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I am a huge fan of editors and use several for my books, but this blog is my own work and frequently I only read once before posting. I believe it's more important to provide useful information than it is for my grammar to be perfect on this site.
But I still get correction emails so it's great to have this post from Suzannah Freeman from Write It Sideways today. I know I have a hybrid vocabulary which sometimes makes it difficult. I am British but have spent 11 years in Australia and New Zealand, and I also write for Americans – so my spelling can be a mixture of the lot of them! I hope you enjoy this post.
Those of us who blog about writing have an especially rough time when it comes to making mistakes.
There is a breed of commenter, also known as The Grammar Police, who feel it necessary to point out typos and misused words in blogs. Usually the commenter remains anonymous, and the purpose of their comment is strictly to point out errors – not to discuss the actual content of the article. The tone is, almost invariably, sarcastic.
It's as if they're saying, “How can you call yourself a writer? You made a mistake!”
‘Cause everyone knows writers never make mistakes. That's why there are no such things as editors and proofreaders.
Are Writers Allowed to Make Mistakes?
When readers find multiple errors in the same post, or every post they read on your blog contains glaring errors, it's definitely off-putting. Under such circumstances, one might be tempted to wonder if the writer knows what he or she is doing. But, occasional typos and errors do happen, even to professional writers.
Once in a blue moon, we might even (gasp!) misuse words like its/it's, or their/there/they're, or your/you're. Writer George Angus says:
“I'm no grammar expert but [misused words like your/you're] are the most basic and I think that any (even slightly) literate adult should have a grasp of them. Any adult who professes to be a writer has no excuse to not have a grasp.”
I wholeheartedly agree. Writers should have a good grasp of these concepts, and most do. Ask us to explain in detail the correct usage of these words‚ no problem. And 99.9% of the time, we write them correctly. That doesn't mean we're never guilty of mixing them up when we jot something down in a rush, or miss one during a proofread.
Food blogger David Lebovitz says, “Show me a blog without a typo and I'll show you a blog written by a machine, not a human being.” In the same article, blogger Deb Perelman shares her view: “I think blogs don't need to be perfect‚ they're generally one-person shops, it would be unreasonable to expect perfection.”
No One Gets Out Alive
Even Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, gets hammered regularly:
“Someone wrote last week, You should be ashamed. How can you be a book publisher and allow such embarrassing errors on your blog? I am disappointed by your lack of commitment to excellence. It makes me think less of your company. Please: do us all a favor and hire a proofreader!”
Now, this is going to sound highly defensive (and it is), but here's what my day looks like:
After many hours of running after two children, being pregnant with twins, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring and trying to get some personal writing accomplished, I'll plonk myself in front of my laptop (instead of putting my feet up and watching a good movie) and write an article, which I will then offer for free to thousands of people, most of whom are very appreciative. After all that…well…a small error, pointed out publicly, sarcastically, and anonymously, really smarts.
However, I do welcome the type of correction that comes in the form of a private note from a reader, letting me know I've missed a few things. A private email tells me the reader's intentions are to help me, not embarrass me.
The Aperture Blog decided to be proactive and add this statement to their comment policy:
“As this is a blog, written by a single person, I do not have the luxury of a dedicated editorial staff to proof read everything I write. I do my best, but occasionally in my haste to post (and get back to work) typos, grammar errors etc. will slip through. If you do spot something a nicely worded email pointing out any typos will be appreciated, however, comments insulting me, blanket derisive comments about my writing style and so on will be deleted.”
Of course, this is not to give anyone an excuse for sloppy writing and proofreading. The occasional typo doesn't offend most, but regular ones will.
How to Avoid a Visit from The Grammar Police
The Grammar Police will show up at your virtual doorstep once in a while, but you can lessen the fury of their onslaught by following these guidelines:
- Use a spellchecker (but don't rely on it). Spellcheckers are good for catching a lot of things, but they aren't smart enough to catch misused words. I suggest using your spellchecker first, then manually proofreading afterward.
- Leave it overnight, if possible. Better yet, a few days. As a blogger, I'm happiest when I have content queued up ahead of time, and can afford to let articles sit for a week or two before editing and proofreading. It makes spotting mistakes and weak prose so much easier.
- Read the article through at least twice. When an article is ‘finished,' I save it, put it into preview mode, then read it through slowly and make changes in the editor when necessary. When all the edits are complete, I re-save, refresh the preview, and do a final read-through.
- Read every word aloud. If you're prone to missing errors in your proofreading, try reading your articles aloud. This forces you to slow down and speak every word, rather than allowing your eyes to skim parts.
- Keep track of the words you tend to misuse/misspell. Even the best of us have a few words we tend to slip up on. When you do make a mistake that you know in your heart isn't just a typo, write it down on a list. You can do a search for these words when you proofread, or just keep them handy by your computer where you can see them every day, as a reminder.
- Proofread without distractions. Proofreading the average blog post doesn't usually take more than 5-10 minutes. Try to find a quiet place, free from the distractions of television, music, and screaming children while you proofread, otherwise you might feel rushed and be tempted to skim.
Always endeavor to present your readers with a polished product, even if you're giving it away free of charge, even if you're tired, and even if you think readers should cut you some slack.
But, if someone points out a mistake on your blog, correct it and move on. Don't let anyone tell you you must be perfect; perfection is impossible.
Perhaps the policy should be: Let he who is without blogging errors cast the first stone, but he who seeketh to eradicate the blogging errors of others, let his feelings be made known in secret.
What do you think? Is there ever cause to publicly point out bloggers' mistakes to them in their comment sections? What are your best tips for avoiding typos and grammar errors in your own writing?