Better to educate yourself rather than embarrass

Today on Twitter someone I follow made a spelling mistake. It can happen and since the person in question has a number of followers it seems quite a few people replied pointing this out. I know this as a few minutes after the original Tweet came another stating that people should unfollow him, “if your going to correct my spelling.” Yes, he managed another spelling mistake with his reply.

The point of this piece though is not to poke fun at people or try to show how clever I am at spelling, punctuation and grammar. Far from it. I am the first to admit that in fact I am not very good at spelling. However, I don’t like mistakes and I’m always willing to learn and improve. Whether I’m writing a Tweet, text or a blog piece I am always aware of my spelling. Often I change a word if I’m not sure it’s right and I haven’t got access to some sort of dictionary. If I’m on a computer I will always look up any words I’m not sure about. So you could conclude from this that I’m a perfectionist. Well, in some ways yes, but also I don’t want people thinking I’m some ignoramus (yes – I looked that one up). Also I want to be clear about what I’m trying to tell people. In Tweets of 140 characters or less, or quick texts messages, it can be hard to make sure your intended message is properly articulated so a spelling mistake can change the whole meaning of your message.

If someone corrects you don’t be defensive about it, instead take it as an opportunity to learn something new. Don’t think because you left school many years ago your chance to educate yourself has past. Most of the rules of grammar and punctuation I know I had to teach myself. My German teacher at school was shocked at my class’ lack of understanding of basic grammar. “Don’t you learn this in your English lessons?” he used to ask, “No,” we replied, quite truthfully. So over the years I have looked up the difference between ‘less than’ and ‘fewer than’, when to use ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ and I still struggle to spell ‘necessary’ without checking it first. I can’t say I can remember all I have learnt and indeed when speaking I probably forget them in the haste of getting my words out. No doubt in the course of this piece I have made a few spelling and grammatical mistakes. If I have do point them out for all of the reasons stated above. Nobody’s perfect but please just try to make the effort.

For all our best efforts the occasional typo will always creep in. Life is so fast paced with so many distractions at times it can’t helped. I’ve re-read pieces I’ve written over and over again and still found I’ve missed a mistake. Our eyes play tricks with us wanting us to see the things we are thinking in our heads. That’s my disclaimer anyway. That and I genuinely do have a very dodgy keyboard due to having had most of the keys ripped off of it.

It is true that over the years language and spellings have changed but this is due to the fact that literature was not so widespread and therefore literacy rates were low. Now there is common ground and set rules, some of which I will say are pedantic and confusing. The point is if you start to mess around with rules in common, everyday usage you run the risk of people misunderstanding you. What’s the point of trying to communicate if nobody understands what you are really trying to say?

For all the people on Twitter who make the common mistake of writing ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ here is the difference between the two:

You’re is a combination of ‘you’ and ‘are’ as in: ‘I hear you’re going on holiday soon’ or ‘You’re looking well’.

Your is referring to something that belongs to a person: ‘Is that your bike?’ or ‘Your car needs washing’.

Here ends today’s lesson.


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