I know that in the past I’ve made some mistakes. I’m here today to own up to one of them in particular; gatekeeping other people’s spelling and grammar.
It’s this huge thing for people like me (people “good” at English) to lord it over people, and even use it as a weapon when dealing with someone we happen to disagree with. You know; replying with a “you’re*” as if that means you’ve won.
And I know; as someone who is occasionally hired to write words for other people, I’m meant to care about correct spelling and grammar. And I do, in my own work. What everyone else does? None of my business.
I’ve seen content writers and marketing people even use it as a selling point. That is, negging small business owners about their rubbish spelling, so they’re shamed into hiring someone to do it for them.
But here’s the thing; devaluing someone else’s work over their grasp of what is actually a really difficult language, is kinda gross.
Making someone feel bad for overlooking a tiny error about using the correct you’re/your or they’re/there/their is kinda gross.
Shaming someone who is simply trying their best, so they’ll hire you instead is kinda gross. And I can’t imagine how that would ever work? I absolutely would never hire someone who made me feel bad about my own mistakes.
Even when it’s meant as a friendly gesture, correcting someone’s spelling or grammar is kinda gross. Unless that person specifically asked you “how do I spell haloumi?”, you don’t get to correct them when they spell it “haloomy”. Especially not publicly!
I’ll tell you why. Correcting someone when they haven’t asked is a purely selfish act.
You are the only winner in that situation. You’ve embarrassed someone or shamed them or devalued them over something they probably can’t control or help, so you can seem superior and intelligent.
English is a difficult language. While it’s the most widely spoken language in the world, of the approximately 1.5 billion people who speak it, more than 1 billion speak it as a second language.
I’ll say that again – There are more people who speak English as a second language, then there are those who speak it as a first language.
And I haven’t even started talking about class and race inequalities which can dictate a person’s access to a good quality education.
So, the next time you feel the need to correct someone’s English without being asked… just don’t.
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