If you’ve written very much on the interwebs and you don’t spend five minutes proofreading everything you post, you’ve probably gotten comments like this, “Hee Hee . . . don’t you mean ‘YOUR day’ instead of ‘YOU’RE day’. :)”
I hate this.
We don’t walk into a crowded restaurant, notice our friend has on mismatched socks, and then shout, “Hey, you put on two different socks.” while grinning. We don’t find a piece of mail in our inbox at the office and stand up to shout over the cubicle, “Hey, mail kid. You gave me Javier’s mail.” Okay, we don’t do these things unless we’re jerks.
But yet, on a public forum, where hundreds, maybe thousands of people can see it, we regularly point out each other’s grammatical mistakes. Given, this might happen to me more often than it does to most people because I write a lot online and because I write, edit, and teach writing for a living. And because, honestly, I think some people really enjoy feeling superior to a writing teacher. Still, publicly pointing out a grammatical, spelling, or punctuation error on a Facebook or Twitter makes you a jerk. Period.
Now before people get all huffy about “standards” and “the slackness of our educational system” or the “need for accountability,” let me be clear. I APPRECIATE when people point out my errors in a private manner. A little IM, a brief email, a Direct Message on Twitter. I truly value that input, and I always edit when people send me those errors. I want my writing to be pristine; I just don’t want the moments when it’s not to be announced with emoticons and links to dictionaries or style guides. (Yep, someone pointed me to the MLA guide once – I wanted to pick up the copy that sits beside my desk and fling it’s silvery weight through the screen.)
So, for the love of Pete, let’s stop showing off our superior knowledge of the semi-colon by calling out someone’s inappropriate use on social media. Instead, let’s send a little message, nicely worded, to let the person know we want their words to be as clear as possible because we value their message more than we do either correctness or our own ability to point it out. In short, let’s stop being jerks.
How about you? Any stories about when someone pointed out your mistakes publicly? Any wisdom on how we can do better?
*Merciful heavens, I hope I proofread this post well, or for sure, the grammatical wrath of the universe will descend in the comments.