It's OK to Point Out Grammar Errors: Just Be Nice About It!
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
People who correct other people's grammar get a bad rap. I say that because while there are plenty who have good intentions, others do so with a holier than thou attitude. These are the Grammar Police or Grammar Nazis you hear about, and they prey upon everything from your last Facebook post to how you pronounce words in conversation.
Their actions aren't seen as helpful, but rather rude, pretentious, and condescending.
As a professional writer and editor, I understand the need to correct such mistakes. I've even been just as guilty of being a Grammar Nazi. We are surrounded by spelling and grammar mistakes, and it's only natural to want to point them out. But I do think there is a difference between the person who points out errors to be snarky and the person who is simply trying to be helpful and perhaps save you from future embarrassment.
I believe there is a place in this world for the latter. I really do.
Correcting grammar and misspellings the right way starts by having the right motivation. If you are correcting a grammar flub because you want to be snarky or shame someone in public, then it's best not to open your mouth at all and just let it go for once. If you are noticing the same mistakes in public communications (i.e., corporate emails, business signage, articles, marketing advertisements, holiday greeting cards, etc.), and you are legitimately trying to help someone, then it's not out of the question to point those out discreetly to that person or company.
For example: There's this one sandwich shop that I go to all the time for lunch. Every time I stop in, my eyes immediately zero in on the large chalkboard-style menu they have above the front counter. It's a unique handwritten concept. I love it. But there has always been a good six or seven misspellings in plain sight.
I've never once said anything because I didn't want to come across as rude. But I finally worked up the courage a few weeks ago to bring it to the attention of the young man at the register. As it turns out, he knew all about it and was frustrated by it, too. Rather than embarrass his boss, he was secretly going up there and correcting it little by little.
You could tell because the handwriting was different in certain spots.
My approach was sincere, and I didn't embarrass anyone. The kid thanked me, and when I went back a few days later, all the misspellings had been corrected.
So what's the moral of the story? When you feel the itch to point out a grammar faux pas, make sure it's something worth starting a conversation over. And when you do, approach being a grammar nerd with courtesy and respect.
Remember, it's not like you haven't made a mistake before, too. So be nice about it.
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*STEVE GAMEL is the Owner/President of Edit This, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Along with being a sports writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle, Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.
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