Tuesday, October 18

If you're going to write to a newspaper about poor spelling, at least proofread your letter

At work, we get letters quite often from people complaining about random misspelled words in the paper. Because, you know, sometimes we misspell words. We're not quite to the point where Super Intelligent Monkey Droids type up all the news. It's still us lowly, mistake-prone humans. And, truly, we shouldn't make mistakes. Ever. It's annoying and it chips away at our credibility. But we do. Other papers do. Spellcheck doesn't solve everything, and people rush and make mistakes when deadlines are involved.

So we got this letter recently -- they post them on the board for everyone to see so we'll feel ashamed of how careless we were -- from an anonymous spelling maven who was appalled at our misuse of the word "threw" in a brief item in the Metro section. It should have been "through." An ugly, horrible mistake that probably resulted in untold deaths of Iraqi babies.

Spelling Maven does his/her best in the letter to shame us for our transgression. He/She says it's clear from this mistake that no one reads the stories before they are printed, and that there are misspellings constantly throughout the paper. The best part? "Perhaps those who [wrote the brief] could use a refresher coarse in spelling." My emphasis, of course.

This is kind of a theme with letters we get from people about misspellings and grammar faux pas. We got a letter a month or two ago from a professor in Mississippi who was appalled that we use plural verbs with the word "couple," as in "The couple were on their honeymoon last weekend" instead of "The couple was on its honeymoon last weekend." The professor wrote that it was unbelievable that we donate newspapers to schools to encourage reading when all we do is plant notions of improper grammar in the little ones' heads. And then, in his e-mail signature, he misspelled "University."

Now, I'm as much of a holier-than-thou snark as these people. When I see grammatical or spelling errors anywhere, I make a huge effin' deal about it, like I've found treasure or a winning lottery ticket or something. And I have been known to mark up news pages in my spare time (though I don't do this anymore because not only is it rude -- it's pointless). And oh, how the first thing I want to do when I encounter a lousy argument written in even lousier form is send a scathing critique filled with condescendingly enunciated grammar rules to the writer with a flourish of my wrists.

But, alas, I have found that attacking based solely on a spelling slip-up or two leaves me obligated to never make a mistake again, so it's just not worth it, despite how delightfully bitchy it makes me feel. Stones, glass outhouses and all.

And now that I've poked fun at two letter-writers about their own slip-ups, Murphy's Law of Irrepressible Irony says that there must be at least one stupid error in this little rant o' mine. See if you can spot it. And then keep it to yourself.


Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm sending you a picture that was made on campus. The message was scrawled over a vehicle window campaigning for the usually homecoming chums. I want to see if you notice the faux pas. Enjoy!!

Thu Oct 20, 10:45:00 AM  

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