Spelling, Grammar & Social Networking Etiquette

‘Scuse the title, hardly succinct and pithy, is it?

I blame the school holidays – this week in particularly is CRAZY busy, so the fact I’m even sitting here typing anything at all is a bit of an achievement, to be honest.

Anyway, bad spelling.  And bad grammar.  Two of my bugbears in everyday life.  And, sadly, ones that seem more and more prevalent these days.  You’re and your; they’re, there and their; ‘should of ‘instead of ‘should have’:  I could go on endlessly, but those examples seem to be the most common, and pop up on an almost daily basis.

The Daily Mail website is particularly appalling in this regard – I’ve read some absolute corkers on there over the years – surely an organization of that size has proof-readers?

One of those new-fangled light-up road signs, much beloved of my local Council, and which I drive past on a daily basis, is currently showing the message:

‘Drivers – share car’s and reduce congestion’.  Shocking.  Irritates me every day.

And I had a letter from the Tax Credit people a while back which mis-used apostrophes on two separate occasions.  The whole letter was only three sentences long.

Mostly shockingly of all, William’s school report this term contained the word ‘practise’ when it should have read ‘practice’.  I was tempted to circle it in red, put ‘sp.’ in the margin and send it back to them – am still considering doing so.

But the above sort of errors pale into insignificance when I have even the most cursory glance at Facebook on any given day: I can’t believe I know so many people who are verging on the illiterate ….!

Now, I’m lucky in that I’ve always found written English comes naturally to me, and I have a good grasp of spelling and grammar.  Ask me about quadratic equations on the other hand, and I wouldn’t have the first clue …. we all have our strengths and weaknesses, don’t we?  So I do appreciate that it comes harder to some people than others.

But a couple of things happened recently which made me ponder the etiquette of correcting people’s errors in a public forum, which Facebook effectively is.

A few weeks ago I commented on a friend’s status, then a friend of theirs (who I don’t know) commented on my comment saying that my grammar was incorrect.  Apart from the fact that it wasn’t incorrect, I just found it IMMENSELY rude that somebody I’d never met would have the cheek to say that.  I thought it was definitely overstepping the mark.  And I said so, in no uncertain terms.

Then yesterday, I noticed my brother had made a comment on a mutual acquaintance’s status, gently ribbing him about incorrect use of the word ‘hear’ when it should have been ‘here’.

Even I’m guilty of it – on one occasion I corrected my 12yo son’s appalling spelling on Facebook!  He didn’t seem to mind, and the next time he used the same word, I noticed it was spelt correctly, so obviously it worked!

So I just wondered what everybody else’s take on this is – in the context of social networking, is it ever OK to correct somebody, or take the mickey about mis-spelling or bad grammar, or is it an absolute no-no?

What do you think?





13 thoughts on “Spelling, Grammar & Social Networking Etiquette

  1. Yes correct your 12 yr old son but nobody else. It is like smacking them in the face with a wet fish BUT IN PUBLIC. No, no. However I do agree with you about spelling and grammar. My particular theory is that the teachers of today have not been taught spelling and grammar themselves when they were young. For me that stems from the time where it was considered more important to be “creative” and to correct mistakes stopped the flow. Therefore now they are teaching children themselves and the mistakes are compounded. Now my English teacher always told me that you should never start a sentence with the words “And or But”. However apparently that is no longer correct. With regard to the Council sign I would be on the phone or emailing immediately.

  2. I find myself in a real dilemma here; Spelling and grammar are relatively recent rules in terms of the English language; even as late as Georgian times there was a wide range of spellings for different words acceptable and language is a fluid, living thing. Is it not better to have people communicating whatever the spelling/grammar/syntax and be relating to each other, or to have people who know they can’t spell/parse a sentence hold back and miss their virtual/actual contact?…..
    BUT my teacher side agrees with Glynis; when education became ‘trendy’ in the late 60s or early 70’s (note non-use/use of apostrophe there; I can’t remember which is right) and grammar became a dirty word, or children were supposed to learn the rules of language by total immersion and osmosis, then a whole generation of people my age and below missed out on the ‘basics’ of punctuation, grammar etc. I find myself appalled at the level spoken by never mind written by some of the teachers, TAs and students I have met. It is not my place to correct them. I have pointed out errors to the family (all graduates and well paid workers) once or twice, then felt like a heel. I’m not there to teach my friends who should know better. All I can do is model the language as correctly as I can and hope they don’t pick on me for something (catching a teacher out is so much fun!)

  3. All the 3 examples there really bug me too – and i admit I am also taken aback sometimes at people I know quite well and how they spell things….. as especially on FB I was at school with a lot of these folk!
    The stranger commenting incorrectly on your grammar is well out of order IMO.

    I have American spelling to deal with too – where they DO write ‘practice’ as ‘practise’ often etc etc. I normally stick to UK spelling (‘cheque’ not ‘check’ for example) but when it is school stuff I cringe and spell American most of the time so as not to embarrass the kids or get a patronising (not patronizing) comments…


  4. I think you could correct someone in public but ONLY if they were a good friend and you knew they would not be offended. I get really cross too about bad grammar and the inappropriate use (or lack of) apostrophes. Apostrophes are my big thing. The spelling problem can be tricky, but I am British so use the British spellings for words.

  5. Tricky one. I’m always tempted to correct my two nieces’ FB entries when they make errors, but refrain from embarrassing them. I too am appalled by the grammatical ignorance so many young people exhibit by the rubbish they publish, they probably do need to know they are making fools of themselves but not sure how. Recently I saw a misuse of the apostrophe on the BBC of all places so I don’t hold out much hope.

    • My daughter is an author and as her audience is mainly from the US she uses many American words but the one that just makes my hackles rise is “gotten”. I have said about it and she has now started to use other phrases instead. My good friend says “Me and xxxxxxx”. I cringe and have to hold myself back from saying “xxxxxx and I” but I would never dream in a million years of correcting her.

  6. I saw a decorative image of a poem on a friend’s Facebook page recently. It was prettily done, and the thought was decent…”Life is to short to worry. Life is to short to be sad. Life is to short for war.” It went on and ON, and in every instance where “too” should have been used, it was spelled “to.” It drove me absolutely ’round the bend. So, of course, I had to share it on my Facebook page as well with the comment that “Life is TOO short to rely on spell check.” I noticed later that a couple of friends, who must not have paid any attention to my comment, had reshared (re-shared?) it on their pages. <>

    I had never seen ‘practise’ written with an ‘s’. I thought maybe it had a different use or meaning than I was aware of, so I looked it up at http://www.dictionary.com, which attributes the spelling with the ‘s’ as British with the spelling with ‘c’ as US. So then I went to my better dictionary which indicates that either spelling can be used without attributing a nationality. Hmmmm…

    Now this is getting ridiculously long, but I wanted to add that I trained as a court reporter which added a whole new dimension onto the grammar I learned in high school. I believe I remember that it is appropriate to begin a sentence with ‘and,’ ‘so,’ ‘but,’ etc when a run-on sentence is getting out of hand.

    And now my run-on comment has REALLY gotten out of hand. Sorry, but I can get pretty wound up! 🙂

  7. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and my conclusion is to come off facebook! I’m notorious for correcting my family about their grammar and spelling all the time. Facebook really gets my goat though and text language a close second. I don’t correct things on there very often, I did once correct my son and he has since “de-friended” me!
    Now I’m checking this comment for spelling and grammar, this would be very embarrassing if I get something wrong!

  8. I wouldn’t correct anyone in person (or on Facebook) because I wouldn’t want to embarrass them. I have recently seen signs (signs that were actually ordered and custom made for businesses) with horrible mistakes. There is a nice restaurant which has a sign out front that reads “Fine Dinning”. What is “Dinning”? I won’t eat there just because of that! If they can’t even spell “dining” correctly, what about the food? The thing about that is what about the company making the sign? Didn’t they see the error? The restaurant probably paid alot of money to have that sign printed. I could go on and on but will control myself.

  9. I would correct my own son/daughter if it seemed right to do so at the time. However, i think it is really rude to corret other people. We should be more interested in WHAT they are saying than HOW they are saying it. As for errors by tradespeople, market traders, restaurants : they just niggle me a little bit but I keep that to my self.

  10. Just read Life Death & Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair. Fabulous book, very dark but funny at the same time. However, it really annoyed me when she keeps referring to butcher´s and fishmonger´s. No apostrophe Jenny! Now should I tell her???????????

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