A Writer’s Pet Peeve

proofreadingWriters, real ones, can be a strange bunch. We’re artists. Sometimes brooding, sometimes easily crushed or uplifted, by no more than a stray comment. But this is because we view writing itself as more than just putting words onto paper. Writing can be therapy, justice, revenge, release, debate, condolence, and materialized compassion. Occasionally, it can be all of those things at one time.

When writing a writer gives up a piece of themselves. Their thoughts, their expression, their dedication to the craft and puts it out there for anyone to see. People can agree, people can disagree, people can have a variety of responses. But one that never fails to annoy me and a lot of other writers that I know is when someone reads something that you’ve poured your heart into and worked really hard on and makes fun of you for some kind of mistake.

This annoys me on many levels. During my time at In Cold Blog, Hart Fisher was writing about his personal experiences with crime and loss. His blogs were so emotional, so dark, so raw, so poignant that I sometimes had a hard time reading them. But as difficult as I found it, I wanted to read everything that he committed to the blog.

On occasion I would scroll down and look at the comments. On one particularly emotional blog, someone commented that there was a typo in the 4th paragraph. Really? They read that entire blog about the human experience, the horrors of mankind and the depths of suffering and the only thing they found worthy of comment was a typo? How hollow of a person must you be to read something like that and just want to be an annoying English teacher that no one hired?

Also, some of these self-appointed Grammar Nazis are “correcting” errors that aren’t even there. Someone once told me that the first sentence of a Godswill article contained a grammatical error. I looked over the sentence about four thousand times trying to figure out what mistake I had made. I Googled it. I contacted English major friends. I couldn’t figure out where the error was.

It turns out, there wasn’t one. I had been trying to make the sentence gender neutral, something which is completely allowed, and my use of the word “them” had confused the poster. I hadn’t made a mistake at all. When Tim got on Godswill to correct this would-be corrector, the man just complained that my gender neutrality was too out there and PC for him to keep up and essentially blamed me for his mistake.

On Godswill several posters would comment on a minor error or misspelling in Jay’s articles. These people acted like making a spelling mistake on the internet was a hangable offense. When Jay tried to laugh it off or redirect, the poster inevitably made it very clear that this mistake was not to be brushed off, lightly. It was wrong and dangerous and could imperil us all!

The more you write, the more room for error and when you’ve just published a 3000 word article, there’s plenty of room. But no one thinks about the 2999 words you got right. They just want to look at the one you got wrong as if this is proof of anything. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s why we have editors and readers and everyone else who helps weed them out.

Most recently, I posted my review of God’s Not Dead, a Christian movie that caused a lot of people to talk. When I looked over the comments on Godswill I found the one screencapped above and responded accordingly. He answered back the next day that I was being “too sensitive”. Of course, not even thinking about how much work and effort I had put into this single post that he so callously mocked.

Also, he didn’t bother to point out any of my egregious errors. Without actually telling me what alleged mistakes I made so I can fix them, the comment is just rude and smug. Was the article completely perfect? No. But that’s not the point.

Guess what, I write a post every day, I edit this blog myself, and I also happen to suffer from being human. So occasionally, I do make mistakes, even though I do my best to prevent that. Pointing out that I’ve made a mistake because I’m not perfect just seems like shit we already know.

Not to mention that my mistakes even tend to be clean. I don’t misspell words to the point of incoherence. I sometimes drop a word or substitute another word for the correct one, but overall, my writing is still readable. It’s not as if it’s so horrendous that what I’m trying to communicate can’t be understood.

But really, there’s a huge difference between writing, “Interesting post. Might want to change “has” in the third paragraph to “have”,” and what this asshole did. I do want my writing to be tight and error-free, but I don’t need people I don’t know that probably didn’t even read the entire thing, mocking me for alleged grammar mistakes without even telling me what they are so I can fix them.

It’s one thing to try to help someone improve their writing. It’s another to be an asshat. The same commenter later defended his formatting of “proofreading” with an excuse about iOS not recognizing it. He also called me sensitive and maybe I am. This happens to be a pet peeve of mine and it just pisses me off to see it.

Regardless of whether or not I’m sensitive, my point stands. If you want to help someone, then help someone. If you want to be an asshole about minor errors on the internet, then do that. But don’t be surprised when someone calls you out on it. If you’re going to be a condescending dickwad to people, that’s exactly what you’re going to get in return.

For a final thought, think about it this way; the Twilight series has no errors in it. That’s right. Twilight is error-free. Does that make the books good? Does that mean that Stephanie Meyer is a genius? Is that cause to celebrate Edward and Bella and their twisted relationship? I think not.

Happy reading.