Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Typo Eradication League

SPOGG member Dawn first pointed them out to us, and we've been following the adventures of the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) ever since.

Newspapers and bloggers have covered the adventure, often observing that people like these "must be a nightmare at dinner parties."

Nyuk, nyuk.

Manners columnists, too, have opined that it's extremely rude to correct the grammar of others.

This gets us thinking... Why would it be annoying to have smart, knowledgeable people at your dinner parties? Has our society slid so much that we can only enjoy the company of others when they know less than we do? Since when is learning something new automatically a mortifying experience?

We definitely understand how it could be embarrassing to have one's grammar and typographical errors corrected. That doesn't mean there aren't kind, thoughtful and sensitive ways to do it, however. Our readers catch our imperfections regularly, and when they are gracious, we are grateful.

The blanket assertion that correcting grammar is universally rude is, we think, rather lazy. Is it similarly rude to point out to our friends when they have salad taking residence between their teeth? Or to alert them that their zippers have fallen? We let our friends know when these embarrassments happen because we wish to spare them greater embarrassment later. We do this kindly, gently, and with respect--and sometimes, even with humor.

There is no reason we can't apply the same compassionate techniques with grammar. We don't have to correct everyone's errors. We don't have to do it all the time. But when we fear it will cause mortification or rejection, we do it out of kindness (when we are certain, of course, that we are correct in our correction).

It is a fact that people are judged for their grammar.

We have written before about surveys of hiring managers in England, in which hiring managers reported being more bothered by grammar errors than they were by candidates who cursed in interviews. Likewise, raise your hand if you're not just a little bit turned off by a personal ad littered with spelling and grammar errors.

We might rail against this, saying that it's unfair and awful. In some cases, it no doubt is. To change this fact, however, we'd have to conclude that language standards are a bad thing. We do not believe this is the case. Language standards help us understand each other, across the room and across the span of years. Understanding is one of the fundamental challenges of humanity, and we're not about to discard a primary tool because of how we might come across at a dinner party.

In any case, however, we are charming at dinner parties--much more so than Johnny Bag of Hammers.

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