Why People Worry About Words

The traits of those people who correct your language - but mean well

A person sits at a desk with their head in their hands. Their head is replaced with a ball of flames
Inside the mind of the Word Worrier

The Grammar Genius Word Worrier Segmentation Project looks at those people whose lives revolve around upholding and maintaining the standards of the English language, and its grammar specifically.

Those people who hold the rules in such high respect they feel duty-bound to pass on their wisdom to those around them. Those people who will reach for the metaphorical red pen in an instant to correct your work, without invitation or welcome.

We have split these people into two distinct groups. They are the Grammar Genius and the Word Worrier. This article looks at what makes a Word Worrier worry.

(PLEASE NOTE: The use of typically marketing-sounding words including, but not limited to, segmentation, project, analysis, insights and research, is not to be interpreted to mean that any of the information in these articles has any basis other than the thoughts of the author. The eye may be keen, and the wit may be sharp, but the scientific basis is absent.)


The Word Worrier

The Word Worrier has an aura of anxiety derived from the awareness they have of those around them. The Word Worrier feels they are more ridiculed than respected. And on that, they are right.

So what makes a Word Worrier worry?

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Segmentation...of pineapple


The Word Warrior is between 39 and 52 years old, although we see additional spikes in the over-80s and the under-20s.

(It is likely that the younger and older groups include people who would ordinarily fall into the Grammar Genius segment. However, the natural tendency to jump in and correct has been muted due to the proximity of things such as social exclusion and school bullying, and death.)

The Word Worrier is an urban-dwelling "renter-for-life". Long ago, property ownership was taken off their Life To-Do list as an unachievable pipe dream. It was replaced with a general thought about moving to the suburbs. At some non-specific time in the future. They would be happy to be on the outskirts of "anywhere, really".

The Word Worrier can be male or female. Or both. They have a higher-than-average propensity to be in a same-sex relationship. It is common for at least one-half of these couples to be called Colin. Or Colleen. Both are usually abbreviated to Col.

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Segmentation...of pomegranate


For the Word Worrier, memories of free milk and school dinners colour what they see as 'typically average' schooldays. The Word Worrier remembers creative play and sandpits more than sit-down exams.

The Word Worrier will have attended a school that was named after either its street or its builder. Or its local MP.

University attendance is more common for both men and women in this group. Most will have attended a University that a year or two earlier had been a Polytechnic.

Almost all are now Bachelor of Arts, with honours. Second class.

The Word Worriers studied a wide variety of subjects at University, but almost all included the word Communications or Modern or Social. The degree will have no clear link to the job they now do. This will have instilled within the Word Worrier a constant sense of failure.

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Segmentation...of an apple

Memories of grammar

The Word Worrier will have committed to memory certain mnemonic jingles that were used throughout their formative years to teach a predictive grammar.

History now shows us that the practice of putting rhyming words that rarely made sense - and rarely even rhymed - against a three-note earworm had reached its hiatus in this time period.

(In the 90s, the style of education waned as record companies - desperate to find additional income streams in the years leading up to 2001's Pop Idol - tried to sue for unpaid royalties.)

This hubbub of activity means it is rare for the Word Worrier to remember the complete versions of these intended memory triggers. Ironically.

There will be more confusion caused by the many post-scripted variants being created by teachers who would go on to promote themselves to the level of Grammar Genius. It makes it difficult to be sure if the IE must rhyme with Bee or sound like A.

Ultimately, when it comes to their knowledge of grammar, the Word Worrier will tell you, it is something they ‘’just put down to just picking up’. The Word Worrier will enjoy using this phrase, as it demonstrates the fun that can be had when combining opposing idioms.

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Segmentation...of melon

Family life, growing up

The Word Worrier grew up in a family unit they call 'more stable than most'.

At a time when the average household had 1.6 children, the Word Worrier will have one sibling.

Whether they are older or younger, the age difference will always be 18 months - sometimes to the day. They will always be the opposite sex.

For the Word Worrier, the family is very important. Though this is more as a conceptual notion of family than anything tangible.

Looking at the relationships with extended family as a proxy for familial sentiment, we see the Word Worrier seems less close to cousins than the Grammar Genius.

They remember their cousins as intelligent, smartly dressed and more privileged than themselves. These memories have been shaped by only ever meeting at family anniversaries or birthdays.

The parents of the Word Worrier will have stayed married for the duration of their childhood. Most will have had their divorce papers ready to issue on the day the Word Worrier left for University.

Of the still married parents, at least one, but usually both, will have had at least one, but usually more, extramarital affair(s). At least one of these dalliances is likely to have been with a member of the same sex. Probably called Colin.

It is unlikely that the Word Worrier will know this.

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Segmentation...of limes


The Word Worrier places a lot of importance on looks, though they are keen to clarify that this doesn't make them shallow. It is less clear exactly what it does make them.

The Word Worrier spends an average of 98 minutes a day looking at their reflection. They spend a further 49 minutes worrying about what they have seen.

Both men and women invest in anti-ageing creams that fight the signs of ageing with science. The total amount of this investment so far would pay the average deposit for a small house on the outskirts of "anywhere, really".

The Word Worrier has a style that is the same for work as it is for leisure. They will dress up or dress down an outfit, as formality demands.

Some people describe the look as smart slash casual. This goes down well with the Word Worrier. Others describe it as neat slash tidy. This doesn't go down so well.

Neat slash tidy is a phrase also used to describe the hairstyle of the Word Worrier.

And sometimes, their face.

A man holds his head in his hands
Another visibly worrying Word Worrier

So, who is Colin?

The Word Worrier falls within the generation that often gets forgotten; unsurprising when you give something the name X.

Sitting between those who hanker for a past they have idealised, and those who fear the future they feel they have been dumped with, the Word Worrier sees the world’s flaws but just gets up and does the best they can.

Having played as hard as they worked, they lack stability but are unlikely to want to change a thing.

The Word Worrier is a child living in an adult's world.

Is the unsettled way of life recognisable?

If so, is it worth thinking how you can be more confident to make sure that when your voice is relevant, your voice is heard?

You can be empathetic to others without being scared of upsetting them.

Perhaps focus more on the positive help you can provide when people do really need help.

Doing that may then reduce the time you spend wrapped up in the anxiety of potentially saying the wrong thing?

Or maybe you see yourself more akin to the Grammar Genius? You can read the comparative insights for them just here.

Both groups have their neuroses. As most people do.

Both have the best intentions. As you would hope most people do.

Both have value to offer when they let some outside in.

I am not here to take sides or to dictate. None of us is.

And that is, ultimately, the point.

Though I am compelled to whisper, "Go Fellow Word Worriers".

  • Read the overview on how correcting grammar is a thinly disguised form of bigotry in the introduction to the Grammar Genius here

  • Learn how the Word Worrier emotes differently to the Grammar Genius even though they may seem, from the outside, to be acting the same - here

  • Compare the analysis with the Grammar Genius here

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