Thursday, August 22, 2013

What to Do About Errors?

In keeping with our monthly theme about how grammatical errors and spelling errors trip you up when you’re reading, let’s talk about what to do when you find errors in someone else’s documents and how to respond to someone’s edit of your documents.

What type of errors distract you?

Errors that drive some of my friends crazy are mixing up advise and advice and using loose when the writer means lose. Two weeks ago I was standing in the security line at the Pittsburgh airport; continual messages displayed on a screen to entertain us while we waited. One message amused me; it read “loosing weight” with Jillian Michaels. I was tempted to take a photo, although I didn’t think the TSA would have allowed it!

How we deal with the mistakes is important, too. In the article, “Grammar Girl Writes Again” in Failure Magazine, Mignon Fogarty was asked, “It must be stressful to perform for an audience of grammar enthusiasts. Do you find readers/listeners looking to catch you in a mistake?”

Her response was “I’m not perfect and everybody thinks it’s fun to catch Grammar Girl in an error, so I get regular criticism—some of which is delivered with a sense of humor and some of which isn’t. If there’s a typo on my Facebook page, for example, I hear about it immediately." 

How do you feel when someone points out your errors?

Can you empathize with Dennis Baron A.K.A. @DrGrammar? He wrote in his blog post for National Grammar Day (March 4), “…what’s true on National Grammar Day is true all year round. Everybody does want to be correct, but nobody wants to be corrected."

Do you want someone to tell you about an error in your document? 

As embarrassing as it is, I want to know. A reader told me about an error (poll vs. pole) in my e-newsletter. I thanked the person because I was grateful. I also added a lighthearted comment, “And I want to be the Proofreading Girl? I may have to rethink that." It's a lot of pressure!

I suggest letting the person know you’re glad he/she pointed out the error to you and thanking the person for his/her correction. If you can add humor, do so. 

Then, do you confess your mistake? I did apologize in the next month’s e-newsletter and gave my reader the credit; it seems only fair.

What about when you find an error? Do you feel responsible or even compelled to tell the person? Is it similar to telling someone they have spinach in his/her teeth?

Occasionally, I have told people about misspellings on handouts and in LinkedIn profiles, and I add that I hope they don’t mind my telling them. I generally don’t tell people about grammatical errors unless they ask for my advice because sometimes it’s a matter of writing style.

How do you tell someone when he or she has an error? Please share your stories.

What do you think is an appropriate response to someone’s unsolicited edit of your documents? Does it depend on the type of error?

Judy Beaver, The Office Pro
Founder of National Proofreading Day
Mark your calendars for March 8!


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