A few weeks ago, my husband left a calling card of sorts on my desk. It was a clip from an advice column in The Washington Post, in which a man complained about his girlfriend’s correcting his grammar and pronunciation. I never asked my husband whether he intended this to be an idea for my blog or a hint that he was relating to the poor bloke whose girlfriend corrected him—and only him—in front of others.
In the meantime, over the weekend, an opinion piece by Slate writer Michael Agger appeared in the Washington Post Business section. The piece cited instances in which companies receiving online reviews of their products and services corrected the spelling and grammar of their posting customers. Agger questioned the ethics of such practices, raising the issue of altering the authenticity of the online review process. Companies argue that sloppy posts, including favorable ones about their products or services, make the company look bad and, hence, impede sales.
When I wrote a piece about correcting others and being corrected last February, I got a sense of how my readers feel about it. But correcting what is posted as an online review is different. Or is it?
I must confess here that I occasionally do the same thing with this blog. Sometimes when a reader posts a comment and makes an inadvertent mistake in spelling, grammar or punctuation, I go in and make a minor correction. Not all the time, and not drastically. And I never alter the content.
Unlike text-tweaking online retailers, I don’t correct mistakes because they make me look bad. I do it to save commenters from potential embarrassment. You might say that I edit their comments to help them make their points more effectively. For example, if someone is preaching about the importance of good grammar, and misspells “grammar,” I don’t believe it’s a sin to go in and correct the spelling. Or if there’s a simple typo, I might go in and fix it.
This said, it doesn’t mean I don’t bristle when I see a comment lacking any upper case letters or essential punctuation, but I give benefit of the doubt when I suspect comments are generated on a mobile device. Occasionally, however, this has precipitated sidebar conversations with my loved ones, suggesting they reacquaint themselves with their friend, the apostrophe.
Where to draw the line with a red pen? Discuss.