I think many people don’t understand the nature of blogs. I sometimes see typos on blogs, and I don’t make judgments about intellect. I make the occasional typo. It happens. However, I have received one comment and one e-mail lately that alerted me to a larger issue than whether or not Dana can spell (I can, by the way): it’s rudeness. Here is the text of an e-mail I received today:

This article was passed along to the faculty from the powers that be in our middle school. While I disagree with your homework policy and I hope that you have followed up on your thoughts to revamp your policy, this is not the purpose of my writing. My concern is that in this day and age of technology and spell-checking, that you would post an article that had words that weren’t spelled correctly. These words include “respondant” and ‘commenters”. If we have such high standards for our students, then shouldn’t we set the example?

Here is my response:

Thank you for your concern. Typos sometimes happen, and people make mistakes. When people point out my errors, I correct them, and I am grateful for the assistance. I certainly don’t lay down the hammer for a couple of spelling errors or typos in my students’ writing, even if I do point them out.

I have checked the blog post, and I did indeed make a spelling mistake with “respondents.” “Commenters,” on the other hand, is spelled correctly, though spell check marks it as incorrect, likely because it is a word that has arisen in this new age of blogs and spell check doesn’t know what to do with it. “Commenter,” the singular, yields no red flags from spell check.

I truthfully think the manner in which you pointed out my error (while I appreciate it) was rude, which I find much more problematic in this day and age than the fact that I spelled something incorrectly. Of course, tone can also be difficult to convey online, and I could be mistaken.

I am grateful if people point out an error I made. My husband catches most of mine. Here is an example of a way to handle identifying an error in someone’s spelling without resorting to the rudeness of “in this day and age” (read: you’re a moron for making this mistake):

I noticed a spelling error in your article entitled “Accepting Late Work” and I thought you might like to know about it. The word “respondents” is spelled “respondants” in your article.

I wonder why that’s so hard “in this day and age”?

Oh, wait.

Internet Argument

19 thoughts on “Rudeness”

  1. You handled this with equanimity. I would have had a hard time resisting the urge to be doubly rude in return (I'm resisting giving a rude opinion of that first email right now, in fact, because I don't like anyone addressing you that way and because you wouldn't appreciate such language on your blog). But you know that.

    1. That's chivalrous of you, but frankly, being rude back doesn't serve any purpose. This guy isn't really angry at me. He's angry at his school for enforcing some sort of policy he disagrees with, and because they used a blog post I wrote to support the policy, he took his anger out on me. The root problem is really administrators who do not view their faculties as their colleagues. Of course, that's just conjecture.

      1. Well, you married a southern man. You know chivalry comes bundled in with the other apps. The ones that crash on a regular basis. (But still occasionally do the dishes!)

  2. Dana, you're far more gracious than I would have been. Let's just leave it at that.

    Listen up, HuffEnglish readers: this is a blog. Blogging is rough-hewn and error-prone. It's marginalia for a person's life and work. It WILL some point contain spelling errors, bad grammar, half-baked ideas, and other such imperfections. Deal with it in your own way, but keep context in mind. And be thankful that Dana is at least thinking out loud for the benefit of others, like me and her students, rather than apparently spending her time spell-checking the internet.

    1. Thanks, Robert. I think, as I said, this person's real issue was being asked to do something he didn't agree with, and because I was an anonymous target (hence the cartoon), it was easier to lash out at me as the originator of the problem than it was to lash out at the administration at his school; however, as I said before, this is just conjecture, and it could be the person just decided to be impolite.

  3. Haha! I needed this tonight. There are so many people who focus on the nitty gritty and miss the big picture. If I am going to get rude, it will be over a big picture item, not my typos (or someone else's). Courtesy isa big picture item for me and a critical skill…….you are an excellent model.

  4. I've had friends send me private messages about typos on my blog because they know I appreciate it. When I encounter errors elsewhere, I just assume the writer was more focused on content than style, and read for ideas not grammar.

    1. I tend to make the same assumptions, I suppose. It frustrates me to think that people believe I go through life taking a red pen to their writing. I've been told some family members don't write e-mails to me for that reason. I know English teachers should be held to a higher standard, but I refuse to believe that anyone, no matter what they teach, should be perfect. Of course, I received no reply to the e-mail I sent this person, likely because 1) picking on my spelling instead of my ideas was the only thing he could think of to do, and/or 2) he realizes he was rude, but doesn't want to apologize.

  5. I loved the cartoon. It says so much without any typos. πŸ™‚ Where did you find it?

    1. Hi John! The cartoon is a webcomic drawn by Randall Munroe called xkcd. You can visit his site if you follow the link. He licenses his work under a Creative Commons License, which is how I was able to use it. I linked to the cartoon's original page on this post.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I went to the website. I think that I "get" about half of the jokes. That's OK; I'm grateful for what I do and can understand. So, I'm grateful for your post.

        BTW, I've been thinking a lot lately about this post (rudeness) during my day–both the post, itself, and your reaction to it. Here's my understanding:

        I think that you know that you're good at this blog-thing. Your posts are always insightful and well-reasoned. Because you are good at it may be the reason for your reaction. You were looking for a intelligent response to your original post about a homework policy. What you got was a traditional "ad hominem" argument. Notice how the commenter (sp?) says that your ideas are wrong and that the commenter (sp?) hopes that you see the light and change your erroneous reasoning.

        So, now you are ready to engage in dialogue. But what happens? The commenter (sp?) shifts argument and no longer addresses the subject of homework policy, but attacks you personally, as if to say, "Your homework policy must be wrong because you have a typo in your post."

        And that's the beauty of faulty reasoning: the commenter (sp?) detoured the argument to a defense of typos in blogs, when the real argument should have been why the commenter (sp?) thinks your homework policy is wrong.

        My real fear is that an "ad hominem" argument has attained some kind of legitimacy, so that we argue off point. All talk radio hosts use this argument, e.g. Obama's health care policy must be wrong because he is a {you can fill in the next part}. Or, your homework policy must be stupid because you are a typoist and are guilty of typoism.

        So…I think that the commenter (sp?) was not as much rude as trite. Next time, when someone mentions spelling and grammar in your blogs, consider the surse, sourse, surce or source.

        1. Most of the cartoons are math-related, I think. Anyway, I agree the comment was trite, but disagree that it wasn't rude for the reasons you state: it had much more in kin with an ad hominem attack than a serious dialogue about an issue the commenter was concerned about. I think you are right that ad hominem has attained some form of legitimacy, and it can be hard to fight against. People will go along with that kind of an emotional appeal, and it's not until later when they reason coldly (if they take the time to do so), that they discover there was no substance to the argument. I think people do feel like because I have a blog and I share my ideas that I've invited all sorts of commentary. It's true that I do invite comments, but I've never understood why something about being online breeds the kind of disrespect for other people that we probably would not display in person.

  6. Shallow as it may seem, I simply think it's notable that you've got enough readers of your blog to merit commentary on your occasional typos, plus 18 comments on this post. Few if any of my colleagues or friends comment or read my blog(s), despite my occasional self-advertising. And surely civility is a diminishing art in our digital world, perhaps the only tools we can use to combat it are: forced moderation, comment login required, and thick skin.

    Great banner for the website, by the way.


    1. It can certainly take some time to build a readership. I have been blogging here almost six years. Thick skin required, yes, but I'm still calling out rude folks when I encounter them. I do have moderated comments, but this was an e-mail I received.

      The banner is an actual intersection here in Atlanta. I had my husband snap a photo of it, and then I brightened the photo in an editing program, but aside from that, it's a completely natural coincidence.

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