Literacy Privilege, Part 3: A Few Final Points Before I Let This Topic Die
Okay, this is my last word on this subject for the foreseeable future. I promise.
1. But I want (or my student/tutee/relative/co-worker/friend/study-buddy/acquaintance wants) to be corrected! I (They) love to learn, and don’t mind at all having my (their) discussion continuously interrupted by people pointing out mistakes!
That is truly wonderful. I salute you (them), and your (their) congenial humility and unwavering commitment to personal improvement. By all means, if people ask you to correct them, go right ahead and do it. But please keep in mind that just because you (they) feel comfortable with this doesn’t mean everyone else on the planet does too.
2. But people who write professionally for a living – journalists, authors, researchers, pundits, etc. – should surely be held to a higher standard than the rest of us!
2(b). Oh. So it’s okay to go all apeshit caps-locky self-righteous grammar-banshee on their ass when I see a mistake in one of their articles?
I am not able to grant or withhold permission for anyone to be a douche to anyone else. That is not my purpose here. I simply encourage a more compassionate and respectful approach in these situations.
Think of how many thousands of words a professional writer writes. What percentage of those words involves spelling or grammar errors? Probably a very small percentage. Professional writers are also human beings, and sometimes they slip up, or sometimes they have learned different rules than the ones you’ve learned. Correct them if it makes you feel better about the future of humanity, but maybe try to do so in a way that does not encourage brutal verbal abuse against all people who can’t spell.
3. But aren’t you effectively saying nobody should ever edit or proofread anybody else’s writing, anywhere, at any time, regardless of context or logic or reasonable cause?
Of course not. That is a ridiculously overblown interpretation of my point.
3(b). So what are you saying, then?
Be nice to people.
Think about where they might be coming from.
Understand that you might not know anything at all about their background.
Realize that you very probably don’t know everything there is to know about the English language.
Consider that mistakes are not the end of the world.
Understand that flippant comments by a stranger on the Internet are not going to “fix” a person’s language skills.
Consider the context, and whether making a correction is appropriate.
If it is appropriate, consider that a polite and reasonable tone is a lot more likely to get you what you want than a douchebaggy rant.
Think about how you respond to sneering criticism. Think about whether other people are likely to respond any differently.
Realize that derailing a discussion to argue about grammar is going to annoy a lot of other readers.
Consider your true intentions.
Consider that other people will read your response, and it will in turn influence how they respond to others.
Consider that you contribute to a culture on the Internet (and everywhere else in your life). It is up to you to decide what you want that culture to look like. Use your voice accordingly.