My feet shuffle across the hard floor, as chairs creak and a cough echoes in the half-empty room. I clear my throat, lean over to the microphone on its rickety stand, and announce: “My name is Julie, and I am a correcta-holic.” At least that’s what I confessed in my post about Obsessive-Correcting Disorder, although I don’t really think being a stickler for correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar is a disease that requires diagnosis or treatment. Still, I can imagine that others may not want to send a note, shoot an email, or chat with me on Facebook after I have admitted to naturally noticing such errors.
Rest assured, however, that the grammar sticklers I know, including moi, are not mentally grading your work like an English teacher with a red pen. (Do they still use red? I heard that injures self-esteem.) There is a difference between published works and informal communication!
If I pick up a novel and notice ten errors in the first chapter, my thought is, “This was written and/or edited poorly. This author and/or publisher did not care enough about the reader to clear up errors so that the book reads smoothly.” (And I often toss the book aside like unidentifiable leftovers from my fridge.) Advertising flyers, business signs, newsletters, and websites get the same level of merciless scrutiny. These are professional publications that should be edited and proofread!
However, if I open my email inbox and someone has shot me a “Youre blog was terrific! Cant wait to read more posts!” I’m excited that they sat down and penned me a personal note! If I notice the errors at all, I figure it’s because our lives are harried and they wrote in a hurry.
Now granted, if almost every Tweet, Facebook post, or email from someone is riddled with errors, I will figure that this person could use a remedial writing course; English is their fourth language; or they simply don’t care. And it will unnerve me like an itch between my shoulder blades that I just can’t reach. But when it comes to informal communication, a good rule is judge not, lest ye be judged!
I’ve read over things I sent out to a friend in a hurry and been appalled at an egregious misspelling or the absence of a crucial word. My most recent ridiculous error was tweeting back to another author (Wendy Sparrow – check out her blog here) about how much I enjoyed reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss and typing, “Stickers unite!” (Duh. Sticklers.) Thankfully, with friends, we fill in the gaps and determine the meaning nonetheless. To err is human, to forgive divine!
I proofread my emails, blog posts, tweets, etc. because I consider those few seconds well spent. But errors still spill through the cracks. And if I corrected every informal message that I received, I would waste precious time that I could devote to more productive pursuits; stop receiving texts from my children; and be that itch between the shoulder blades that my friends and family just can’t reach.
You see, this is why I don’t think I have a problem that requires intervention. (So my family can stop planning one, thank you very much.) I can turn that correcting part of my brain off when it isn’t useful to the communication.
At least, most of the time. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I think!), my husband and children are still subjected to my periodic correcting, regardless of context. The rest of you are relatively safe.
What do you think about errors in professional publications vs. informal communication? How do you approach it?
Round of Words in 80 Days Update: 1,038 of 5,000 words for the week; found serious timeline error in manuscript so pulling out hair and working that out; keeping up with three blogs at week (despite AT&T accidentally yanking my internet today). All in all, progress!