely, but it sounds like their disrespect isn’t limited to your language choices.

    I used to be worse about “jokingly” pointing out when other folks were making mistakes, until a coworker I respected a lot told me, “Drew, when you make unnecessary corrections, you look like a total ass.” They were clearly frustrated and in fact apologized to me later for the direct statement, but it was the ice water bath I needed to realize that I wasn’t helping anyone except myself by doing that. Perhaps that direct a statement is what they need to hear. Or perhaps they don’t have even that much self-awareness or don’t care how others perceive them. More fools they, if so.

    My other suggestion is to treat their interjections as complete non sequiturs, acknowledge that a statement was made, and then proceed. “I’m pretty sure you meant ‘whom’ there, Jane.” “OK. (just slightly too long pause) As I was saying, these projections don’t take into account…” Or, if they’re really obnoxious, Captain Awkward’s flat “Wow” is an option.

    Asshat: Jane, you really should be more careful with your subject-verb agreement.
    You: Wow.
    Asshat: I’m just saying, it makes you sound uneducated.
    You: And that is something you think is appropriate to tell a colleague. Wow again.

    Good luck, and on behalf of recovering pedants everywhere, I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      I am someone who gets really really irritated when I see spelling and grammar mistakes. But if a grammar mistake is not too serious, I let it go, because I have come to realise my own grasp of English grammar is far from perfect. Now I just cringe and shut up.

      1. londonedit*

        I’m an editor, I work in an office with a group of editors. None of us would ever correct someone’s speech. Sometimes we joke amongst ourselves in the office if one of us accidentally says ‘less’ rather than ‘fewer’ – but it’s usually the person who makes the mistake that points it out, and only ever in a lighthearted ‘Ha – that was an awful sentence, remind me how I managed to get this job again?’ way.

        Pointing out errors in documents is one thing, and even that has to be done carefully, but pointing out errors in someone’s speech is just ridiculous and mean.

        1. Doctor Schmoctor*

          I will only say something if it’s a serious mistake that changes the meaning of what the person is trying to say. Most of us in the office speak English as a second language, so it sometimes happens. Not often, though. I sometimes worry that it might create a bad impression with our clients, but they don’t seem to care.
          I won’t correct a “less vs. fewer” mistake, because really, who cares.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I suppose in that instance I might say “did you mean X?” if someone mistakenly used the wrong word, because it happens. But only if I can’t immediately understand what they meant.

            1. Lance*

              And only, I presume, if you were in and/or related to the conversation at hand. Chiming into a 1-on-1 otherwise even for something like that would… not be a normal thing, I’d have to guess.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      If they were not a part of the conversation I feel like it is worth being a little more rude “Stan, I was talking to Jane, please don’t interrupt.” and in the face of them implying that anyone is uneducated or less than them “I know you think you’re being clever, but really you are just being rude, please stop it”. They aren’t even pretending to play nice, just turn the awkward back onto them.

      1. CarolynM*

        Ooooooooh! I like it! The soupcon of condescension sprinkled into those replies is perfect! That is like a silver bullet to a pedant!

    3. lulu*

      I would do a version of this, a blank stare with silence and a trailing okay… then turned back to the other person, resume the conversation and ignore the interruption

    4. Marthooh*

      Ahem. [Smirks knowingly.]

      Actually, the flat “Wow.” originated with Carolyn Hax, not CaptainAwkward.

      This is a really good place for it, though. You can also try “Stop eavesdropping on us” or a silent, expressionless, withering glance.

      1. Marthooh*

        Uh, “Captain Awkward”. With a space. It is a truth universally acknowledged that every comment intended to correct another commenter’s error always contains an error of its own.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        I like both of these. Also, since this behabior is such a chronic thing, you could also try some variartions on “Stop eavesdropping…” Like how about (in a perky, cheerfyl tone) “Eavesdropping again, huh?” Or (to the other person in the actual conversation), “Hey, what do you know, Fergus is eavesdropping again!” (To which the other person might reply, “Yes, how about that.”

        I sugest following all of these eavesdropping comments be followed by a pointed stare, just for a moment, then resuming the convo as if nothing hapoened.

        I suspect they would hate this kind of reaction, be ause it would convey a complete lack of interest on what they are saying. Their goal is to engage you by either defending yourself or arguing back. The last thing they want us to be brushed off like a pesky fly, lol.

        1. Drew*

          “Did you hear an annoying pedant buzzing around? No? Me, either. As I was saying…”

          Thanks to Marthooh for the Hax/Awkward connection.

    5. TootsNYC*

      (Drew–I thought you might want to know that the “Wow” is actually Carolyn Hax’s invention; it’s probably shown up at the Captain’s place, but Carolyn originated it.)

        1. Drew*

          You and Marthooh both did fine. I appreciate accurate info, especially where attribution is concerned!

    6. TooOldForThisNonsense*

      As a sub-editor, I agree with all of you! I work on articles mostly written by non-native speakers of English, so I do have a lot to do. ;-) However, they generally seem happy for me to do it, possibly because they can tell I respect their news sense and their contacts, and am keen to protect them from any awkwardness over inaccuracies. When I’m faced with native English-speaker copy, I just turn my stated motivation around, to be about the non-native-English readers, so I can cut through waffle without offence!

      With their gratuitous “corrections”, the w*nkers in the OP don’t seem to respect the content of their colleagues’ contributions. At all. W*nkers.

  10. Annette*

    LW4 has broken my heart. The job process is so demoralizing that we always think every rejection is the worst possible reflection on us as people. Is it me? It must be me. Maybe it’s my hands? I can relate but it’s sad to see. Focus on preparing good, smart answers and connecting with the interviewers.

    1. Jasnah*

      This is how I felt too. LW4, it’s probably not your hands! I hope you can find something about your interviewing skills to tweak to get better results.

    2. Alexis Rose*

      One of the best conversations I ever had about job hunting was with my dad. I had just graduated university and was 22 years old, just married, just moved to a new city, and desperate to be able to pay my bills. I was lamenting all the things I had tried to get jobs, numbers of jobs applied for, I was considering leaving off my university degree to not seem overqualified for minimum wage jobs that I was applying for because I needed SOMETHING, it was an awful feeling. Is my blazer too tight? Maybe they think ponytails are unprofessional? Do I look too young? Did they not like my tattoo? Are they worried that I’ll leave after two months so they won’t even bother? The mental gymnastics were exhausting and very very depressing. My dad responded with “what if I told you its not you?” I said “what do you mean?”

      “Well, you have all the qualifications, the education, you have lots of previous work experience, you have leadership and supervisory experience, you have good references, I’ve gone over your resume and it looks fine to me (he did a lot of hiring at his job). So, its not you. You’ve done everything you can do to become employable and are fighting against a raging tide of unemployment and recession and lack of jobs. There isn’t anything YOU can do about that except keep at it.”

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yes!! Your dad is right on point. Sometimes we do everything we can to succeed and it still takes a long time.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          It was such a huge relief to hear that. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with me, there wasn’t anything else I could have done. It wasn’t me. Well, that feels better.

          I saw a little flowchart thing on some social media platform and it was also very helpful to me. Basically, if you have a problem and you can do something about it, great! Don’t worry. And if you can’t do anything about it? Well, then YOU can’t do anything about it. So don’t worry!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        > fighting against a raging tide of unemployment and recession and lack of jobs

        I think I like your dad.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          I’m pretty fond of him, too. He is the “Comma Murderer” whenever I get him to edit something for me, like cover letters.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It warms my heart to hear a story about a parent who has good kind advice for their struggling young adult children. I’ve been scarred by the stories about parents who are unkind to their post-college age kids who are having rough job searches!

        1. Alexis Rose*

          I’m going to take this as an opportunity to brag about my dad. For some things, he did a really really great job.

          He was the only person who expressed outrage at the job that tried to bring me on for two five-month contracts back to back with no benefits, paid move, job security, vacation, sick days, or anything. I would have been leaving a (permanent) job that was half the salary but in my city and that had benefits/vacation all the rest. I also would have been leaving my husband for 10 months and paying double rent in other city with no guarantee of a permanent job. Every other person in my life was all “Its in your field! its your “dream job”! you have to do it! 10 months of experience is awesome at this stage of your career!” Dad was like “WHAT?! They want you to WHAT?! No. Just no. Nope nope nope. Come back with a permanent position offer and THEN we’ll talk”.

          Also my dad:
          Me: Hella stressed and in tears about my courseload. have a midterm the next day that I hadn’t had time to study for because of being sick and my job and my other courses and I was freaking out about failing this midterm and having it affect my GPA for my grad school applications blah blah blah stress spiral.
          Dad: drop it.
          Me: what?
          Dad: drop the course.
          Me: but… but… but….. won’t you be mad at me for dropping a course that you’re paying for?
          Dad: No, it won’t have any impact on your degree requirements. seriously. its before the drop date, it won’t impact your full-time status, you were talking about doing a summer field course anyway so you’ll make up the credit. Drop it. Take it later.
          Me: *head explodes with relief, sleeps 10 hours with no midterm to cram for, feels immediately better*

          1. TootsNYC*

            God bless your dad.

            He reminds me of the mom mentioned on one of yesterday’s comments who told her daughter, in the middle of her first day at a job where the boss had been yelling all morning (first day!), “Do you have all of the things that belong to you? Yes? Then go home now.”

            My son called me to tell me he was dropping a class, and I said, “Well, it sounds like the best thing. you don’t want that F on your GPA, right?” And he said, “but i’ll have to go five years.”
            I said, “Well, that’s too bad, and it’ll cost you more money, but lots of people take five years to get their degree. It’s not a race. The point is to get an education, and a degree and the grade that prove it.”

            1. Alexis Rose*

              You sound like a good parent, too. Sometimes kids (and adults and any human!) need “permission” to do something and having a solid, reliable, compassionate sounding board for that kind of thing is exactly what is needed.

              1. Former Employee*

                I love hearing about parents who do the right thing. Your dad sounds like a very wise and compassionate man. You are lucky.

                Thank you for telling us about him, especially because it seems to have inspired others to comment on the subject.

  11. MP*

    To the hand person, I actually had concerns with someone because of his fingernails. His cuticles were super picked at and the nails were clearly bitten/picked at to stubs. He seemed *very* anxious and the hands/nails really drove that home. I’m not usually a nit-picky person, but his hands were so bad that it really was a red flag that something might be going on with him. So just another perspective. I pick at my nails when I’m nervous, and also talk with my hands a lot during interviews, so I almost always get a manicure before an interview. It might seem silly, but it makes me feel more confident and I actually do better in the interview. So something to think about! Male manicures exist as well, they really do a great job on your cuticles. Once you get your nails to a certain place, they’re pretty easy to maintain in that way.

    1. nnn*

      That’s exactly what I came to recommend.

      If you’re into feminine grooming, an option could be to get natural-looking artificial nails – not too long, coloured in a neutral shade or like a subtle French manicure. Many people find they don’t or can’t pick at artificial nails, so it will last longer.

      And, as MP, mentions, if you’re into masculine grooming, there are male manicures that will tidy things up without introducing any feminine styling.

    2. ...*

      I’ll have to agree. My former manager (who was terrible for many other reasons) had extremely bitten and peeled down fingers and nails that were often raw. It was noticeable and truthfully off putting. I’d recommend a manicure with no chip or dipping powder if you are a gal. It’s really hard to pick or bite with that and you can heal a lot faster, even putting neosporin on your nail beds each night. I don’t think your bitten down nails are what’s stopping you from getting a job. That’s probably just randomness but I do think people will notice and there’s a huge value in having professional looking hands. I might be a little biased though because I am an engagement ring jeweler and see people’s hands all day every day so I judge them a lot.

      1. 1.2 years until retirement*

        Seconding the dip nails. They are impossible to pick off. And the tips of the nails are now thicker and dull so cuticle picking is almost impossible as well. Ask me how I know :)
        For men, just get it done in a clear coat (unless you want colour) and it will be fine.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Also, take a look on your Online Retailer of Choice for men’s cotton gloves. Slather on some hand lotion and wear the gloves for 30-60 minutes (which is long enough for the lotion to absorb, if you can’t tolerate wearing them while you sleep). Do that for a week and your hands will look 100% better, even if you don’t get a manicure or do anything else with your cuticles.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        When I was job searching I always saw articles that said you have to have nice hands and nails. I didn’t understand why, but it’s one of the reasons I learned to take care of my nails. The other is, it’s more comfortable to have nails in good condition.
        When I found myself pointing out things on printouts in meetings with my boss, I thought maybe that’s why. The focus was on my finger and hand, pointing out the detail.

    3. Jasnah*

      I agree that if someone’s hands (or any other part of their physical appearance) are REALLY uncared for then it makes me think if something is going on. Things like having one really long pinky fingernail, really bad or dry skin, really long or unclean nails, etc. I know some people might have a health problem they haven’t figured out yet, but often it’s an area of grooming/care that people skip. Especially men who may feel it’s “girly” to pay attention to their nails and skin–it’s not! Lotion+cutting your nails is not a lot of maintenance and it really looks and feels good!

    4. MommyMD*

      I can see the picked at chewed up hands having a negative effect on an interview. Especially if the person is picking at them during the interview.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes is she also picking during the interview? I also wondered about the note taking. Is it excessive and you look like you are paying more attention to the notes rather than the interview? For that matter, is your handwriting neat or noticeably a disaster and that’s something else the interviewer sees (I say this as someone with awful handwriting). Is it time to practice interview with friend?

        1. Joielle*

          I had this thought too – I don’t think the hands would actually be the problem, but maybe the note taking is a bit too much, or the gesturing? I sometimes find that when someone describes themselves as “gesturing a lot” it’s actually over the top and ends up being distracting. It shouldn’t really matter, but if there are a lot of competitive candidates, anything outside professional norms could be the difference between going on to the next round or not.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      My thought was if the nails were jagged or dirty I might notice that. Maybe at least smooth them over with a file before an interview so they don’t look like they will catch on anything. I don’t usually notice nails, but if they are out of the norm I might focus on them.

      I remember in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 there was an extreme close up of Starlords hands at one point and his nails were so super manicured, but it looked like someone shoved dirt under them at the last minute, like the makeup people realized it was out of character but he wouldn’t let someone ruin his nice nails. It was just bizarre and hilarious and totally breaks me from the movie every time I see it.

    6. Washi*

      Yeah, I pick at my cuticles and when the OP said their hands are in rough shape, I thought of what my hands look like at their worst – peeling and often bleeding. I tend to sort of hide the tips of my fingers when they’re in that state, because I do think they can be very off putting. And I think the combination of raw fingers + maybe overly intense note taking might not go over well in an interview.

      I second the recommendation for a manicure (I usually have my cuticles done and get a clear polish put on) as well as practicing with your most honest friend and having them let you know if your gesturing and notetaking are at a distracting level.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Oh yea – if there are any kind of open sores or uncovered wounds on the hands, then I had to shake the hand because of interviewing I would probably have the heebie-jeebies and like them less. I probably shouldn’t – because people have chronic conditions and can’t always help these things, but it is a bias I would have. We have someone who stocks the work kitchen that has open sores on their uncovered arms all the time and I do have a strong level of ‘I wish someone else would do that’.

        1. BelleMorte*

          That could actually be a health violation. They may need to be wearing long-sleeves and gloves. I know when I worked in food service, if I had any cuts at all it was gloves at all times, even when I was just stocking the walk-in. (Gloves were changed and hands washed between tasks just fyi).

      2. Autumnheart*

        I had a nurse who was doing my pre-examination check-in. Her nails were all different lengths, some were broken, there was crud visible under her nails, and she had raw hangnails and scabs on her cuticles. A. Nurse. I didn’t even want her touching me. (Fortunately she didn’t have to.)

        I’ve always been one to tend toward hangnails and not particularly well-maintained hands, but seeing that made me 100% more conscientious about my own hands.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      OP 4, I’ll stop short of recommending a $50 dip mani for you (because not everyone has that spare money or time) but instead, take time to baby your nails and your hands. Oil them if you’re not doing anything else (like when you’re watching Netflix or something). Olive oil from your kitchen is fine.

      1. Nana*

        And you don’t need to buy gloves to cover ’em. Slather on your lotion/oil of choice and slip your hands into a pair of cotton socks. You’ll see results within days!

    8. Totally Minnie*

      OP, I don’t know whether the state of your hands is even noticed by your interviewers, but it’s clear that you feel self conscious about it, which is reason enough to try and make changes.

      I’m also a cuticle picker, and I’ve found that putting on a good hand cream and covering the broken and torn skin on my hands with liquid bandage has gone a long way toward improving the appearance (and the overall feel and comfort) of my hands. You can get a bottle of the store brand liquid bandage in the first aid section of whatever pharmacy or grocery store you typically use for a reasonable price, and it really does the job.

  12. Jessie*

    #3 Is your manager new to the company? She’s probably just worried about messing up in her new role. Yes, it’s harsh that she’s doubting you, but your timesheet didn’t make sense and it would have been super helpful if you had explained it somehow – send a detailed account now.

    1. Mainly Lurking*

      If the manager is new to the company (and even if she isn’t), her first step should have been to ask for further explanation when the timesheet didn’t make sense.

      Instead she jumped straight to fraud, which is a huge leap.

      What other conclusions might she start jumping to? If I were OP3 I’d be be wary.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      As with the famous Bob the Accountant pouncing on unwary orderers of guacamole: Trying to crack down on fancied fraud, theft, waste of resources, etc is a terrible way to start off with innocent people trying to go about their day and follow the rules.

      Start from “Huh, there must be something I’m not understanding in this spreadsheet” rather than “Stop! Thief!”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Especially because she is new to her role — I’d have jumped to “Uh oh, I didn’t realize the change I asked OP to make would take so much time to implement.” …and called to find out what I could do in the future to avoid the extra hours.

    3. Artemesia*

      This may be true, but time sheet fraud is a giant big deal and a firing offense. We almost lost our excellent AA because she juggled time sheets a bit — not adding unworked time but time shifting because there was no way to record comp time — so she let people off for an appointment if they worked longer to make it up etc. In a place that never fires anyone and is very laid back, it took the full pile of chips of the manager to save her job. Definitely go see the manager with information about what you were doing and ask her how to record it so it is clear to her you are working. You don’t want the whiff of that hanging over you with a new manager.

    4. Observer*

      Why do you say that the time sheet didn’t make sense? It’s true that the manager apparently didn’t understand it, but it doesn’t mean that the OP did it in a way that should have been THAT unclear to her boss.

      Also, if the manager wasn’t clear as to what was happening, they could have ASKED about rather than saying “this didn’t happen.”

  13. Flash Bristow*

    OP1, I think you meant “outright” not “out right”.

    Kidding. I can see how infuriating it must be. I think I’d give a stern glare and a firm “ANYWAY, as I was saying…”

    If they interject again or try to elaborate, I’d try “please don’t interrupt on another topic. It’s rude. We are talking about Topic here, not grammar.”

    I think you’ll just have to be firm. How infuriating.

  14. GoBlue!*

    #2 – My former school has setup a platform for current students to contact alumni, and I happily did some emailing with a student. But I love to talk to people and help them out, so it was a pleasure for me. And I enjoy the connection I have to the school. I would happily respond to emails/do phone calls on a more frequent basis.

    But you’re certainly not obligated to talk to anyone if you don’t feel the same. But it’s certainly not unusual for people to feel comfortable doing it, either. It’s fine for them to send you messages, and it’s also fine for you to ignore them.

  15. PJM*

    Op#1. I am seriously wondering if you are referring to the grammar police I used to work with. They were frequently wrong, but they were so bullheaded and unwavering that they beat down my self confidence, causing me to doubt myself. Also, I found that they would never move past grammar on anything they ever read. Instead of focusing on the ideas written on a page and offering any input of significance, they were too busy nitpicking the smallest details. It was as though they were in a race with each other to unveil the usually minor errors on the rough draft of a document. I understand you are in a tough spot. I agree with Allison’s advice to make it clear that their intrusion is not helpful or welcome. I always felt too foolish to mention it to the higher ups, but I regret not doing so. It would be good to at least make them aware of this truly disruptive behavior.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Ugh, this reminds me of my PhD supervisor. She insisted on seeing an extremely rough draft of a chapter about two weeks after I started research on a topic which I had zero background in, then nitpicked my grammar and sentence structure and totally ignored the content of what I’d written. She then told me I was a terrible writer, she was concerned that I wasn’t capable of producing a thesis, etc.

      The infuriating part was that English was her second language and she was wrong every time.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Ahhhhh! You’re giving me flashbacks. I used to work with a lot of experts for whom English was their second/third/fourth language, and my whole job was writing. Some of them would consistently put grammatical errors into my work. I was always like, DUDE. I need you on the content, but the English part is literally my whole job!

        So frustrating.

    2. Nana*

      OTOH, this can work to your benefit. Put a ridiculous misteak or too in the piece, and let the grammar police beat you with a stick…they’re apt to ignore the rest of what you’ve written.

  16. Not Australian*

    I’m a self-confessed grammar/punctuation/spelling nerd and I spend a lot of my time editing books, and as such, a lot of what people say in casual conversation is quite literally painful to me. I only actively correct people, though, in written form, and when I’ve been asked to – anything else is too much like hard work.

    These grammar police at OP#1’s workplace are too concerned about minor details, but I suspect if it wasn’t grammar they’d be critiquing people’s appearances, or where they leave their coffee mugs, or the sound of their voices; in short, the grammar is only the vehicle for nit-picking which would otherwise manifest itself in another way and it needs to be stopped. Using the occasional lapse of grammar as an excuse to insult someone is despicable, IMHO.

    1. Cat wrangler*

      I’m another person who sucks their teeth at grammatical or spelling mishaps. Having said that, it’s not appropriate to correct people all of the time or indeed at all as it’s annoying and rude. Customer facing documents should be proofread where possible but not oral meetings between co-workers. Who’s to say that these people are right in their assertions anyway? I speak as someone who had a manager who talked about ‘sustifferkits’ instead of ‘certificates’. We used to roll our eyes and get on with our day, understanding complete. I would be tempted to take a leaf out of Paddington Bear’s book and give these grammar police a Long Hard Stare at the next interruption.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      a lot of what people say in casual conversation is quite literally painful to me

      You must be really smart and discerning, if linguistic distinctions so subtle that many mere mortals don’t even know they exist cause you actual pain!

  17. CatCat*

    OP3, I think the manager really screwed up to put something with potentially reputation ruining consequences in an email instead of talking to you to try and understand. Quite frankly, for me, time card fraud is such a big deal that I’d be concerned the manager had already escalated and sent the accusation elsewhere.

    I’d definitely get my detailed response to the manager in writing as Alison suggests. I’d also be quietly starting a job search after something like this, to be honest. For me, I don’t think the relationship with the manager would be salvageable because I would no longer trust the manager.

    1. Corey*

      Yes. At many companies, the accusation itself is grounds for a drop-everything emergency meeting between the accuser, her manager, and HR to discuss her behavior. There would be consequences for the accuser. There would be assurances and reassurances for the accused. It’s really, really bad.

      The risk to the company aside from the obvious false fraud accusation is that the employee begins to under-report her hours in fear of losing her job.

  18. Jasnah*

    OP1, I hope you are able to successfully raise this issue to your/their managers and get it to stop. Being bullied over everything you say can create a toxic environment for anyone, but it can be especially damaging to non-native-English-speakers and people who struggle with writing/speaking for all kinds of reasons (whether because they are used to a different dialect of English, they have a learning/processing disability that makes it hard for them to catch typos, or they’re just a big-picture-over-details kind of person). Allowing these jerks to bully people for these mistakes could create an unwelcoming work environment that makes it hard for your organization to meet its diversity goals.

    You shouldn’t need this reason to push back on it, but sometimes concerns of discrimination lights a fire under people’s butts.

    1. Tau*

      I like the idea of keeping the diversity argument in your pocket to try to get people moving! My own company is something like 95% non-native speakers and this behaviour would go over so badly. Unsolicited grammar corrections for internal communication, especially in spoken conversation, are just so massively inappropriate. If the meaning is clear, let it go.

      …I’m honestly still stuck on the spoken conversation point. When I read the title, I thought this would be about correcting e-mails, and that would still have been inappropriate. This… just, wow.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        One of my favourite memories is recalling when my daughter was applying for secondary school places, that the local grammar school had mispelled ‘grammar’ in their prospectus. It still makes me laugh today. I was possibly the only nerd to spot it though.

  19. Bagpuss*

    OP1, I would raise this with the manager. Flag up that it is incredibly rude, and that it derails work meetings and comes across as bullying.
    You mentioned that there has been backlash in the past – was that from the manager, or the worker? If it was the workers themselves, that suggests to me that the manager did speak to them about their behaviour, and it may be that you need to raise it and then to *also* raise with the manager any subsequent backlash or retaliation.

    If you want, you could even raise it with their manager as a performance issue. “Bob seems to have real problems focusing and acting appropriately. He isn’t able to keep his attention on the subject being discussed, constantly derails meetings and becomes aggressive and combative ,to the extent of calling other participants names, if he is challenged on his behaviour. I am concerned that his behaviour amounts to bullying ,but it also has a huge, negative effect on productivity. ”

    I also agree that speaking to your own manager, if that is someone other than his manager, and asking them to address it.

    In the short term, I also think you are fine to be firm in the moment. If one of them tries to correct them, then a response such as “please don’t interrupt” or “that really isn’t relevant. Did you have anything to say about the production figures ?” or “This meeting is about the design for the new widgets. Please stay on topic”

    1. Marthooh*

      Good point that the manager must have said SOMETHING to the two grammar cops. Obviously, it didn’t get them to stop, but the manager won’t know about the backlash until someone tells her.

  20. Nicole*

    OP #1: I’m also a professional editor, and your co-workers are truly ridiculous. It’s not surprising that you’ve found some of their “corrections” to be wrong (and I kind of wish you have list of examples for us to laugh at). What many self-described grammar fanatics don’t realize is that a lot of what they get up in arms about might well be matters of stylistic choice–in other words, they were taught at some point that there is one (and only one) correct way to do or say something, and they just cling to whatever they were taught. But, alas for them, context matters. Intent matters. Even in formal editing, the chosen style guide and dictionary and any deviations from them that have been prescribed as a matter of “house style” matter. And sometimes there are compelling reasons to deviate from the established style, even in very strict styles and very formal settings–it’s called editorial discretion.

    As much as they might fancy themselves to be pros, I suspect your co-workers would make awful editors, as they would not be able to be flexible or responsive to their clients’ (or their clients’ audiences’) needs. That’s not to say that there aren’t indisputable, noncontroversial spelling and grammar mistakes too, of course. You and the others that these nightmare twins are taking upon themselves to correct may even be making “egregious” grammar mistakes fairly regularly. (I might have made some in this post–don’t care!) But in a spoken, relatively informal work conversation, you are quite right that if your meaning is clear, the rest is pretty much moot. In the setting you describe, efficiency is what matters, and these two need to get over themselves. Correct grammar and spelling and overall pristine language isn’t just a matter of know-how; it is also a matter of taking the time and committing your attention to making it so, and it is just not practical to commit those kinds of resources to every bit of text or speech that we produce in the course of our busy, always “connected” lives.

    But you know that, because you are a reasonable person. In terms of what to do . . . I’d be kind of tempted to take a snarky path:

    -Co-worker: Actually . . . [corrects grammar]
    -You: *pause* *dead eyes* You know, most people’s brains work too fast for them to speak with perfect grammar at all times. As I was saying . . .

    Or bring in The Chicago Manual of Style or style manual of your choice (Chicago is great, though, because it is HUGE), hold up a finger at random times while they are speaking to stop them, and find a correction to make. (This would require some independent study to become familiar enough with it to know what to look for, which maybe a level of petty beyond what you want to engage in. That’s fair.) Make them wait while you look things up, tutting at them if they try to continue or object.

    Send their emails back to them with notes. (“Since you’re such a stickler for grammar, I thought I’d point out . . .”)

    But, of course, you’re probably not planning your response based on what would be the most entertaining for random blog readers, and it’s probably more mature to take the high road and stick to clear, professional language. For that purpose I like several of the suggestions above along the lines of, “We’re trying to work efficiently through this project right now, and you’re derailing us with your focus on unnecessary details. Please stop.” I’m also +1 for going to your manager (if that is indeed a different person than their manager) and going as a group with your other, non-toxic co-workers.

    1. Nicole*

      Hahaha . . . “wish you have list.” Awesome.

      And sorry that was so long–prescriptivists are just bum me out.

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      If you want to give them a book, may I suggest Miss Manners? Perhaps they can read that over to nitpick?

    3. Need a Beach*

      Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I worked for a compositor, so the idea of an informal house style guide as applied to an office really resonates with me! These guys are going full Knopf, when they should be aiming for more of a Penguin Putnam.

      It’s so true that some people seem determined to ignore that language evolves. I’m reminded of a 60-something secretary at my last job, who refused to stop using double spacing after periods, and had meltdowns about the computer auto-correcting them.

      1. Artemesia*

        As a 70 something who learned to type on a manual typewriter, my fingers still can’t help but double space after periods. I try — but when you touch type and have for decades it is muscle memory.
        Bad usage drives me nuts — like nails on a chalkboard yet I have not yet leapt into someone’s conversation to say ‘fewer, not less’ or ‘effect not affect’; some things are more important than always being ‘right.’ I will edit those things in a product going into print or distribution whether I am the editor or not, but correcting someone speaking in a group is both rude and cruel.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          APA 6th Edition has double spaces after periods. It’s not in my muscle memory so I just have Word search for that when I am running a spelling and grammar check on my papers.

          1. Autumnheart*

            IIRC, printed text has double spaces after periods. Web copy has single spaces after periods.

        2. Darury*

          I basically learned to type on a keyboard (old enough that typing class still used electric typewriters), but you’ll get my double-spaces after a period when you claw them from my cold. dead. spacebar.

        3. Common Welsh Green*

          Ditto on the muscle memory. I learned on a manual typewriter more than 50 years ago, back when 80 words a minute put you at the top of the class. Two spaces after the period is as natural as underlining the titles of books.

        4. MM*

          I usually just remind myself that in another 50-100 years or so, the distinction will have ceased to exist. “Effect” will be used for both effect and affect, or “rein in” will have become “reign in,” and that’s just the way it’s going to be. So why get worked up trying to hold back the tide? It makes no difference.

          Or in other words, I like to apply the fact that language evolves prospectively as well as retrospectively, and then all the stakes that might have existed regarding the usage I’m feeling an impulse to correct disappear. This is only applicable to common, day-to-day errors, though–it’s a whole other ball game if I’m talking to a non-native speaker who has mistaken the specific instance of “…isn’t it?” for the entire phenomenon of “…aren’t you?” “…didn’t he?” “…wouldn’t you?” etc. (That is a real example, and the kind of situation where a kind and tactful explanation can be a service instead of an attack.)

          1. Kat in VA*

            On an iPhone, double spacing automatically puts a period after the last word and capitalizes the next!

  21. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Letter #1: Ah, prescriptivism, AKA how to tell the wannabe linguists from the actual linguists.
    If their boss won’t do anything, try to reframe it as them just trying to sound smarter than they are (especially since you mention them occassionally being wrong). Just roll your eyes internally and ignore them outside of any strictly required work interactions.

  22. Green great dragon*

    #1 Could you explain back to them, in an equivalent tone, the errors of etiquette which they are making? They clearly need your guidance.

  23. Relly*

    #1, I think Alison’s script is best for not making waves, but I’d be extremely tempted to raise an eyebrow and come up with an equally pretentious reply. E.g., “Goodness. I find pedantry to be simply tedious.”

  24. cncx*

    RE OP1 American in Europe here, and i find that gets done to me a lot in my foreign languages, which makes me wonder if any of the targets of the grammar sticklers are not english mother tongue? it doesn’t make it better or any less rude, i’m just wondering because it has happened to me a lot. In my case it has definitely been a power play to cut me off of my train of thought or stop me in my tracks, and i hate it. I have a degree in one of the two languages i get “corrected” on and it is maddening. is there something else going on, like are they targeting immigrants or expats? if so then there’s more than just grammar going on, it’s definitely a form of bullying.
    I like alison’s script. The bottom line is, if people can understand each other, they can. Interruptions suck.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, this might be a xenophobic power play. Which is especially gross and disheartening given our current political situation in the US and several other countries. :-(

    2. Jasnah*

      I would hate that. Sometimes I’m in active learning mode and I want to be corrected. Sometimes I just want my meaning to get across, so if you got what I meant, then don’t correct me! It’s not helpful, it’s just rude!

  25. Bilateralrope*

    If I had to deal with #1, I’d be tempted to go down the unprofessional route of intentionally making my grammar worse when they are within earshot. Maybe get a few people I’m working with to see how long we can keep going with Yoda speak.

    Probably a bad idea as this likely to make them escalate.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      You might be able to get a lot of people going along with Yoda speak on May 4th. Which is bound to get them really angry, especially when you explain why you picked that day for it.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        You might be able to get a lot of people going along with Yoda speak on May 4th. Which is bound to get them really angry, especially when you explain why you picked that day for it.

        Or, if you really want to see some heads explode, speak Klingon on May 4th, and explain why you picked that day for it. ;-)

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Fun fact: Yoda speak is mostly characterized by sentences in object-subject-verb order, which is very rare among real-world languages. If I recall correctly, subject-object-verb is the usual order in almost half of all languages, and subject-verb-object (the way English does it) is usual in most of the rest. Verb-first is a bit unusual; object-first languages are rare and I don’t think any of them have a large number of speakers. Apparently the Star Wars writers deliberately set out to make Yoda’s speech pattern sound strange to almost everyone on earth.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Do this I would and fun fact would share when questioned! (I have no idea if that’s how you Yoda-ize a compound sentence, but it was fun to try.)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Combine Yoda speak with bad grammar, Klingon, pirate speak, and anything else you can think of.

      “Fixing to knock you upside the head, I be.”

    3. DashDash*

      Probably a further bad idea, but might I recommend the book “Mortal Syntax: 101 Language Choices That Will Get You Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs – Even If You’re Right”? All grammar that is technically correct by prescriptive terms, but now sounds glaringly wrong in practice.

    4. Forkeater*

      I love this! Maybe reply with “ain’t that the cutest! You be tryin’ to correct mine grammar! Aw shucks.”

      1. LavaLamp*

        My mom was from Texas. Thanks to her and my dearest friend being from Saskatchewan I can do a horrible Canadian/Texan mishmash. I kinda wanna try it out on your coworkers. It isn’t even an accent it’s just using words a little differently.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I was thinking #1’s office should take up regionalisms as a group hobby. Try and fit at least one into every conversation. There are a few good ones on thread above and I’m sure you can find more on the internet.

  26. TeapotNinja*

    OP1: Start a study group for a foreign language, don’t invite the jerks. In 12 months conduct all your meetings in that foreign language.

  27. MommyMD*

    I’d tell the grammar police to “stop it” with a Miss Manners cold stare. Let the chips fall where they may. Enough is enough.

  28. Nea*

    OP1: Complain to your manager and HR – but more than that – DOCUMENT! It’s one thing to say “They constantly interrupt & are rude” but it’s much more powerful to say “Last Tuesday they barged in on a hallway emergency meeting on teapot glaze and disrailed it over language I understood.” “This morning they were so insultingly rude to Coworker X that my coworker is afraid to speak normally – and I need to meet with them over teapot handles.”

    This is interrupted work. This is damage to business relationships. If their manager won’t take effective action, maybe yours can armed with documentation on the effects of the verbal policing on business.

  29. CatCow*

    Re: #1, I certainly don’t condone their behaviour in addressing it, but I can totally understand where OP’s grammar-police co-workers are coming from. Nothing sets my teeth on edge like speaking to someone with really bad grammar. Most of the time I just remind myself that it’s my biggest pet peeve but not that big of a deal and don’t say anything, but privately I absolutely think it makes people appear unprofessional and under-educated (but not stupid, that’s going too far). I think the way they’re going about trying to address this is inappropriate and not constructive but I can understand their concern, especially if the people they’re calling out deal with clients. Dealing with a representative with really bad grammar (verbal or written) would absolutely be enough to drive me away as a client. To be fair, I’m talking about really frequent, egregious and blatant errors, not things that could just be differences in styles or the odd typo.

    1. Anononon*

      Honestly, with how subjective and transient most grammar conventions are, I think it makes people who are extremely rigid about grammar appear unprofessional and under-educated (but not stupid, that’s going too far).

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, it’s such a simplistic view. I guess if the extent of your grammar education is what you learned in elementary school, you might think that grammar rules are eternal and unchanging? But anyone who’s studied literature, or poetry, or even the English language beyond that level will understand that there’s a lot more to it than that. My job is basically editing legal documents for clarity, so I do follow some standard conventions in that context, but certainly not in other written communication, and CERTAINLY not in a spoken conversation.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        This is where I stand. Language and usage are constantly evolving, and holding fast to a certain set of grammar rules really misses the point. Grammar “rules” exist to make communication and understanding easier. And as humanity changes, the rules change with them. If I had an employee who was as hung up on a certain set of grammar rules as OP’s coworkers, I would start to wonder if they were this worryingly rigid and unchanging in other work-related areas. It would really make me doubt their ability to be a flexible and cooperative member of our team. Cooperating with coworkers is really not optional. It’s an essential function of every job I’ve ever encountered. Employees who so deliberately drive wedges between themselves and their coworkers are not performing their job duties to the best of their ability.

    2. Nox*

      The other issue from the POC perspective is that it’s based in prejudice. I find that majority of people who fixate on grammar are white and use it to derail valid discussions. If someone was running their mouth at me implying I was undereducated – say hello to the EEOC.

      Stop nitpicking- its veiled whitesplaining and we see you.

      1. SehrAnon*

        Is it another kind of bigotry, though, not to expect POC to meet linguistic standards? This type of argument always strikes me as sort of implying “they’re too dumb to speak to this standard/I have lower expectations of POC.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Not when someone leaps on POC for perceived errors, but ignores the same or similar errors when they’re made by white people.

          1. Crivens!*

            Yup. I have seen people pick on a person of color for some minor grammatical difference, and then not blink an eye at me (a white person from the south) saying I’m “fixin’ to” do something, or using “ain’t”, or any other thing that is actually a bigger error.

        2. Birch*

          It’s often not about errors but about dialects. It’s a fine line when it comes to understanding–I may not understand a POC’s speech, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically wrong, even when they would be incorrect if they were speaking my dialect. IMO in that case you need to bridge the gap by figuring out either how to meet in the middle with both people explaining in multiple ways, or set a standard based on the environment, e.g. we expect this style for professional communication in this workplace. It’s a problem when privileged people automatically apply their own dialect standards to every situation.

        3. gecko*

          No, because the standards themselves are racist and classist. Different dialects and accents are simply that–different dialects and accents. That applies to a black person speaking African-American Vernacular English, it applies to a poor white person speaking with a heavy Boston accent, it applies to an English BBC announcer speaking in received pronunciation, and it applies to the “accentless” American English of the Midwest. These are all English and, absent racism and classism conflating a person’s worth and intelligence with their manner of speech, they are value-neutral.

          A formal English style where one never begins a sentence with “and,” one uses “he or she” rather than “they,” and never uses “me and my friend” in front of a verb–that is still a specific flavor of English. To declare it correct to the exclusion of all other manners of speech is ahistorical and hypocritical. It’s certainly fair to decide that outgoing communication, whether spoken or written, from a company should be in that formal English style; but informally, those standards are meaningless except in conferring racial and class information, and why should you value that information or use it to inform your perception of the speaker?

        4. Anonny*

          Language is extremely cultural and variable. They’re not ‘not meeting linguistic standards’, they have different linguistic standards that they are meeting. This can be because like, ethnicity, what part of the country you’re from, possibly even what part of a city you’re from, age, class, what your first language is… many different factors.

          1. Joielle*

            Yes! AAVE in particular has its own well-documented structure and internally consistent grammar, it’s just different from the dialect we’re mostly taught in school. It’s fascinating to me that people can look at other countries and go “ah, yes, there are dozens of dialects of Arabic” or whatever but think that English has One Correct Way and everyone else is just wrong.

            1. Myrin*

              To be fair, dialects work differently in different countries; where I’m from, dialects have literally nothing to do with ethnicity but with where you are from, geographically. So someone could know about the dozens of dialects in my language and still have a different opinion regarding US English because it’s different anyway; I sincerely doubt there’s that much knowledge about other language’s dialects at play, though.

            2. Anonny*

              Yeah, I’ve seen people commenting on “Scottish Twitter” lists things like “why can’t they spell” or “why is their English terrible” and like, no it’s not, that’s Scots English.

              And anyway, given the sheer spread of English as a language, why would you expect everyone to speak with ‘proper’ English? (Which I’m guessing is defined as either received pronunciation or mid-Atlantic depending on whether your local dialect is derived from British or American English.)

            3. MM*

              The funny thing here is that Arabs themselves will go on about which dialect is “closest” to “pure” or “original” Arabic, absolutely with all the value judgements you might imagine are implied. (Interestingly, though, these designations don’t necessarily line up with power; Egyptian is probably the most “powerful” dialect because almost all Arabs understand it, having grown up on Egyptian movies, but Syrian is usually cited as “purest,” reflecting a general image of Syria as cultured. And meanwhile neither Egypt nor Syria is a dominant Arab power at this point, though at the height of Egyptian cinema Egypt certainly was. It’s all tied up with religion anyway, because of Classical Arabic vs. Modern Standard vs. the dialects, and yet no one suggests that Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, has the “purest” or “correct” Arabic. I could go on for pages.)

              It’s hogwash, of course, just as it is for English or Spanish or any other language, but there’s no escaping it in any context in which language has been invested with political hierarchy (which is most of them). I think I heard about a small island where there are 300 indigenous languages, and everybody only ever speaks their own because being a speaker of X comes with particular meaning about land rights; that might lead less to hierarchy than to a kind of even-handed particularism, but that’s about the only exception I can come up with…

        5. Arctic*

          No, it’s a kind of bigotry to just assume the arbitrary standards of grammar chosen relatively recently by folks who completely ignored dialects from undesirable groups is the only proper way to speak.

          1. Pescadero*

            …but standardization (of languages of all sorts) isn’t intended to define a “proper” way to speak, but an “efficient” way to speak.

            Standardization is not done for the purpose of choosing the “best” or “correct” – it’s done for the purpose of pragmatic efficiency.

            1. MM*

              This is a naive perspective. The history of language standardization is tied to the history of the nation. For the vast majority of human history, multilingualism was the norm; people used one language in the market, another at home, another in dealing with the government, and so on. With the rise of the concept of the nation-state (i.e., that the political unit should correspond to a cultural-ethnic one), suddenly you had huge pushes to make everyone speak the same, so as to make this correspondence between the state and “the nation” more thorough or real. This is why, for example, the history of the formation of what we now call France is also the history of the standardization of French; that was a violent process that involved persecuting people for speaking a different dialect (like, say, Bretagne). The same story can be found in the UK with the attempts to eradicate Welsh, Scots, and so on–there are Scottish people alive today who remember being beaten or humiliated by teachers in school for speaking the dialect of their families.

              There is a reason that the right to speak a dialect or local language is enshrined in Spanish and Canadian law, for example, and that Republicans have tried to create legal “national language” status for English in the US and have been stopped every time they’ve tried. It simply is not about efficiency; people have managed to communicate multilingually and across dialectal lines very easily for thousands of years. It’s about power.

              1. Jasnah*

                This is exactly correct. I would encourage Pescadero and anyone else who believes standardization happens without value to look into the history of the Japanese language, where standardization of the Tokyo dialect as “correct” Japanese aligned with the unification of the nation. Ethnic minorities in Hokkaido and Okinawa had their territories annexed and were forbidden from using their languages. Even today people are taught that Okinawan is a “dialect” of Japanese, when it’s a fully distinct language with separate history and conventions. But by pretending it’s derivative/subordinate/lower than “standard” Japanese, they can pretend that Okinawan culture, history, and ethnicity have the same relationship to mainland Japan.

                1. Pescadero*

                  Nothing done by humans ever happens without a value judgement involved – but the general purpose of standardization is efficiency.

                  Sometimes that efficiency involves “subjugate the out group(s)” – but the purpose of that subjugation is efficiency… it’s much easier and more efficient to rule an ethnically/racially/culturally/religiously/linguistically homogeneous population.

            2. Arctic*

              That’s just plain not true. Many dialects or local language is more efficient. For instance “ain’t” is a very efficient word that has been rejected.

              In fact, English has many inefficiencies, which makes learning it very difficult.

        6. DreamingInPurple*

          There’s a difference between thinking someone is incapable of meeting a standard (what you’re describing) and acknowledging that the “standard” is really not important in most situations.

        7. MM*

          Your error is in assuming that one dialect is Right and all others are Wrong, or that there is a reliable and universal connection between manner of speech and intellect. (If I speak another language poorly, it doesn’t mean I’m dumb. Similarly, someone with a cognitive issue that affects their speech may be perfectly brilliant and simply have trouble articulating their thoughts with words.) Different dialects are just that–different. As an example, it is entirely possible to speak or write African-American Vernacular English incorrectly; it has its own rules and conventions. (See, for example, any time a politician or authority figure tries to sound “cool” by using black slang–or, much worse, the sockpuppet accounts white racists make on Twitter posing as black people.) The illusion that one dialect is Right comes simply from the fact that it is the dialect invested with social, political, and economic power, and is enforced as a means of exercising that power. Un idioma es un dialecto con armas, as I was taught in my Spanish linguistics class (“A language is a dialect with weapons”).

          As a result, being accepting of a person of color’s “non-standard” speech has nothing to do with assumptions about their intelligence, or higher or lower expectations. It is simply a matter of recognizing that dialects exist.

      2. MattKnifeNinja*

        Thank you. Know many people who hang up on customer service when the worker sounds like they are from “Detroit” rather than “Grosse Pointe”. The excuse is “They don’t sound professional, I doubt they know what they are doung.”

        Real reason (for them) POC=stupid=waste of my time. All this from how the person greeted them.

        My one relative fished around on BC/BS help line for 30 minutes to find a non POC customer service person. Unreal.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Nothing sets my teeth on edge like speaking to someone with really bad grammar.

      I think someone interrupting a conversation that doesn’t involve them, in order to correct grammar, is probably more annoying. :-)

    4. Mockingjay*

      As a professional technical writer with a degree in English language and literature, I work with several people who fancy themselves grammatical experts and routinely “correct” my work and speech. I assure you, they are NOT experts. Each proffered correction has been wrong. Every one.

      They don’t do it to improve my skills or communications in a effort to be more professional. It’s a dominance play. These corrections disrupt the flow of meetings and force me to take time on document edits to justify every tiny change made.

      I’ve made it clear that I will not debate or defend my word choices, spoken or written. It’s (literally) my job to know these things (and all my work is proofed by another technical writer who also knows what they are doing.)

      1. ShortT*

        The last time someone interrupted a conversation in which she had no part attempted to correct my grammar, I was running low on patience. I rolled my eyes, and said, “Wow, that was a lame attempt at dominance. Better luck next time?” She, too, was incorrect BTW. (The conversation was in a language that neither of us speaks as a first language.)

    5. CheeryO*

      Eh, I know a lot of very educated people who have excellent written grammar and terrible spoken grammar. There are factors other than education at play, so it’s a little obnoxious to judge, as long as you can understand the person.

      1. Arctic*

        Factors like the fact that people who grew up with a certain dialect or in “uneducated” families (as the OP says) find it difficult to shed all vestiges of their upbringing even if they end up getting an excellent education.
        And they shouldn’t have to!
        It’s just one of the ways POC and those who grow up poor will always be left behind. No matter how hard they work, no matter the education they receive, no matter their occupation. They will always be judged.

    6. Observer*

      You’re doing a huge amount of projecting here.

      For one thing, the idiots are often wrong. For another, according to the OP even the genuine “mistakes” are not severe. And they are doing this in contexts that are completely inward facing.

      In other words, there is no way your excuse makes any sense. This is totally NOT about insuring that people all speak and write properly in public facing situations.

  30. SigneL*

    #1: When they interrupt you with a correction, stop. Give them a hard stare. Then continue. If you are explaining, say, how to clean the blooperflug so there will not be a fire, whether or not your subject and verbs agree may not be of primary importance (and I’m a grammar fanatic). But I would use the stop/stare/continue method, issuing you have to deal with these people at all.

    1. SigneL*

      I did know someone who literally stopped and corrected people when there was a fire/they were trying to tell people how to GET OUT safely. Really.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I would throw them in the fire. Well not really. But so tempting.

        Time and place people. Time and place.

        1. SigneL*

          Our manager did have a meeting afterwards, saying that was NOT the time to have a discussion about grammar. (I’m glad she made that clear, but really? Who needs to be told that?

        1. SigneL*

          It’s been so long, I don’t remember, but I think someone yelled “Go left!” and the correction was “Go TO the left!” Something like that, anyway. There was a lot of smoke and we were just trying to get out!

  31. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Fun alumni networking story. I received a cold call from Recent Grad from my school. I didn’t know him. He had gotten my number from a colleague who suggested he call me. I chatted with Recent Grad for a few minutes and it quickly became clear he was looking for a job. I knew of (and I am not making this up) three available jobs in our greater geographical area, and which were suitable for recent grads. I mentioned the jobs and where they were posted. His response (which I am also not making up) was, “I didn’t call you so you could tell me where jobs are posted. I called you so that you would hire me and I wouldn’t have to go through applying.” *facepalm*

    1. Falling Diphthong*


      I hope this didn’t put you off helping the more fully formed larva. (Having watched kids try desperately to discern the hidden permutations of the secret rituals you must precisely follow, after which you will have A Good Job.)

    2. irene adler*

      Gumption gone wild.
      “I would think that a grad of XX U would at least have the understanding that the hiring manager does the hiring. And that the application process is there for a reason. A very good reason- to field qualified candidates for open positions. What makes you think I can override the hiring manager, the application process and the HR folks just to bring you in?”

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      “What was your name again? Great, I’ll pass that on to HR so they know to put your application in the circular file”.

    4. TootsNYC*

      SO MANY people don’t understand the importance of good information-gathering questions!

      If he’d asked, “About Job A: do you have any insights into the tasks, or the company or department, that would help me tailor my resume or cover letter? What do they usually value most?” you could have helped him.

  32. NonnyNon*

    #1- Am I the only one that would channel Ace Ventura and look at them and say, “Thank you Helpy Helperton.” and move on? No engagement beyond that.

    I am all for correct grammar useage, but there’s a time snd place for corrections….which is during elementary school.

  33. Anonyna*

    I’m telling you guys, OP #1 is describing another work situation where the JTTTFO method from a post last week would work effectively.

  34. AnonAnon*

    If some alumni tried to recontact me, there would be screaming and curse words. You are under no obligation to participate in their inanity.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Why? You are allowed to ignore someone. There’s no need for screaming and rudeness because someone reached out through publicly available methods. If there’s an alumni network, don’t be a part of it.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially given that nowadays, these contacts almost exclusively come through LinkedIn. Maybe I’m unique here (though I doubt it), but I get at least 2-3 out-of-the-blue messages every single week through LinkedIn. I just can’t imagine having the emotional energy to get fire-and-brimstone cursing and screaming every time I get an unwanted LinkedIn message, no matter if it came from a recruiter or a fellow alum.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        This doesn’t seem that surprising to me. I’ve never had any help from an alum, and never had any means of reaching out to one. Maybe it’s my field.

    2. LQ*

      I mean, yeah, you are under no obligation to participate in their inanity, true…but screaming and curse words at a LinkedIn message feels a little extreme.

      I’d likely treat someone who went to my school the same way I’d treat someone who random LinkedIn messaged me. If it was clear that they had read who I was and actually seemed like they wanted help and I had time and energy, maybe I’d respond and answer a question or two for them.

      But screaming and swearing, I guess I just don’t have the energy for that.

  35. Foreign Octopus*

    OP1: I’m an ESL teacher and occasionally I have to catch myself from correcting people’s grammar because I’m so used to doing that for my students during our lessons. I stop myself because a) they’re not paying me to fix their grammar and b) it is impossible rude to correct a native speaker’s English unless asked for or the understanding of the sentence is reliant upon the correction.

    These people are arses of the highest order but I think the problem isn’t that they are correcting people’s grammar, it’s the aggressive manner they’re doing so. They’re interrupting conversations, holding up meetings, and generally using it as a tool to beat you with and I would focus on that when approaching the manager.

    If all else fails and they correct your grammar or someone else’s during one of your conversations, stop the conversation and look at them. Put all your attention on them and then say: “That was incredibly rude. Do you need to excuse yourself from this conversation?”

    I think the reason they’re getting away with it so much is because people are either ignoring them, rolling their eyes, or doing as the manager’s do and being ineffective with it. Call them out on it everytime in a polite and professional manner and whilst it may not stop the problem in its entirety, it may stop the problem for you, and hopefully you can lead by example.

    On a personal side note, a friend once corrected me in public when I said “film adaption” instead of “film adaptation” and I nearly threw my drink in her face, so I get your feelings here.

    Please come back and update!

    1. Yorick*

      I once said “recidivation” instead of “recidivism” during a presentation, and most people I mentioned it to afterwards didn’t even notice.

    2. Common Welsh Green*

      This doesn’t often happen to me, (I’m old and therefore unlikely to be able to learn new tricks), but if it does, I’m using your script. Very nicely put!

  36. Writerboy*

    OP#2: Unless the person’s major or anticipated career path is in line with what I do and how I could possibly be of service, it would definitely feel like the correspondent is clutching at straws. Just like with LinkedIn connection requests, you should always explain to the person why you wish to make contact. If someone who studied Geology wrote to me asking about my workplace and whether we could meet for coffee, I’d want that person to explain how they think talking to me about corporate communications is going to be helpful in their pursuit of meaningful opportunities as a geologist. If the person wants to break into my field, that’s a different story, but they should say so.

  37. SafetyFirst*

    OP #1, I have worked with some engineers in the past who were that pedantic about *everything* and it was exhausting. I learned to just edit any sentence that began “actually…” from the conversation.

    One of the most frustrating things about situations where the best course of action is probably to “rise above” the other person’s behavior is how unsatisfying it is. They get to go around making trouble and being a childish pedant, and you have to be an adult.

    I address this frustration by playing out the things I wish I could say or do in my head. This serves two purposes: first, I can mentally “get it off my chest” and second I can take a step back from those responses and see that saying those things out loud would not make me the kind of person that I want to be or solve the problem.

    In this situation, the action I imagined on your behalf was looking these people dead in the eye, so they know it’s intentional, and using their least favorite / most corrected grammar issue incorrectly in a really obvious and sarcastic way. A more extreme thought was to give them a “Grammar police” ticket notebook and insist that they write me a ticket for the correction, then proudly display them in public way on my office or cubicle. I can recognize that this escalates a stupid interaction and that I am enough of an adult to not do that, but it is satisfying to imagine.

  38. Johanna*

    LW #1… I worry what other issues are going on in this workplace. Managers who aren’t willing to manage and co workers attempting to edit/control/distract you.

  39. Sunshine*

    Some marvellous person in another thread used the Captain Awkward phrase “return awkwardness to sender”. I suggest exactly that. Unless it’s literally their job, they shouldn’t be correcting your grammar. They need to be reminded of that.

    Stay icily polite. Use their names. Offer to give them extra tasks as they obviously have a lot of free time.

    Side Note: They remind me of an Oatmeal cartoon called The Bobs. It’s about a pair of business cats who go round terrorising their co-workers…

  40. londonedit*

    OP3 – a while back I worked for a company where I was paid a fixed daily rate, so at the end of the month I’d send an invoice for the number of days I’d worked that month. In addition to this, the owner wanted a timesheet from me with a breakdown of the hours I’d spent working on each project that month. None of that was a problem, except that the owner would nitpick every. Single. Time. And refuse to pay my invoice until the timesheet reflected the hours they wanted to be assigned to each project, rather than the hours I’d actually spent working on each project. I tried suggesting that if there was a maximum number of hours they wanted me to allocate to a particular thing, they should let me know, and I’d set a project aside once I’d reached my allocated number of hours. Well, apparently that wasn’t what they wanted either. I tried it out, and when I warned them I was approaching the agreed time limit, they’d get angry at me for not getting enough done, or they’d ignore it and give me more work to do for that project anyway. And then every month, the same thing – ‘I don’t believe you worked this many hours on Project A. You shouldn’t have worked so many hours on Project B. Change this timesheet.’ It was frustrating, demoralising and insulting, as I was being accused of a) lying on my timesheet, and/or b) not getting the required amount of work done/mismanaging my time/failing to complete the work the owner wanted.

    It won’t surprise you to learn that the owner was also a chronic micromanager who would change their mind a million times during the course of a project, meaning that days’ worth of work was often discarded and people ended up doing the same thing over and over in an attempt to somehow work out what the heck the owner actually had in mind.

  41. Narise*

    I remember this arse on Dear Abby that would correct grammar. She corrected one of my posts from two years ago! I tried to turn it into a joke and give her a chance to drop it but she acted as though she was doing their world a favor. I still see her correcting grammar on Dear Abby posts and I find it so sad that’s how she is spending her retirement.

    1. WellRed*

      When she’s not doing that, she’s going through library books with a pencil and making corrections.

  42. Need a Beach*

    LW #1

    I would be so tempted to go full Joey-Tribiani-thesaurus-vomit on them. “Big boy pants? Surely you meant trousers of a masculine adult persuasion?”

    Or get the rest of the office to start speaking badly-faked old English. “Hail, Fergus! Wherefore art thou coffee this fine day’s dawning?”

    But in all seriousness, do these grammar police have jobs even remotely related to the topic, like editing or writing? If so, you can point out that their attempts to correct everyone else, if successful, would render their jobs obsolete. (Not really, of course, but you get the idea.)

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Whether you’re stuck with grammar jerks or not, I think more places should have a Shakespearean-speak day. “Oh copier, sweet copier, wherefore art though jammed anon? Hail Fergus! Fetcheth the sledge hammer!”

  43. SigneL*

    #1 – I HATE being interrupted (unless the interruption is, say, “Fire!”). I usually say, “Kindly allow me to finish,” and continue. You can do this without ever listening to what they are saying, thus not breaking your train of thought. My advice is to get as many people as possible to ignore them in order to train them to stop.

    Do they do this to higher-ups? Just curious.

    1. irene adler*

      Or, “I wasn’t speaking to you. ” Then continue conversation.

      My suggestion: turn it back on them. Get in their face, barrage them with words and make them justify their comments.
      Next time OP is interrupted by the grammar brigade, stop and say, “Are you sure about that? Really? ARE you sure? Are you absolutely sure about what you said? Do you know for a fact that you are correct ? Because I happen to know that your ‘correction’ is in fact, incorrect. Not in the least. I really don’t think you have the brains to realize just how mistaken you are. In fact, your whole demeanor makes it obvious that you haven’t the first freakin’ clue about proper grammar. Yet you have the gall to correct ME about something you know NOTHING about. Shame on you! Who do you think you are? I’ll tell you who you are. YOU are a pathetic, mis-guided loser of a human being whose finds solace in the humiliation of others. Get out of my sight! Learn how to treat others with respect!”

  44. M*

    #2 informational interviews are a big thing at my former Ivy university (I just say this to give context). I think most similar schools make a big deal out of informational and networking events/ interviews. As a female I also personally try to do informational interviews for others when I can especially when other women ask for my help. I have been on both side in my career. And honestly you never know when you’ll need the assistance. I read an interview years ago where a CEO basically ignored anyone who wanted informational interviews or help. Then he quit his job, couldn’t find another and realized how you treat people on the way up is how you will most likely be treated on the way down. I find this to be true, people will always remember how you make them feel. So even if you are unable or unwilling to speak to them replying or having your assistant reply is a kind service to them.

    1. Aitch Arr*

      The alumnae network of my Seven Sister college is a big thing too.

      I’m often happy to exchange emails, speak over the phone, or even meet for coffee with other grads who are interested in my career field. I consider such activities as paying it forward.

      If you don’t want to participate, turn off your InMail, ignore the messages, and/or opt out of your alumni directory.

  45. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#1, have you tried just outright laughing at the grammar guys? I had a cubicle neighbor once who would share conspiracy theories with me (think “Muslims leaving prayer rugs in the Mexican desert” types of debunked conspiracy theories), and one day I finally simply started laughing at him. The thing is, he was always ready with an answer to something I might say to disagree with his statements. But he sure didn’t like being laughed at there in the cubicle farm.

    (Also, as I’ve said before, I’m an old and IDGAF.)

  46. agnes*

    RE: person concerned about their hands–are you taking a lot of notes in an interview? If so, that could been seen as a little odd. I have interviewed people who spent a lot of time writing notes during the interview. It was a red flag to us that perhaps the person had some cognitive issues. I would limit the note taking to what is absolutely essential.

      1. Not All*

        Pretty easily. There just isn’t much in an interview that the person being interviewed should need to write down. If someone can’t answer “tell me about a time when…” without taking notes, how on earth are they going to remember the details of a hallway conversation about a work project if I hire them?

        Sure, if you are giving them technical problems to solve or have reached the point of discussing benefits but I don’t get the impression that’s the situation. The interview panel takes notes on responses, not the person being interviewed (beyond jotting a word/phrase/name down).

        1. Jasnah*

          I agree it’s weird if someone takes copious notes in an interview, but if you jump to “cognitive issues” I worry you’re setting yourself up to discriminate against people. I’d recommend you rephrase it/reframe it to be concerned about their ability to perform the job, so that other interviewers and candidates don’t mistake your intentions.

        2. notes in interviews*

          I work in one of “the professions” but find interviews challenging (not cognitively, but because it often feels like a game I rarely win). I stopped taking notes because of advice I received, but after leaving my last interview, I wrote down everything I could remember. One reason it was helpful was to develop thank you note content.

          (I didn’t get a second interview even though there were multiple opportunities open.)

  47. Clawfoot*

    RE: letter #1

    Personally, if someone picks on me for doing a thing, and I think it’s weird that they’re making the thing into a bigger thing, then I INCREASE DOING THE THING.

    I’d just start peppering my speech with “y’all”s and “ain’t”s and “I can haz”es and deliberate malapropisms and whenever they corrected me, I’d respond with, “IRREGARDLESS, the point I are today makes is [X].”

    But I’m just contrary like that.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      Hahaha, love it! Editor of the written words here… “Irregardless” is the only spoken word I ever get the itch to correct. But still. No.

      1. Joielle*

        Same here, and yeah, “irregardless” and “could care less” both set my teeth on edge, but I still resist the urge. I even keep my mouth shut when my mother in law regularly says “I seen it on TV.” If we can resist, so can the OP’s coworkers!

        1. LQ*

          I love could care less, because there is a very sarcastic way to say this that feels perfect to me. It’s sort of … I could care less (usually unspoken, but occasionally aloud: I mean…I’m not sure how but I guess in an infinite universe there will be a way, there must…).

      1. boo bot*

        Nothing’s wrong with y’all, I think, unless you’ve got something against contractions. I think the idea that “y’all” is wrong, like so many linguistic nitpicks, is more about drawing lines between various groups than it is about grammar or pronunciation.

        Grammatically, most of those lines* are pretty much arbitrary: English is a living language – it’s changing as we speak (literally!). The only reason for declaring what’s right and what’s not is to elevate some groups while denigrating others.

        *I’d say all of those lines, but since there’s a clear difference between, like, English and French, I guess there are a few exceptions.

      2. iglwif*

        There’s nothing grammatically incorrect about it! It’s a perfectly kosher contraction of “you all”.

        It’s an example of a regional variation that has been stigmatized because of the regions it’s used in / the people it tends to be used by.

        I have actually started using “y’all” quite a bit, because the default where I live is “you guys” and I like that “y’all” is gender-inclusive. I wouldn’t use it in formal writing, but there’s a LOT of stuff I say in casual conversation that I wouldn’t use in formal writing, because those are *different forms of communication* that have *different norms and rules*.

        Which is just one of the reasons that grammar-policing during meetings is obnoxious.

      3. Artemesia*

        Y’all is one of the great linguistic contributions of the south since there is no plural form of ‘you’ in English (except ‘you’ of course). It makes clear to whom one is speaking. But then of course many people use it incorrectly to refer to one person (and no ‘all y’all’ is not the plural; y’all is). Or maybe I am wrong. I did my career in the south and moved with the speed of a meteor to a big mid-western city on retirement and y’all is one of the few things I appreciated about that part of the country. That and the great fried chicken, BBQ and greens.

      4. noahwynn*

        I know if makes my Minneapolis coworkers smile, but other than that nothing and since I can’t seem to edit it out of my speech I guess they can deal with it.

      5. Clawfoot*

        There’s nothing wrong with it at all — but the kind of people who pick apart grammar are generally adhering to a form of English that excludes it. I used it as an example not of poor grammar, but of words and phrases likely to really irritate the grammar bullies. I mean, “irregardless” is an actual word with an actual entry in the Oxford dictionary, and it’s in common usage, but it seriously grates on grammar prescriptivists. (And even some of us who aren’t strictly prescriptivists.)

      6. Totally Minnie*

        When I was taking Spanish in college, a couple of my classmates was having a really hard time understanding when you would use the “vosotros” conjugations. My professor said one day that vosotros is Spanish for y’all, and you could practically see the cartoon lightbulbs turning on over people’s heads.

  48. Faith*

    I’m not a native English speaker, so I think I would just go with a nuclear option for aggressive grammar nazis like this. I’d march to HR and say that I felt bullied based on my country of origin.

  49. Nervous Accountant*

    Re #1–

    I just personally cannot believe that people act like that at work, even if that’s a core duty of the job, that’s just…ew.

    I’ll admit, I used to be very very picky about grammar and writing. I like the comment section here b/c while I’ve seen really passionate discussions about words and commas etc, it hasn’t been like the dumpster fires you see on FB/other websites where someone is pouring their heart out or making an excellent point and someone just fires back with a “fix typo*”.

    I should also mention that around that time, I was really struggling to find a job (yay to finishing school in 2009!/s) and felt extremely frustrated that I wasn’t able to find work when I’d always been reassured that it’d be easy since I spoke fluent, accent-less English. Yeah, I was a very bitter.

    Glad to say I don’t think that way anymore….I’m of the “if I understood your point, it’s fine.” I’m still known as the “writer” in my job and am happy to proofread things sometimes. What also helps is that I’ve met tons of people at work who are talented and intelligent, but struggle with writing, and I don’t think of them as unintelligent. Yay to getting out in the world and meeting new people and expanding my worldview (not /s this time).

  50. Evil HR Person*

    OP#1 – my first instinct is that these people are being bullies. If you have an HR it would be a good idea to approach them. Tell your HR exactly what you said here. It’s veering towards hostile territory, and that falls firmly into bullying and harassment (not the sexual kind, obvs).

  51. MLB*

    The people in #1 are bullies. They’re looking for a reaction so don’t give them one. When you’re having a conversation and they interrupt with a grammar correction, pretend you heard nothing and keep talking. Walk away from them if you have to (look I ended with preposition LOL).

    And since speaking to their manager does nothing, I would speak to your own manager and escalate to HR. Correcting grammar sounds like something silly to report to HR, but at this level it’s creating a toxic environment and needs to be addressed by those with the authority to do something.

  52. Wehaf*

    OP1, if they’re correcting parts of a conversation they themselves are not part of, you can briefly turn and say “This is a private conversation.” or “Excuse me, Joe and I were talking.” or “This doesn’t involve you.” and then turn right back and continue your conversation. Physically move the conversation away from them if necessary. Do not engage with what they are saying, and engage only with the fact that they are saying it by making calm and firm statement like the on above. They are looking for conversational purchase to abuse people, and you can deny it to them. Whenever I do something like this, I practice beforehand, out land, to make I am ready to address it in the moment. Good luck.

  53. FormerExpat*

    OP 1, I learned a trick from the dear Prudence emeritus. Basically, when someone says something rude to you (like correcting your grammar), give them a puzzled look and say “what an odd thing to say.” I’ve really found that it takes the wind out of annoying, know it all pedantic types.

      1. Former Expat*

        FWIW, I make this suggestion because it has worked for me many times. Example “You live in X? I feel sorry for you.” Me: “What an odd thing to say.” /end unpleasant interaction. It feels the right level of aggressive-aggressive to me as well, but then again, I am a WASP.

          1. Former Expat*

            That was meant to be a joke at my own expense. I see that it didn’t come across that way for you. I probably just rub you the wrong way. Same thing happens to me with other people.

      2. Windchime*

        I agree. It sounds good on paper, but it will usually go right over the head of the person it is aimed at. I really think that a direct approach is better; if this is something that bugs a lot of people, you are all going to have to band together and be consistent with shutting these guys down. I don’t have the gift of finesse in spoken conversation; I don’t really think fast on my feet that way so I would probably just look at the Corrector and say, “I don’t care.” Or “I wasn’t talking to you.” But that’s just how I roll.

  54. disconnect*

    OP1: buy a dog training clicker. Click it when the grammar douchebags do their thing. When they ask why, tell them exactly why.

    1. iglwif*

      Or one of those clicky-county things that I’ve seen gate staff at events use (when there are no tickets because it’s free, but they want to gauge attendance). I don’t know where you get those or how much they cost, but I feel like it would be useful to have a record of how much this is happening!

  55. Not Elizabeth*

    On #1, I would not engage with the grammar issue at all if possible — just say, “This is a private conversation,” or “This doesn’t concern you,” and go back to talking. (You could also give them a two-word sentence to diagram.)

    And on #5, not only should you not bring a thank-you note with you, it should not be a card! Your thank-you note should be a business letter or email, not a card you’d send to say thank you for a birthday present or other personal favor.

    1. Sapphire*

      Re: #5, I agree with you as a rule. I’ve done a variation on this (which has worked), which is bring blank note cards, write a note in the lobby after the interview, and leave it with the receptionist addressed to the interviewer. I suspect it impresses hiring managers of a certain age, but I’ll probably just email during my next job search.

  56. Darling Wendy*

    OP#1 I mean..just ….wow. They are doing their level best to live up to the title “Grammar Nazis”. How sad and how incredibly frustrating for you. I hope you’ll be able to find a suggestion here that is workable to shut them down. In the meantime, I saw a suggestion in the comments about giving them a look or calling out their behaviour as odd. That being said, make it awkward AF when they do this. The weird look and then no verbal response is my personal favourite…moving quickly back on to the conversation without verbally acknowledging them will annoy them. That will be my own perverse joymaking out of a sucky situation. In my experience, engaging with them verbally is rarely helpful so the less interaction the better. Best of luck! Please update!

  57. Moxie*

    #4 — I too, find it highly unlikely that this person’s nails/cuticles are preventing them from getting further interviews, BUT I once saw this a former job. We were interviewing for an office assistant and my CEO said after the the interview that since she was clearly a chronic nail biter, she probably can’t handle stress very well. He refused to hire her just based on that! I was fairly new to the working world at the time, and even I thought that was weird and dysfunctional then. But, that place was highly dysfunctional and this was just the tip of the iceberg.

  58. SaffyTaffy*

    Dearest OP4, someone who works where I work has pretty severe eczema on his hands, and his job even involves taking written statements from people, so they can be a focal point. He got a good job with those hands. You can get a good job with your hands. I believe in you!

  59. Night Cheese*

    OP #1 – these guys also reminded me of the trailer for the new series adaptation of “What We Do In the Shadows,” which was a hilarious mockumentary about vampires featuring one of the guys from Flight of the Conchords. The TV series apparently has a character who is an “energy vampire,” draining people’s energy by telling boring stories or enraging you. It shows him doing these things in an office setting. These jerks sound like energy vampires.

  60. Texan In Exile*

    If you talk to younger alums, you can meet some really nice people! I didn’t meet Stephanie on LinkedIn – I met her here, on AAM, where she is also a commenter – but if we had not discovered that we were both alums of the same school, our conversations would not have gone further. Now we have even met in real life. It’s nice to make new friends.

    And I have talked about my job to younger alums who have found me via LinkedIn or our school’s alumni database. I am happy to be able to tell them what my workplace is like. I can’t be a reference for them because I don’t know them, but I can tell them about the work environment, the city, etc. It takes 15 minutes and it’s a big help to someone starting out.

  61. Blue Eagle*

    #4 – I haven’t noticed anyone in the comments saying anything about the note taking. I was always told never to take notes during a first interview (and in a follow up interview, only if you are talking to the HR person about benefits).

    I don’t have anything to say about your hands, per se, but would find the hand gesturing and note taking very distracting as an interviewer and would suggest that you find other ways to minimize your anxiety. {But I’m also interested in what others have to say about the hand gesturing and note taking.}

    1. Birch*

      What was the reasoning behind forbidding note-taking? IMO it’s much worse to either forget something important or go back and have to ask again about something that was already covered.

      I’m interested as to why you would find gesturing distracting. Almost everyone gestures when they talk–it helps the listener comprehend what the speaker is saying and helps the speaker organize their own thoughts, and makes the speaker look more engaged and confident.

      1. Artemesia*

        Taking notes when discussing benefits seems ‘normal’ as the details are picky and specific and at that point you are presumably at the point of an offer or near offer, but taking notes during an early interview about the company, job duties, leadership styles etc etc suggests a person who cannot retain information. It may be a subtle signal that the interviewer doesn’t even recognize but affects their impression of competence of the applicant.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          That seems odd to me. Sure, making a ton of notes seems a bit odd but I’ve made a few notes here and there when answering questions, especially if it’s a complex question. Maybe that suggests that I can’t retain information but that seems a bit of a harsh interpretation of a technique to manage nerves.

          1. valentine*

            There’s nothing inherently wrong with not retaining information and another interviewer may think the candidate seemed uninterested because they didn’t take notes.

    2. WellRed*

      I commented further up on the note taking. Is it excessive? Do they run the risk of looking like they are not fully engaged in the interview? Or that they have zero ability to retain information? Do they use a pen that’s as chewed up as their nails?

      As to the gesturing, it’s hard to say without seeing how much gesturing they do? Is it with everything? Is it wildly flinging your arms around?

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, and the more I think about the note taking…how much is there really to take notes on during an interview? In my experience, 90% of an interview is either me talking, or the interviewer recapping stuff that is also in the job description, so there should only be a relatively small amount of new information to take notes on, like additional details about the job. I would be kind of confused if someone were taking A LOT of notes during an interview.

      2. chickaletta*

        I think that each of these things on their own aren’t a concern, but if OP is doing ALL of them throughout an interview – taking notes, gesturing a lot, sporting chewed nails — then it might feel to the interviewer that they’re extra anxious or insecure. If they fix a couple things they can control – clean up their nails ahead of time and maybe try leaving the notepad at home for once, then all they’re left with is gesturing which a lot of people do, as long as they’re not knocking over water glasses and whatnot. Or they can practice not gesturing and keep the notepad. Whatever. Just dial it back a little. Once they’re out of the building they can let go off all that pent up anxiety and do a little shuffle down the street. ;)

    3. Joielle*

      Yeah, I can see jotting down a few words when they’re describing the job or responding to your questions, but I guess I just can’t see a reason to take notes for most of a first interview? They’re mostly asking the questions, you’re mostly answering them, so I think note taking throughout the interview would be odd. During the interview, you want the interviewer to be thinking about your qualifications, not wondering what you could possibly be writing and trying to read your notes upside down.

      Gesturing, too – there’s not a big difference between a normal level and an excessive level of gesturing, so if OP thinks there’s any chance they’re on the wrong side of that line, they might try toning it down a little to see if it makes a difference in future interviews.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s fine to take some notes in interviews, but it shouldn’t be excessive. I just realized the OP said she’s taking notes to lessen her anxiety, which does sound like it might be more than jotting down a question or two — if so, that could absolutely be a factor in why she’s not getting call-backs — it can prevent rapport and seem a little out of place/off.

  62. Faking it Til Making It*

    #4, I relate so hard (heads up to people who don’t want to read gross nail/skin stuff- skip this post). I am not a biter but in times of stress I am a picker. What starts off as simply (and satisfyingly) peeling away at dead skin soon turns into bloody fingers. There have been a few times when these cut become infected, filling with pus. The pain is bad, but on top of that is a sense of shame- how is it that even into adulthood I haven’t been able to shake this habit? Why can’t I stop from doing something that I know isn’t good for me? There have been long stretches of time where I don’t get the urge, and I think that I’ve finally kicked it, but then something bad will happen (a stressful week at work, a family member in trouble) and I find myself back at it.

    I don’t think your ragged nails are stopping you from getting a job, but I do think that stressing out over them isn’t helping you. Rather than worrying about the nails themselves, try and get to the source of stress itself. Obviously that’s tough since you are doing something very stressful and important and you want to take job hunting seriously. But when you are not on the clock, try and do things that make you happy/relaxed. Reach out to a friend that makes you laugh. Make yourself a nutritious meal. Try and take care of yourself, mentally and physically. If you can make this a less stressful time, you’ll be less likely to chew them nails, and you’ll be less likely to stress about them, ending the stress-chew-stress-repeat cycle.

    Also, another poster suggested getting your nails done. I think this is a great idea! Anyone of any gender can get a nice manicure, which can just be shaping and trimming the nails. It gives you a financial deterrent not to wreck your nails, since you just dropped $$ on those fingers. It also turns your nails into a visual reminder to stop and not turn to this habit in times of stress.

    Good luck!

    1. MattKnifeNinja*

      If you are really really tuna and saltines broke, and have a local beauty school in your area, go there for the basic manicure.

      My place has supervised students doing the services that are graduating soon. The whole hand massage/nail polish etc is $8. You can get your nails buffed instead of polish, which is pretty too!

      People notice all sorts of stuff. I have a 3rd degree burn on the back of my left hand. Have had interviewers ask what happened. The scar is faded and not noticeable to the general public. Guess people like to nit pick.

  63. Anoncorporate*

    Re Networking: I’m probably unusual, but I am willing to talk to anyone – alum or not – who reaches out to me. Probably because I benefitted from the same thing when I was in grad school. I think this is a culture thing as well – I know informational interviews are more common in some grad programs and cities than others. Also, since I’m a minority in my field, I didnt benefit from the same connections many do, so I try to help expand the network as much as can to other people who don’t have family or friend connections.

  64. Tinybutfierce*

    1) Maybe the grammar police should be asked what they think is more important: feeling like they’re right all the time or getting along with their coworkers they have to spend the majority of their time with.

  65. Tertia*

    For OP#1:

    Could I suggest the “gray rock” method? Pick a flat, indisputable statement that doesn’t invite a response (such as, “We need to use this meeting time productively, please,” or “We need to avoid unproductive tangents today”) and repeat the same phrase in the same tone of voice as needed. It gives them no stimulation and provided that you’re not doing it frequently enough to be annoying to other meeting participants, it models a potentially useful response for others.

  66. Luna*

    OP4: I used to be a cuticle-picker, but I kicked the habit by applying cuticle oil every time I feel the urge to pick (I carry a brush pen of the Bliss Kiss one everywhere now). After a few weeks my cuticles were much smoother and less tempting to pick at, too! Might not work for everyone, but I figured I’d put the idea out there.

    1. Kitryan*

      I carry a nail clipper and glass file pretty much everywhere and when a rough spot sets off the urge to pick I trim or file it which removes the triggering stimulus of the rough nail or peeling cuticle without starting the injury cycle of picking/biting. Of course, right now I’ve got 2 bad nails where I didn’t follow my own advice, but it’s definitely improved my hands overall.

  67. Wing Leader*


    I’ve been a nervous nail biter and chewer all my life, even to the point of chewing my fingers and messing with the skin. I’ve been on several job interviews and many other normal human activities. The only time I’ve ever had someone notice my fingers and comment on it was at a nail salon while I was getting a manicure, so the person was looking right at them. Otherwise, it’s never been noticed, mentioned, hinted at, nothing.

    When we’re embarrassed about something like that, particularly something on our body, we tend to think that Absolutely Everyone in the World is Looking Right At This Spot On Me. But they’re not, I promise. Just continue on, know that they won’t even notice, and focus on how you plan to do great in your interviews.

    1. Laika*

      As a bit of anecdotal support, I’m a habitual nail biter/chewer/picker too, and have done many (I’d even say *most*) of the things other normal humans get to do, too! I’ve even worked as an office administrator and in client-facing roles where I’ve had to take notes, and similar to you, Wing Leader, no one has ever commented on the my hands.

  68. The fun aunt from Florida*

    For OP1: Maybe the fact that there are 2 of them creates a different dynamic in this situation. For instance, they might feel justified and emboldened in escalating their bad behavior because the other person is doing the same thing. A colleague might feel less able to push back because he or she is outnumbered. In grade school, they’d get their desks separated. Is there a workplace equivalent of doing the same?

  69. Zona the Great*

    I worked with a grammar nazi to the nth degree. She only STFU when we all had to take a placement test to gauge our writing skills. She failed. I passed. Suck It. Maybe you can create a similar test. Chances are, these two can’t diagram a sentence.

  70. AnotherKate*

    I disagree a bit with the advice for #1–I think it’s absolutely worth your while to simply turn to them and very coldly say, “That’s hostile.” THEN move on/ignore them. You never know who else in the room has been thinking they really ARE stupid or under-educated and have just been waiting for someone to validate it. These two jerks may not stop, but I think sometimes naming the behavior is a great comfort to other people in the room (this is especially useful if you have any seniority at all).

  71. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Re #1: I am somewhat particular about grammar. However, I am not an a**hole. These coworkers are a**holes. Never underestimate the power of a silent icy stare.

  72. TootsNYC*

    to build on the conversation you had.

    That note is the place you get to address that “I wish I’d said…” issue.
    You don’t want to go on too long, and you want to introduce it smoothly, but this is the place you can say,
    “I think I’d excel at management even though I haven’t ever had an M in my official title; I’ve supervised junior staff on the X project we talked about, and was the HR liaison for my team at Z company.”

    (You should also use your references for that–when I’m giving a reference, I always like to hear about the job, and also about any areas the candidate thinks they look weak–if I have info that can make them look stronger, I’ll stress that. Without ever saying, “she’s afraid you think she doesn’t have enough management experience.”)

  73. Lady Phoenix*

    A lolite request but can we stop it with the “Grammar Nazi” talk?

    I don’t think I would have to explain why, in 2019, that using that word in association with an extreme hate group would be… beyond awful.

    Just saying. :/

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I find it ironic that on a post about people criticising other people’s spoken English, you then come in to criticise the use of a term that has been in use since (approx.) 1995.

      We are all well aware that these people aren’t actually Nazis but it’s a perfectly common expression that has precedent in the English language.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Just because people said it in 1995 doesn’t mean it is ok to say now (not that it ever was).

        And there is a difference between not being pedantic over people speeches and associating some group responsible for genocide. Like, worlds of difference. And being associated with that group is kinda awful.

        Ae can use different words to describe this without bringing in an actual hate group. “Grammar polcing” is fine. “Pedantic jerk” is fine. They are not asociated wirh murder, bigotry, and genocide.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I will. But I want to ask, Allison, if you could curb the “Nazi comments”?

        I don’t want to make it seem that I am fighting you ot angry at you, because I am not. I am just fustrated that some of these commenters want to use that word and think it is ok, despite Nazis being the absolute worse. Especially when we have better words like “policing”.

        I will stop now.

  74. dear liza dear liza*

    OP#5- A thank you note is all about the thoughtfulness behind it. A generic thank you is meaningless.
    One time I received a thank you for participating in an all-day training session. In it, the sender complimented me on the thoroughness and knowledge reflected in my part of the session. The problem? He sent it to me via email- time stamped one minute after I started the session. He’d obviously copied and pasted for each presenter that day, and what was meant as a nice gesture was ultimately remembered by me, years later, as an Example of What Not to Do.

    1. Hidden Trout*

      #5 I switched over to email from cards a few years ago, which brings up its own questions of how long to wait before hitting ‘send.’ I think Alison is absolutely right that it’s important to reflect on the conversation before writing back. But how long should I reflect?

      This week I had a phone interview in the evening (it went over an hour long and was a terrific conversation) so I felt confident that I could write the next day. Of course, the next time I checked my email, I saw that my interviewer had written a follow-up/thank you to me time-stamped at 6:00am. I replied in the afternoon, because I was worried that a late-morning reply might look like I like to sleep in. Job searching is making me crazy and paranoid! It’s too easy to overthink every aspect of the job search when your field has only a handful of openings and a very limited hiring season each year.

  75. Amber Rose*

    OP4, I actually keep nail clippers in my bag because I chew without even thinking, and I hate rough edges on my nails. I only clip in the bathroom though. I keep bandaids handy too. If my fingers are particularly bad, a small bandaid is less unappealing than the actual state of my fingers. Even if nobody is noticing, it makes me feel better.

    Also I once had a doctor check me out with a giant gross hole in his thumbnail and I was so appalled it took all of my willpower not to flinch away from him every time he came near. Chewed up nails and such are not that gross but STILL.

  76. iglwif*

    OP2, did you go to a teeny-tiny university? Mine has probably 45K undergrad students at any one time, and I can’t imagine thinking to myself, “This person also went to X University, so they will totally want to talk to me!” But maybe for people who went to teeny-tiny universities (like, one of the ones my kiddo is considering has only 8K students in total), it feels different, like there’s a more automatic connection?

    Anyway, I don’t think you owe anyone anything just because you went to the same school. If someone I didn’t know contacted me on LinkedIn just because we both went to the same uni, I might not notice even that was the connection, and even if I did, I would just treat that request like any other request from a random person I’ve never heard of … which is by ignoring it. (Though see above re: 45K undergrads.) If someone contacts me and says “So-and-so who went to school with you told me you might be willing to talk to me about X career”, and So-and-so is someone I actually know and am semi in touch with, that would be different, obviously! I will note that every time this has actually happened to me, the So-and-so had already been in touch to ASK if they could send the person my way…

    1. JustaTech*

      I think this is a good point. If I was contacted by someone from my itty-bitty undergrad (>900 students), even if they just graduated, then I’d be happy to talk. If it was someone from my small program at BigStateU? Sure, let’s chat. Anyone else from BigStateU? Uh, no.

      The problem I had was when my itty-bitty undergrad wanted me to come up with a giant program for 5 undergrads (and a whole bunch of $ for the school) while my company was in bankruptcy. 3 minutes on Google would have been a good investment, folks!

    2. noahwynn*

      My university had right around 4500 students total when I went there, so you do know the majority of people. I mean I knew more people in my particular college (there were five colleges) and pretty much everyone in my program, but you kinda know a lot of people from parties, events, and other stuff.

    3. OP2*

      This was an aspect of the situation that I meant to include in my original question to Allison and that I realize now I forgot to include. Similar to iglwif, I went to a big university – about 45k-50k undergraduates. So, to the point that other commenters have raised here, when someone reaches out to me with a very specific, tailored request that makes sense to me, I am very happy to respond and talk with them. I’m an extrovert, I love talking with people, and I love helping people, both because it’s in my nature and because people did that for me earlier in my career.

      But since I went to such a big school, it’s possible to get requests that are more like, “I went to STATE UNIVERSITY too (or I’m currently a student now) and I’m interested in this broad field that you’re working in – can we talk?” And that’s the kind of request I feel less inclined to respond to, especially as I’ve gotten more removed from graduation (I finished my undergrad about 9 years ago).

  77. Lucille2*

    #1 – the grammar police are simply workplace bullies. The only way to fight a bully is to stop giving them power. Belittling their coworkers and getting a reaction gives them power. Personally, I would ignore their grammar corrections completely. No reaction at all to a grammar correction. Keep talking as if no one else is speaking. Their corrections are rude, unhelpful, and being helpful is not their intention.

    Alternatively, and because I can be a bit of an ass myself, I might actually throw some truly atrocious grammar in their presence just to piss them off.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Double negatives. Double negatives everywhere.

      (Although I heard that is actually an accepted practice outside of the US as a means of emphasis? Don’t quote me though)

  78. Sol*

    The last question is also some advice featured on “Grace and Frankie”; one of the main characters suggests arriving at an interview with pre-written thank yous that you pop into a mailbox on your way home. It’s presented and received as good advice – and here’s me at home, saying “Gimmicks don’t get you jobs!” (Other than that, I enjoy the show.)


    Soooo, who wants to join me in proofing the grammatical errors in Alison’s responses. (Runs from the pitchforks). Did you put those in intentionally, Alison?

  80. Phil*

    To the grammar police: I was one but special circumstances: I was a sound mixer doing TV news and used to catch spelling and grammar errors on the Chryon.
    And I used to be a nail biter but when I quit smoking I quit biting my nails too! I needed something to do with my hands so I folded them in my lap. Hands folded=no smoking AND no biting. It’s a twofer.

  81. Trendy*

    I have to put it out there on writing thank you notes for interviews. I have never written one. Never. I always shake hands with my interviewer and thank them for their time when I am leaving an interview. But, I don’t send formal emails or thank you notes because … it’s their job. It also comes across as cliche and therefore meaningless. I am a degreed professional and have asked my CFO and HR rep if they make a decision based on the thank you note, and both laughed and rolled their eyes. I can’t say all employers feel this way, but I don’t have problems getting jobs. Any other HR people out there want to comment on if thank you notes have much bearing on your hiring process?

    1. Let's Bagel*

      We were all but ready to extend an offer to someone earlier this year, and she never sent a thank you/follow up note of any kind. That rubbed us the wrong way enough that we passed on her and offered the job to the runner-up candidate.

      1. valentine*

        She may not know she’s meant to. Given gumption and gimmicks persist, there’s little reason to believe everyone’s on the same page. I keep learning secret rules here.

    2. Dee*

      Alison has mentioned this elsewhere, but a good thank-you note isn’t just about saying thanks; it’s more of a follow-up note, taking a few lines to reflect on the discussion in your interview and ideally strengthen your candidacy just a bit by demonstrating that you get what they’re looking for, are particularly well suited for some aspect of the job you’ve learned about, etc. I have hired staff directly and participated in many other candidate searches, and while the lack of a thank-you note wouldn’t sink a fantastic candidate’s chances, it absolutely can factor in when things are a little more gray. For instance, I can easily remember one candidate who had a very strong application but seemed a little scattered and made it difficult to schedule an interview, which was solid but not outstanding when it finally happened. Overall, the hiring team was having a hard time feeling out how engaged she’d be with the work, and when she didn’t send a follow-up note, we took it as our final sign to move on. A great thank-you note wouldn’t have gotten her the job on its own, but it probably would have kept her in the running.

  82. Michaela Westen*

    “some of us have even started changing our speaking habits so that we can stop being pestered over little mistakes.”
    Don’t do this. This rewards the grammar police for their pushiness. I think Alison’s suggestion of ignoring them and acting like they’re not there is best. They would get flummoxed and not know what to do.
    However, once they recover from being flummoxed they might get more aggressive, depending on what’s motivating them. It sounds like they’re huge control freaks, and if so they’ll keep trying till they have everyone under their control.
    If it was me I’d be tempted to make my grammar *worse* and say it slowly, loudly and clearly right in their face. That’s probably not a good idea. ;)

  83. 8DaysAWeek*

    OP #4 This is interesting that you wrote in about this. We actually had an internal candidate who chewed her fingers (nails, skin) badly. She had applied for 2 different internal positions. I was on the hiring committee for one of the positions. When comparing notes with the other department’s interviewer, this was one thing they flagged. The reason it was a concern was because both positions are high-pressure and can be stressful and both hiring managers took this as a sign of not being able to handle occasional high-pressure. I was surprised! Now, this is not why they were not given an offer. The candidate did admit to some other things in the interview that ruled them out immediately. Had this been the only thing the hiring managers found and they were capable of doing the job, this would not have prevented them from getting an offer. At least not for my open position.

  84. Meredith Brooks*

    Hello fellow cuticle picker. I feel your pain. I’ve been a cuticle picker since my teens (over 20 years ago), my mother was (and is) a cuticle picker (learned behavior). I’ve never known my cuticles to derail a job opportunity, though I have caught coworkers doing it and I am very conscious of not doing it in public, or at least doing it under a desk or table so no one else has to watch. I wish I had some words of wisdom. Interestingly, I have found that keeping my nails filed has cut down on my desire to bite them. Unfortunately, my cuticles are in such a continuous state of disrepair that I am constantly picking at them. Even after getting a manicure. If there’s just a little bit of cuticle overhang, I’m compelled to take care of it. But, I enjoyed reading everyone else’s suggestions and look forward to trying again!

  85. Seespotbitejane*

    Op4 I am also a nail biter and I’ve definitely picked at cuticles and made myself bleed *during* interviews before but now I’ve stopped (mostly). For a long time I made sure I was never far from a nail file but that didn’t really help with the hang nail issue. Then I discovered SimplyNailogical. She’s a very silly YouTuber who knows what she’s talking about re: nailcare. Check out her video How To Grow Your Nails. Even if you’re not into nail polish or having long talons it will have helpful advice. Jojoba oil has made my nails much tougher but it’s also really good for hang nail scabs. It keeps them soft and flexible so they’re easier not to pick at. I’ve also found that investing regular time/work on my hands makes it much easier not to pick, and having them smooth with polish (or just top coat) gives you a different fidget.

  86. tinyhipsterboy*

    Hoooooo boy, I would go OFF on OP1’s coworkers. There are myriad reasons why someone may use incorrect grammar/syntax/other linguistics, and it’s MORE unprofessional to spend your time berating someone for it rather than acknowledging you understand them and moving on. Holy cow.

  87. Not All*


    Can you ask to do a practice interview with a friend who has been on hiring panels? I’ve been on quite a few of them (yay high turnover offices?)

    From the interview panels I’ve been on, I strongly suspect that it’s the note taking that’s causing problems. It creates these very awkward pauses where there is no engagement happening. It also puts a barrier up between you & the interview panel. And really, WHAT??? is there you need to take notes on during an interview? Maybe jot down a keyword here or there but that’s the absolute maximum…if you are looking at your notepad you aren’t looking at the interviewers/making eye contact. Also, if you can’t remember a fairly straight-forward interview question (tell me about a time when…) without writing it down, we’re going to have grave concerns about your ability to remember things in all the ad-hoc conversations that happen daily.

    I’ve been on at least 3 panels where someone having long pauses taking notes resulted in the top candidate becoming our absolute bottom choice.

    Hopefully it turns out to be something that is an easy fix! Good luck!

  88. Lily*

    I have some relatives who are mostly lovely except when they play the game where they try to intentionally misunderstand you “to make you more precise in your expressions”. Fictive-but-not-unrealistic example: you talk about your usual day and tell them “and after X I always try to get home as soon as possible” and they say “even if there is some dying old lady laying on the way?!” and you say “of course not, this doesn’t usually happen” and then you are down in a discussion of the sort “but you said always” and “well, then you need to be more careful what you’re saying!”

    My method of dealing with it are some very cold question along the lines of “did you understand what I wanted to say?” After they say yes, but… you need to interrupt them, saying “Well, then the language worked quite well, right?” and then again interrupt them with “So there’s no need to have this discussion, right?” Repeat and interrupt until they stop.

    I learned to use this strategy with grammar nazis and it worked wonder! :D

  89. Emily*

    #4 – If you haven’t already, can you get one or two friends to do a mock interview with you? If you are doing something off-putting (or if your nails are distracting), maybe they can let you know. If they think you’re doing fine, then maybe you can chalk up the non-offers to mostly bad luck.

  90. Indie*

    We have a grammar policer on staff, but the context is a little different because we have been asked to model standard English grammar for the students. I still don’t think the break room is the place for that. I did say something to her about informal conversations being entirely suitable contexts for dialectal grammar but she had no clue what I was talking about. These people have usually never heard of descriptivism v prescriptivism and grammar policing is usually simply a sign of ‘I haven’t studied linguistics’.

  91. Elbe*

    It’s so rich that they grammar police are pointing out mistakes as being unprofessional, when what is REALLY unprofessional is harassing and belittling your coworkers over minor issues in casual conversation.

  92. Curious Cat*

    OP2: I got my current job through a string of connections, which all started out with an informational interview. I had worked an internship at my college and my boss had put me in contact with someone who’d had my position a few years prior and worked in the same field. I emailed her, and drove to her city an hour away for an informal informational interview over coffee. She recommended me to her coworker, who I also met with over coffee, and that coworker recommended me to her friend from college who had a job opening at her company. And so I applied, and with the string of connections (among other things), I got my current position! And I love it, and I totally have that first informational interview to thank. Of course, I get this isn’t for everyone and I didn’t reach out through LinkedIn, but just thought I’d share an anecdote of when it’s successful. I will be paying it forward if a student ever reaches out to me.

  93. Jennifer*

    We have two grammar snobs in another online community I frequent. People just ignore them or say something snarky back and it has died down a lot. Snark may not be the best way to go at work but ignoring them is a great idea.

    I use phrasing that I know is grammatically incorrect all the time. I change tenses in the middle of the same comment. I end sentences with propositions. I just think it’s weird to speak like the Queen of England in everyday, casual conversation. It doesn’t mean I don’t understand grammar.

  94. Picky picky*

    OP #4 – fellow cuticle picker-til-they-bleed here! I don’t bite my nails anymore, but cuticle picking has been impossible to stop. Band-aids have become my go-to solution. They cover up the wounds and keep me from making them worse. The only way I can go more than a day or so without picking is if I immediately cover the cuticle when I notice I’m picking at it. No amount of trimming/oiling/whatever stops me once it’s started, I have to make the area inaccessible. I carry band-aids everywhere. I have walked around with nine of my ten finger tips bandaged and so far I think I’ve had maybe three or four people ever say anything. If they do, I tend to say something silly (“You should see the other guy!”) and change the subject. As long as they’re not around when I’m putting the band-aid on, people don’t seem to notice or care.

    Also: I covered any badly picked skin with band-aids when I had an interview in my last couple of job hunts. I figure, a clean bandage is more tidy/”put together” than ripped-up skin. Plus, it keeps me from picking during the interview. :) It might be helpful for you too? Regardless: solidarity, OP! You’re not alone.

  95. Amy*

    OP2 – I had an alum reach out me via LinkedIn with the following message:

    Hi Amy,
    I’m a XYZ University grad (class of 2012)! I’m interested in applying for the recently posted frontend developer position at Teapot Development , and would love to connect to discuss your experience/work, and to learn more about Teapot Development .


    I responded, we had coffee, and I was impressed enough that I asked for her resume and passed it on to people. One thing led to another and Jessica will be starting at my company (Teapot Development) next week. While I normally don’t respond to requests on LinkedIn to people I don’t know, I did to this one because I feel strongly about supporting alums from my school.

  96. Jennifer*

    I’ll out myself here – I do look at people’s hands. I don’t think that you aren’t getting hired because of your hands, but I do think taking care of your nails is part of presenting a polished look on a job interview. It can’t hurt to try and curb that habit or make sure your hands look presentable before an interview.

  97. Betsy S*

    -“He and I are going to the meeting next week”
    -“that should be Me and him”
    -“As I said, He and I are going to the meeting next week. Are there agenda items?
    -“that really should be me and him”
    -“excuse me, we’re discussing the meeting next week. Do you have an agenda item to add?”

    1. Christine*

      It wouldn’t surprise me if the grammar pedants foisted incorrections on others. Great googlymoogly!

    2. anony*

      Why not just change it after hearing it the first time? A lot of responses here are too passive aggressive for me. Reminds me of the candy bowl letter – would you rather be ‘right’ (wrong in this case) or just get on with the conversation?

  98. Fine Point Pen*

    #1 & your grammar police.

    Sounds like they are not very nice people. Here is some advice for dealing with their professional behaviour in the moment. I’m sorry this won’t fix the fact that they are insulting and occasionally wrong themselves.

    At the beginning of meetings and when you send out documents be very clear about what kind of feedback you are looking for. “We are in the early stages here, please focus on the direction and ideas.” “This is a draft, I’m not looking for spelling or grammar feedback at this stage.” “The focus of this meeting is on the timeline for this project.”

    If they are sticklers for grammar and spelling hopefully they will also bow to the almighty meeting agenda.

    I don’t expect that will stop the grammar interruptions but it gives you opening to say, “That’s not the focus of this meeting.” And “Let’s keep to the agenda.” if they interrupt.

    Other useful scripts:
    “I find Inara’s input valuable, please don’t call her stupid around me.”
    “Inara has a good point, please let her finish.”
    “In the interests of time let’s discuss Inara’s point rather than how she made it.”
    “If you’d like I can send you the document to copy edit once we have it in its final state.”
    “I don’t want to get side tracked, please write that down and email it to me separately.” (then feel free to not read the email)
    “This blog post is going to be published under the CEO’s name. Let’s try to preserve her tone instead of rewriting entire sentences.”

    If you have the courage and inclination or an otherwise good relationships you could try telling them privately they’re damaging their professional relationships. “Simon, I don’t know if you know this but you’re getting the reputation for being a Grammar Nazi. I think your attention to detail is important for our client facing stuff. But I wanted you to know, when you interrupt people to correct them in the halls you’re damaging your professional reputation…” “If your only contribution to meetings is to correct grammar, people will think you don’t have any real ideas. Maybe you can find a balance between addressing behaviour that you find frustrating and focusing on the reason we’re all here.”

    The approaches above are all designed not to tell them they’re wrong or suggest that grammar unimportant, I don’t think you can gain ground there. But I 100% agree with you that if you point is made who cares if it was made with language that could be republished as a doctoral thesis. And they’re excluding people with different backgrounds, upbringings, and learning disabilities.

  99. B'Elanna*

    #4 – For decades I dealt with a picking condition that focused on my fingers and hands. It’s markedly better now.
    In that time though, I was extremely self-conscious, especially during interviews and networking events.
    That being said, it never seemed to hold me back from getting job offers, or limit my career. I don’t think most people noticed, or cared.

  100. Lobsterp0t*

    OP with the hands.

    One tip I learned from skincare and skin picking reddit is hydrocolloid bandages on the cuticles at night!

  101. Noah*

    Oh my, I’m a total grammar stickler who on rare occasions (emphasis on rare) will correct somebody in speech. And I certainly do correct grammar errors, even minor ones, when I’m editing somebody else’s writing. And I still hate the guys described by OP#1.

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