A few days ago, I made a terrible, unforgivable mistake: I used the contraction “it’s” instead of the possessive “its” in a tweet.
I wouldn’t have realized the mistake, but someone on Twitter replied to the tweet with a grammar correction.
At first I was annoyed. Annoyed with myself for making a typo in a tweet (which, ironically, was about a proofreading article) and annoyed with the person for publicly correcting the mistake.
But when I thought about it…well, I was still annoyed. But I realized it wasn’t the public nature of the correction that annoyed me. Rather, it was that the person didn’t recognize the difference between a typo (which it was) versus a lack of understanding (I know how contractions work).
And yes, there’s probably a little bit of pride involved. I make plenty of typos (there’s probably one in this post). But I know most grammatical rules, and I strive to adhere to them across all forms of media: blogging, Twitter, texts, emails, etc. I value the same in others–in fact, back in my dating days, I considered it a dealbreaker if a lady’s profile or messages were riddled with consistent errors.
Yet there are times when people correct my typos–calling them out as typos–either privately or publicly, and I really appreciate that. I also don’t know everything, and I like to stay open to learning new things. There are plenty of words I misuse, and I appreciate when people alert me to that so I can stop sounding like an idiot.
Perhaps you can relate to all this. If so, you probably know at least one person who takes pleasure in correcting grammatical mistakes (even if they’re just typos). For those people, I’d like to propose a compromise so you can continue to use your knowledge to improve the world without annoying the heck out of the rest of us.
My proposal is that the first time anyone makes a grammatical mistake, you don’t say anything. Not a peep. You simply give them the benefit of the doubt–everyone makes mistakes. However, if they make the mistake a second time (or if you discover they’ve made the same mistake in the recent past), you may politely correct them, as it’s possible they don’t know they’re making the mistake.