How To Point out Errors Without Being Obnoxious

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I admit it. Receiving the following email the other day was embarrassing:

I don’t know if I’d trust a website offering to teach people when one of the subjects they teach isn’t spelled correctly on their homepage:

“Get loads of fantastic, fun, and FREE content on writing, grammer, and words. Our blog is popular and updated regularly. Join our virtual community!”

I copied and pasted that from your homepage. It’s not GRAMMER. It’s GRAMMAR.

It’s true. We spelled it grammer. Yeesh. And I can tell you that it’s difficult to type this post while聽 hanging my head in shame.

We make mistakes like this on occasion. Okay, on lots of occasions. Helpful readers have identified misspellings, missing words, extra words, punctuation gaffes, and an assortment of grammar snafus on our web pages, advertisements, and published curriculum. I rarely post a blog article without some kind of obvious mistake.

How do such things happen with a company that purports to instruct youth in the fundamentals of written English? There are several reasons. The first is that we can be careless. Make that I can be careless. In addition to being the president of the company, I’m also chief copy editor. I wear many hats. All too often, I publish without anything like careful proofreading. But even when I do pull out the fine-toothed comb, it’s still not unusual for me to completely miss an error that some reader spots from across the room. As atrocious and inexcusable as it was, this misspelling will not likely be the last.

In fact, it is possible that you, dear reader, will be the first to spot our next goof. And since that’s the case, I thought I’d take a moment to offer four suggestions on how to go about informing us.

1. Certainly inform us. Please. We really and truly want to know if we’ve published something incorrect. Don’t be the kind of friend who lets me walk around all day with a chunk of spinach in my teeth because it might be embarrassing to tell me. Believe me, it’s much more embarrassing to find out myself and wonder how long it’s been since I’d eaten spinach.

I count it a kindness to point out something my less-than-eagle-eye has overlooked. Send me an email, or post a note in the comments. Once I correct the problem, I’ll probably delete the comment.

2. Believe the best. Seriously, I’m not a dummy. I’m exceptionally good at grammar, usage, spelling, and mechanics. I really do know how to spell grammar. Please assume that any error is a typo or an oversight. There’s no need to question our ability to teach English composition based on a single example of shoddy proofreading.

WriteAtHome: We Teach Writing So You Don’t Have To!

3. Don’t yell. Maybe everyone isn’t aware, but in the world of cyber-communication, all-caps is the equivalent of yelling. If a misspelled word on a website really makes you angry, you probably need a vacation. Maybe even some professional help. Certainly at least a deep breath, a piece of chocolate, and a nice nap on the sofa.

Blatant grammar errors on a writing education website might be a bit ironic, but they are hardly tragic. Western civilization may be in rapid decline, but our misspelling of grammar is not convincing evidence of it.

4. Be neighborly. We’re all friends here. You’d like all of us who work at WriteAtHome. Point out our mistakes out of the goodness of your heart. You are doing a favor for a pal. Throw in a smiley or two 馃檪 just so we know you care.

I’m glad the sender of the email above took the time to send us the note. I would hate to have that misspelling on our page for another minute. But she could have been a little nicer about it.

*****

Comment? Suggestion? Kind correction? Please leave your thoughts in the Reply section below.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian Wasko

Brian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.

View all posts by Brian Wasko

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  22. Lisa
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    @Brian, I always enjoy your articles and the sense of fun you bring to writing and grammar.

    @Mary, Please try to differentiate people who suffer from OCD (a mental disorder) and people who are just obnoxious. It’s true that people with OCD can be difficult to be around, but in many cases they don’t mean to be rude or obnoxious.

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    One time I wrote an article for a national publication and listed an incorrect dosage for my husband’s high blood pressure medication. It was a stupid oversight, I’ll admit. Still, I was shocked by the hate mail it generated.

    You’re right, Brian: all of us should believe the best and try to be more neighborly.

  24. Misty Post
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    Great attitude. I enjoy reading this blog more than I should. Seriously.

    LOOK FORWARD TO READING (oh, sorry!) more posts. : )

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko04-08-2013

      Well, of course you are allowed to yell when it’s expressing enthusiasm about reading my blog, Misty! Thanks.

  25. Saved Girl/ Amber
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    I know what you mean about believing the best. I really enjoy grammar and I am very conscientious about correct spelling. However, I cannot type well at all. So generally when I make a mistake on the computer, I hit the wrong key. It doesn’t mean I don’t know how to spell. (I probably had to hit backspace 30 times writing this comment to correct an error)

    Keep up the good work, Mr. grammer.

  26. Mary
    Mary04-04-2013

    What a sweet attitude you had for that reader (not really sure I would have) OCD people really annoy me! Keep doing your best at what you do, that is all we can do is our best. Mistakes are acceptable because guess what, we are human, and none, no not one single one is perfect! Carry on now and have a blessed day!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko04-04-2013

      Well, you only ASSUME I’m human! 馃檪

      Thanks, Mary. I was a bit of a grammar Grinch myself once upon a time, so I try to be patient with folks.

  27. CJ
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    “Certainly at least a deep breath, a piece of chocolate, and a nice nap on the sofa.” That made me laugh! I like the lighthearted humor in your posts. 馃檪

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko04-04-2013

      Your regular encouragement means a lot, CJ. Thanks. I was kind of proud of that line myself. 馃檪

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