Before You Criticize a Spelling or Grammar Mistake, Proofread!


I’m always amazed by people who angrily (and pompously) point out a spelling or grammar mistake made by someone else…while missing their own.

No matter how hard you guard against it, no matter how much you proofread, sooner or later, a grammar mistake or a misspelling will get through.

We like to pretend otherwise.

But if we’re honest, we have to admit it.

We’re not perfect, after all. We may strive for perfection — or as close to it as we can get. That’s true of many professions, not just those that primarily involve writing.

From time to time at the real job, I’ll receive a comment from someone who points out a grammatical or spelling error. Many do it in a polite way.

But some seem to do it in as snide a way as possible.

A recent one who, not surprisingly, chose not to leave her full name, added a little message at the end. She pointed out how “embarrassing” it is to see us constantly put out spelling and “grammer” mistakes.

Yes. She wrote “grammer” instead of grammar in an email complaining about spelling errors.

I didn’t respond the way I would have liked to.

My preferred response would have been respectful. It certainly would have been more respectful than her message was to me.

I would have thanked her for her response and concerns. I would have assured her that such errors bother me much more than they bother her. 

I would have told her that we as a team will continue to work harder to prevent them.

But I would have also pointed out that given the volume of work we do, a mistake is, unfortunately, inevitable. I would have then gently pointed out that even in her email, she had a typo. I would have asked, “See how easily it can happen?” Presumably, anyone with this low a tolerance of mistakes must use spellcheck herself. Surely her spellcheck would have put that little red squiggly underline below “grammer” just as mine does. She still missed it. And she wasn’t writing a 1,500-word article. Her angry email was not even 100 words. Her accuracy record, therefore, is a lot worse than the person she chose to criticize.

I didn’t point out any of that in the email.

But I knew it was all true. Even if she didn’t.

Sometimes, we need to take a few steps outside our glass houses before we so eagerly throw stones.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.