The Dreaded Typo

You’re writing, be it a blog post, a 120 character tweet, a Facebook status or whatever. The words are just flowing and you’re on a roll. Finished, you press enter and there are your words out there for all to see. Crap! Instead of you’re you used your! Or as the case was for me last night on Twitter, fair instead of fare.

I don’t know about everyone else, but these typos happen to me all the time. In the case of writing a blog post I don’t just press enter. Generally speaking, I comb through the post three or four times in order to catch typos and even then, the moment I press publish, I’ll spot another. Twitter and even Facebook however are different. Because of the way tweets fly by on Twitter along with the number of people that are sometimes involved in the conversation, I am often typing quite quickly and pressing send without a reread. This leads to an even higher number of typos on my part. And yes, I cringe every time I notice one of them, as I did last night.

Now, I’ve had my writing corrected before online, but that was in relation to my fanfic. A scenario in which I specifically requested that readers offer constructive criticism. But last night, was my first experience with unsolicited correction. During a chat with someone on Twitter a third party popped in to tell me I’d used the wrong word. First of all DUH!!! I knew as soon as I pressed enter, but Twitter doesn’t offer an edit feature. Secondly, REALLY??? Joining someone else’s conversation with the sole intent of correcting them. WTF?

I have a pretty thick skin, so I’m not going to skulk off into the shadows because someone told me I used the wrong word. But what about a student of English who has worked up the courage to comment on a blog or tweet in a language they are still learning? Or what about someone who just isn’t that great with written English, but can still convey their thoughts well? I would hate for unsolicited corrections to influence people’s willingness to be a voice in our fandom.

It’s pretty clear where I stand on this issue, no? I find such corrections to be tacky and rude. Various places where people go to be part of a fandom are not a classroom and people should be able to relax, have fun, and as someone put it to me last night, “not have to walk around on eggshells.” Part of me thinks my reaction to this incident is overkill. However, I also know that I’m not alone in my frustration. I’ve had friends in the fandom complain of similar things happening to them.

So I’m asking you dear readers: When–in the context of fandom–is it appropriate to correct someone else’s writing? Just when solicited? In private? On Twitter? In comments on blog posts?

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36 thoughts on “The Dreaded Typo

  1. Servetus

    Having lived in a bilingual relationship for over a decade, I know that these issues are fraught. At one point earlier in our association, I gave my “inlaws” carte blanche to correct my German; but after eight years I told them they should stop now unless I was clearly saying something unintentionally that was a huge gaffe.

    My response in social media settings to unsolicited correct of errors that are obvious even to me has become: if you understood what I meant to say, leave me alone.

    So I guess my stance is that I would never correct someone in the situation you describe — why take the extra time, make an extra effort, to embarrass someone? that’s cruel — and I would only even broach the topic if the typo made the meaning unclear.

    If the person who did this to you is the person I’m thinking of, I’m guessing it comes from significant feelings of personal insecurity.

    • Thanks for the response, Servetus. Your view is very similar to my own. If the typo causes misunderstanding it would be one thing to seek clarification, otherwise it is best to leave things alone.

      If indeed the person who feels the need to correct is doing so as a result of their own feelings of personal insecurity, I have to say I find their actions even more objectionable than I already did. It would be one thing if they thought they were actually helping, but another thing to try and bolster their own self confidence by correcting others.

      • Servetus

        I dunno. If a / the main thing I had to be proud of in life was my perfect command of the proper employment of various English homonyms … I mean, think about that for a second.

        I’ve generally concluded that these fan policing incidents occur around moments of personal vulnerability. And when I’ve found myself policing, it’s been in situations like that.

  2. Servetus

    *corrections (grin)

  3. I think you pretty much know where I stand on this, but those who do not, I am both a former language teacher and a newspaper reporter. In those arenas, yes, catching spelling and grammatical errors is very important. I am also a blogger and I read through posts several times, too, and still make boo-boos, but thankfully WP allows us to go in and edit.

    I also write fanfic and I do want people to point out errors if they are there because I want my copy to be as clean as possible, be it a piece of fiction or newspaper article. That’s why I also use a beta to help me catch my mistakes and why I had another staffer proof my stories before they went to press (copy eeditors basically do not exist anymore, more’s the pity).

    HOWEVER–in terms of social media, in terms of people making comments at my blog, I have a different standard. Twitter is fast-paced and does not allow edits, only deletes of tweets. Everyone is going to make mistakes of some kind or another and no one should beat up on them for it. Judge not lest you be judged.

    And I’ve often told my foreign readers to PLEASE not feel self-conscious about mistakes they might make with their English. I appreciate the heck out of them reading and commenting in the first place. If they ask how something is said or should be spelled, I will gladly help them just as they had helped me.

    I am not here in this fandom to play Grammar Police, however. And I don’t think anybody else should be. Time and place, people, time and place.

    Let’s cut each other a little slack, shall we? Because I really do not like walking on those darned eggshells.

    • Exactly Angie, time and place are key. When I was in school I expected to see red marks on any errors in my writing. But in fandom, when we’re all here to have fun we should just let people be.

  4. Servetus

    Yes, context is key. My students get points off for grammatical errors. But I’m not grading on Twitter.

  5. LOL and I just noticed I made some mistakes but I can lay some blame to the fact I’ve had no sleep and am a little punchy at present. 😉 Please, no comments from the peanut gallery!

  6. Those who know me well know that I set very high standards for myself (and that I feel I always fall short of those standards). I strive to get the grammar and spelling right, no matter the medium. Even still, I make mistakes all the time. And yes, I do tend to notice when others make mistakes, but I certainly am not about to call it to their attention in public!! I might, if the error was made by a friend, message them PRIVATELY and let them know I spotted a mistake in their blog post. A tweet or Facebook status? A blog post comment? Pffffft!!! They are not being graded or paid for these comments, so why not let it slide? Seriously. Life is too short to be following others around with a red pen. To do so in public is crass. It brings negative attention to the one using the red ink, and belittles the one who made the mistake. Mistakes happen. Get over it.

    • Itsy-the-Perfectionist! I’m in agreement with you about the kind of relationship you have with a person making a difference in whether you offer corrections or not. And you more so than most know that I’m not averse to being corrected by others, but I prefer for said corrections to come from people who are closer friends whom I’ve more or less given permission to correct me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. obscura

    Yep – pretty obnoxious behavior – I will cop to having corrected people in other settings, but it was ALWAYS in a context where someone was blathering on and on about grammar or diction or education, blah, blah – they all but asked for it :).

    With more people typing on tablets and phones with less than life size keyboards and auto fill, etc., typos happen. As long as the meaning is clear, what is the difference? Believe me, I’m a bit of a grammar/syntax hardass, but this is not the forum to take that stand IMHO. I would rather see people ask a question if they need clarification of meaning, rather than overtly correct “Hey dummy, it’s too, not to!”

    • Okay, I can totally understand correcting someone who harps on other people’s mistakes and then turns around and makes a similar mistake. They are, as you say, asking for it!

      That’s a great point you make about people typing on phones and tablets. I can’t even count the number of typos I’ve seen that are a direct result of auto correct. And I agree, asking a question if the typo causes clarity issues is a decent route to go rather than just pointing out mistakes for the sake of pointing them out.

      • obscura

        I just got my iPad back from the “shop” and I have to re-learn what it wants to do with auto correct all of the time between that and posting from my phone, I am constantly cringing from my “typos”

        (the case in point was a grammar “nazi” who called someone a “hippocrit” – FFS, if you insist on calling someone a name, at least spell it right – unless I misunderstood the whole conversation and it was about the blood work of a hippo 😉 )

        • LMAO! Yeah, if you set yourself up as a grammar “nazi” and then use the word hippocrit you deserve to get slammed. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

          I still have an old flip phone and don’t have an iPad or anything similar, so I don’t have the excuse of auto correct for any of my typos, but I can imagine the errors caused by that “helpful” feature are quite frustrating.

    • Leigh

      I agree with you, Obscura. If I’m teaching or editing, yes, the pages may “drip blood”, but I’ve never used the “hey, dummy” approach. It’s not only unkind; it’s unprofessional. Some of my colleagues were brilliant but dyslexic. For others, English was a second, third, or even fourth language, and our sessions were often good-natured language lessons. Even now, I try to be gentle and encouraging. Otherwise, how can I expect the person to grow as a writer? If I’m mean and petty about it, I achieve nothing. I have gone back to colleagues and asked them what they wanted to say, what they meant to say, but always privately, even in a professional setting. If someone has a recurring issue, like effect vs. affect, we do a little lesson. Then the person will come back for help, instead of running the other way. With tablets and phones, and the problem of auto-correct, it’s only too easy to err. Why be cruel, unless one really is wretchedly insecure?

  8. Leigh

    Only when invited on a writing/reading site, or when this is what you have agreed with the author through private correspondence, or when you are a “grammar nazi” for hire professionally. Blogs and social media are not the places to copyedit, any more than you would do this to someone’s conversation face-to-face. There’s no reason to be rude.

  9. Kitty

    Please pull me back in line in a public situation only if I have broccoli stuck in my teeth, my skirt tail is tucked up into my drawers or there is some sort of condiment smeared on my chin – unless, of course, you’re my off spring. In that case, that people group has carte blanche when it comes to correcting me (or at least they think they do) in public. mmmkay

    • LOL! I laughed so hard when I read this, but you hit the nail on the head. Unless they are sparing you further embarrassment or they don’t understand, people should just refrain from publicly correcting others in social situations.

      • Kitty

        Life is funnier than fiction. Alas, I can testify personally to each listed scenario. A person who / whom (I’ll use both just in case the one I would have chosen is incorrect) I thought was a friend once let me parade my wide fanny which was exposed due to the skirt tail stuck in the drawers in front of – shoot, it doesn’t matter where or in front of how many. The fact is she didn’t want to hurt my feelings by mentioning it in a social setting. HURT MY FEELING, FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!!! Thank the Lord I wasn’t wearing my thong drawers THAT day (nor any day EVER)!

  10. bollyknickers

    I don’t think there is any excuse to correct spelling and grammar in a blog/ forum or fanfic setting unless the author has specifically asked for feedback and even then i would be loathe to do it unless the error changed the context. If i see a post such as that, it says more to me about the corrector than about the writer. Pedantic, mean spirited and insecure are things that come to mind. It’s just plain rude in my opinion.

    I also think auto correct has a lot to answer for – now we’re all posting from our phones and ipads, mistakes are easy. I think it is a small price to pay for the rich communication that exists in the blogosphere.

  11. What y’all have said … if it’s not being done for documentation or for a grade, for heaven’s sake, let it slide.

    I, too, am one who reads (and re-reads and re-reads and edits and re-edits) my blog posts before publishing then. And then again after publishing. But that’s me.

    If I’m writing something other than a post that is going to be published, I ask others to read and critique it. I want them to find the mistakes that a single set of eyes always misses.

    I’m also one who cringes when I see things like there/they’re/their used incorrectly and other things like that.

    But in the social media arena, with the lightning speed at which the posts/tweets/messages travel, typos are going to happen. It’s natural. If the question about a meaning of something, because of a typo, arises, then it should be asked. Other than that, just read and move on already.

    MHO … anyone who “offers” their unsolicited corrections to any type of posting is being plain old rude. With the exception of correcting a link to something that isn’t working. That’s different. 😉

    • Thanks for adding your thoughts to those here, Zan. I hate the there/their/they’re misuse too, but I make that mistake all the time!!! I think it is a matter of typing to quickly. The fingers and brain just don’t quite sink up correctly.

  12. cb

    As someone mentioned above, it is important, expecially for an international reader, to understand the author’s meaning. For example, in another fandom (I hope this is the word), a dear Australian lady wrote a wonderful story about Jack and Ennis, it was simply wonderful. But she kept writing “their sole” instead of … I let you discover what word was.
    The effect of the error was so comical… esp. for people who were not native speakers and with their meager English would try to enjoy the story. It killed the pleasure… pure and simple. Of course, she asked why was she not told after the first catch… she understood it perfectly and was very nice.

    • CB, thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is a good example of appropriate time and place for offering correction. A story in which the same mistake is repeatedly made is not the same as a random, one time typo on a social media platform. Also, if it influenced how people understood what was being said, I can understand bringing the mistake to the author’s attention. I would however hope that in such a situation the person doing the correcting did so with kindness and tact. The manner in which one delivers correction is at least as important as the correction itself.

  13. katie70

    I also have to add that not everyone is a great speller. That is me for sure. I will look up words to make sure that I spell them right. I look over my comments before I hit the post comment button, but even then at times something will get missed. It really is not the end of the world. My co-worker today asked how to spell orange, because she drew a blank and that does happen with the easy words at times. No one is perfect or this world would be boring. It is my first time to comment on your biog, but I have been reading it for sometime now. I enjoy reading what you have to say.

    • Hi Katie, thanks for delurking and sharing your thoughts! I promise I will never call you out on spelling mistakes. 😉 This is another good point. Most people who aren’t great spellers, in my experience at least, are aware of the fact already. They don’t need someone else to point out their deficiencies. And the example of your coworker forgetting how to spell orange is great. Don’t we all have moments like that. In my family we call those moments “brain farts.” Not the classiest description, but oh well. 🙂

      • katie70

        Brain Farts is what my husband calls them too. I was just looking at my co-workers sign today and how she covered up her spelling error, she did a great job. I work at a school and have to send out e-mails to the teaching staff, it puts me on my toes. I have before wanted to comment, but since November I have been playing catch up on reading the blogs I read.

  14. Joanna

    I love you, RAgirls! Is that clear?:D

  15. I’ve mentioned this before issue before. There are just some people out there who feel much better about themselves when they point out errors others have commited. I used to joke about it, hoping they’d get the message, then I’d allow it to hurt my feelings and get to me.
    The thing is though, these people are so focused on other people’s wrong doings, they can’t see when they are in the wrong. Nowadays I just ignore them. Life is to short to stroke some sad person’s ego. I’m OK with being wrong, I’m OK with my typos. If some one isn’t, that’s their problem. We’re too faboosh to sweat the small stuff 🙂

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