Mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage can literally make you’re head explode. [BOOM! -PoM] Nonetheless, there are lots of good reasons not to give people you chat with online a hard time for making these errors.
- English isn’t everybody’s first language. That’s easy for people in the U.S. to forget, because lots of us don’t have a second language.
- Not everyone grew up in a home that encouraged reading, or had access to good education. People who don’t read much are more likely to make mistakes.
- Some people have dyslexia or other learning disabilities that make proper spelling or grammar more difficult.
- A lot of things can cause a drop in writing skills: serious things, like Alzheimer’s or a head injury, and not-so-serious things, like being sleepy, drunk, or both.
- English isn’t spoken the same way everywhere, and someone’s irregular usage may be common for her community.
- When you correct someone’s English in an online argument, it makes you appear as though you don’t have a substantial point to make. It’s like the snooty English major version of saying, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re ugly.” I guess if you’re really irritated, you can do this in a subtle way by repeating what the other person has said, but correctly: “I understand you feel as though your head will explode. However…”
Of course, there are lots of situations where you can help someone out by fixing her writing. A friend who’s trying to use better English might let you know she welcomes corrections. If your coworker always spells something wrong in emails, or has a glaring typo in her Powerpoint deck, you should say something privately so she doesn’t look bad. If you let a business know that something on their sign or website is misspelled, you’re usually doing them a favor.
The rest of the time, it’s best to just let things go, even if you’re an American who loves good grammar and fears we are becoming a nation of semi-illiterates. I suspect that we aren’t, and that poor spellers have always been among us. With the rise of social media, more people are expressing themselves more often in written form, and maybe that makes mistakes seem more pervasive.
If something’s really bothering you, you can always opt for the PSA Facebook status. “May I have your attention, please? When you are discussing your diet plans, it’s correct to write, ‘I want to lose weight,’ not, ‘I want to loose weight.’* Thank you. That is all.” It might make you feel better. Just don’t do it right after someone on your Facebook feed has made this mistake, so that he or she feels publicly shamed. That’s being a jerk, for all intensive purposes.**
*I am actually a big fan of the phrase “loosing weight.” “Release the pounds! Off you go! Be free!”
**Yes. I know. “Intents and.”
[Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)]