A call to end self spelling corrections June 28, 2005 12:28 AM   Subscribe

A call to end self spelling corrections. Very gently now....as much as your speling errar stends out to you...few of us even notice and even fewer care. (Even the good spellers among us.)

Do we really need an additional post to point out self spelling errors? Appreciate the courtesy and all...but really.
posted by telstar to Etiquette/Policy at 12:28 AM (107 comments total)

For a lack of any sort of a comment editing function, I welcome spelling correction posts. Some of us care.

Also, has it been noted yet that the MeFi spell checker suggests 'mafia' for 'MeFi'? If it makes me happy, can I assume that this is intentional?

And can we at least integrate or upgrade to the public domain copy of Webster's Collegiate, 1913 edition for the spell checker? Can we manually add some new words? It doesn't even recognize a whole ton of oftenly used words, especially technology related ones.
posted by loquacious at 12:37 AM on June 28, 2005


I'm with telstar. If the context makes it perfetcly clear what you were tyring to say, then a self-correction is just unnecessary, masturbatory clean-up. Or somethign. Learn to let minor spelling mistakes go, I say.
posted by mediareport at 12:51 AM on June 28, 2005


I have and will let mistakes go uncorrected, but sometimes it just can't be left alone.

What's wrong with masurbation? *fap fap fap*
posted by loquacious at 1:12 AM on June 28, 2005


I disagree, spelling corrections are okay by me.
posted by grouse at 1:15 AM on June 28, 2005


Perhaps people correct their own spelling errors with the fear that some pedant will do it for them if they don't. And they could be right!
posted by JtJ at 1:41 AM on June 28, 2005


Also, has it been noted yet that the MeFi spell checker suggests 'mafia' for 'MeFi'?

Many, many, many times.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 1:54 AM on June 28, 2005



I care.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:21 AM on June 28, 2005


I also care, and yes, would it too much trouble to add 'blog' to the spell checker? I don't care to download and install some other dictionary.
posted by fixedgear at 2:39 AM on June 28, 2005


Spelling corrections are fine by me as well.
posted by Bugbread at 2:55 AM on June 28, 2005


I see them as clutter, but basically harmless clutter.

But AFAIC, making a note of someone's spelling, be it your own or J. Random Stranger's, is only really appropriate if the misspelling or typo is somehow fortuitous and delightful. Like if it creates an accidental pun.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:01 AM on June 28, 2005


It's part of what makes this place special that people care about spelling and grammar. That said, the corrections are pointless and just make the poster look embarrassingly insecure. If you're that bothered, take it as as a sign that you need to be more careful next time.
posted by teleskiving at 3:08 AM on June 28, 2005


I care too. But, there is a 'Preview' button there for a reason.

If you're so inclined, you can be really anal like me and copy-n-paste the text of your post into a word or text editor program. Then run something like A-Spell over it.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 3:24 AM on June 28, 2005


I notice.

I care.

It shows respect to your partners in the conversational game.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:43 AM on June 28, 2005


I know this is a generalisation and generalisations are bad, mmmkay. But if I see a post with grammatical and/or spelling errors then I think that person might be ign'rant. So correcting a mistake is my way of saying to Mefites, "I'm not really ign'rant: look how I'm correcting my mistake."

My main dilemma is whether to apologise for a double post. Maybe that really is added too much to the clutter?!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:59 AM on June 28, 2005


"adding", even.

:(
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:05 AM on June 28, 2005


It shows respect to your partners in the conversational game.

Most certainly, however, most of us, when writing here, are translating very verbal intuition and clues to our all-so-clumsy fingers/keyboard/screen-review-whatever. In any given thread, I fully understand that your point is salient, perceptive and illuminating, and a minor misspelling is simply a clue that a real person is on the other end of that login name.

So let it go! Let that minor spelling/grammatical error be the spoor of your unique intellect. I am grateful for your spelling mistakes...we would not have evolved to be ourselves but for trial and error. I suggest that we adopt spelling errors as raisins in the pudding. Yummy!
posted by telstar at 4:23 AM on June 28, 2005


mediareport: a self-correction is just unnecessary, masturbatory clean-up. Or somethign.

I think that should read unnecessary masturbatory mess (is that what the 'or somethign' is?
posted by Chuckles at 4:59 AM on June 28, 2005


I don't usually correct errors, unless they really cause confusion, but it doesn't bother me at all when others do.

I assume that people can usually tell that something is just a typo, but if I accidentally typed "tounge" for "tongue" or something like that, then I would correct it to clarify that it was not due is to ign'rance, but just a random finger slip...
posted by mdn at 5:11 AM on June 28, 2005



I am an anally orientated analyst.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:15 AM on June 28, 2005


I suggest that we adopt spelling errors as raisins in the pudding.

When I was a little squirt, my brother and sister always insisted that the raisins in the pudding were cat poop.
posted by y2karl at 6:56 AM on June 28, 2005


To those of you asking if we can add words to the spell checker: No.

Matt doesn't control it. It's a 3rd party product that we have no ability to add to the dictionary of. You could choose to copy and paste your posts & comments into another program with a spell checker you prefer, or if you are in firefox there are spell checker extensions that you may find more flexible and adaptive to your needs.
posted by raedyn at 7:12 AM on June 28, 2005


You've got spellcheck, you've got preview. If, after using those, you've still got mistakes in your post, then you obviously don't care that much about it. None of us are perfect and, as mentioned previously, the spellchecker here certainly isn't, but using it would, I think, eradicate most of the mistakes people feel the need to correct.
posted by MrMustard at 7:15 AM on June 28, 2005


I notice, I care, and I pass judgment. I appreciate the self-checks, even as I wonder if anyone ever uses the spell checker. But pedantry is what I get paid for.
posted by scratch at 7:42 AM on June 28, 2005


I would correct it to clarify that it was not due is to ign'rance, but just a random finger slip...

See, that's the heart of it for me. I would never assume that a minor spelling error means someone is ignorant. That "respect for your conversational partners" thing stavros mentioned works both ways, doesn't it? Why on earth would anyone assume a simple spelling error means someone here is ignorant?
posted by mediareport at 7:48 AM on June 28, 2005


Well, they don't upset me a whole lot, but I basically agree with Telstar. Especially on Ask MeFi, where on occasion you'll click open the "8 answers" or whatever to find 2 or 3 of them are spelling and grammar corrections (eg the Rothko thread today).
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2005


I would never assume that a minor spelling error means someone is ignorant.

well, they're ignorant of how to spell, if they consistently misspell things. Obviously a minor ignorance about a word or grammatical construction here or there is no big deal, and doesn't mean that the person's opinions suddenly have less value, but if a member consistently seems unable to learn spelling and grammatical conventions, it does indicate a certain lack of awareness.

The more you read and write, the more familiar you become with the recognized usage. This means that people who seem to lack basic knowledge on this level are displaying either a reduced level of reading/writing, or a lack of attention paid to what is read. Or they are reading a lot of unedited stuff, which is why having the after-the-fact editing here doesn't seem like such a bad thing. As I said, typos are one thing (I didn't correct the typo in my post above, e.g. :)) but if you make an error that could be construed as the proper formation because so many people use it and don't know it's wrong, then it's probably useful to correct it.

In general I'm pretty indifferent about this, actually, as most people around here are pretty articulate. But that may partly be because we self-correct, and so sustain the sort of readership that relates to that.
posted by mdn at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2005


It doesn't bother me when other people make spelling mistakes but oh my god I hate it when I'm the one making the mistakes.
posted by Tarrama at 9:57 AM on June 28, 2005


"well, they're ignorant of how to spell, if they consistently misspell things."

Yes. Just as they are ignorant of how to grammar if they fail to capitalize the first word in a sentance.

Rest assured this problem will be corrected in due time. When the anti-pedantic wankdork revolution sweeps the world, all spelling Nazis will be taken out and shot. Those of us leaving behind deliciously tempting spelling errors are only doing so to compile a more complete enemies list. And those tools of the spelling Nazis who correct their spelling in follow-on comments will be taken away to be used as slave labor.

Learn to live with spelling errors, or get shot in the head. your choice.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2005

Very gently now....as much as your speling errar stends out to you...few of us even notice and even fewer care.
Amen to the latter. It's a discussion site, and the purpose behind your "spelling" is to converse. In the rare instances when a spelling error obscures meaning, fine, go ahead and correct. Otherwise knock off the self-indulgent nonsense and grow up.

As for the discussion about ignorance: First, many misspellings are actually typos, which don't indicate ignorance. Second, who gives a bjork? It's a discussion on a website, for Christ's sake. You're not my friends, and you're not my family -- and even if you were both, I still wouldn't care whether you know how to spell correctly.
posted by cribcage at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2005


Excuse me? You're giving away Bjorks? I'll take two. Any more would be too much to handle.
posted by loquacious at 10:21 AM on June 28, 2005


I think worse of people who make a post just to acknowledge that they have noticed their own spelling mistake. It makes it seem like the person really cares about a spelling mistake, and man, that's setting the bar pretty low for things to really care about.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:23 AM on June 28, 2005


I don't get why people say they care and yet they can't be bothered to proofread their comments before posting? Or using the spell check?

Being a perfectionist doesn't mean going back and correcting your mistakes after the fact. Being a perfectionist means proofing your comments before posting them.

That said, I don't mind the occasional clarification of spelling comment.
posted by fenriq at 10:37 AM on June 28, 2005


y6^3, if you read my whole post, I don't think you can properly accuse me of being a spelling nazi. It is a simple fact that consistent misspellings or grammar indicate an ignorance; whether that ignorance is of any importance is what is open to question. The original issue was the act of correcting typos to assure that something was misspelled by accident, not due to ignorance. So in that context, "ignorance" clearly meant "an ignorance of proper spelling conventions."
posted by mdn at 10:43 AM on June 28, 2005


cribcage writes "Second, who gives a bjork?"

Presumably, all of us who correct our spelling mistakes.

23skidoo writes "It makes it seem like the person really cares about a spelling mistake, and man, that's setting the bar pretty low for things to really care about."

Maybe we're just good at multitasking...

fenriq writes "I don't get why people say they care and yet they can't be bothered to proofread their comments before posting? Or using the spell check? "

Keep in mind that they might be good spellers but horrific typists. If they make 100 mistakes an hour, and yet proofread and catch 99% of the mistakes, that's still a mistake an hour coming through. Sure, you wouldn't see it on your end ("This guy makes a mistake every hour, and yet he says he cares about spelling?!"), but it is a possibility.

I tend to make mistakes when I'm tired (late night posting), when my Care Points are high, but my Concentration Points are low. You can care, proofread, mess up, and catch it later.
posted by Bugbread at 10:58 AM on June 28, 2005


mdn, if pay attention to the spirit of my post, I don't understand how you can think I called you a spelling Nazi. It is a simple fact that I am a cranky bastard; whether that crankiness is of any importance is not even an interesting question to me. The original issue was the act of correcting typos to assure that something was misspelled by accident, not due to ignorance. So in that context, by "ignorance" you clearly meant "people who are ignorant and clearly my lessers."
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:01 AM on June 28, 2005


Eh. Pointless post. Let people correct their mistakes as they deem necessary. They're going to anyway, and it doesn't hurt anything.
posted by soyjoy at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2005


I welcome spelling correction posts
spelling corrections are okay by me.
Spelling corrections are fine by me as well.
It shows respect to your partners in the conversational game.


What the hell is wrong with you people? Totally aside from the question of whether it's important to be able to spell properly, what on earth does it add to a thread to have someone post:

legitinate legitimate
posted by *** at 5:57 PM EST on June 27

aargh ... coordinated
posted by *** at 5:57 PM EST on June 27

That's why "check-and-balnces" are necessary.
posted by *** at 5:58 PM EST on June 27

And I haven't even had my first drink! ... "balances"
posted by *** at 5:59 PM EST on June 27


Are you seriously telling me you appreciate that? That you'd miss it if it were gone? That's not "courtesy," it's pure noise. If you notice you misspelled something and it bothers you, let it be a stimulus to do better in future. Don't bother the rest of us about it. Jesus.
posted by languagehat at 11:12 AM on June 28, 2005


The only time I bother with a spelling correction is if the mistake has altered the meaning of my statements. Otherwise I don't see the point.

On preview what languagehat wrote.
posted by Mitheral at 11:18 AM on June 28, 2005


OK, I have been guilty of this, I will refrain. My main reason was to avoid snarky comments from the spelling nazi assholes. I accept the arguments against this practice and will refrain, spelling nazis will just have to go fuck themselves.

I often have a muddled writing style that I don't always catch and correct on preview, I would please like to reserve the right to clarify a really confused syntax if necessary. Is that acceptable?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:19 AM on June 28, 2005


languagehat writes "Are you seriously telling me you appreciate that?"

Yes.

languagehat writes "That you'd miss it if it were gone?"

Yes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that everyone has to correct their spelling, or that I'll consider someone who makes the occasional typo to be an idiot. But, while I understand you don't grok it, I actually do appreciate it and actually would miss it if everybody stopped doing it.
posted by Bugbread at 11:21 AM on June 28, 2005


In my opinion, you show respect to your audience by not tossing out one-liner typo corrections.

How is this respectful? Because it shows you believe the reader to be intelligent enough to deal with the misspelling.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:30 AM on June 28, 2005


...spelling nazis will just have to go fuck themselves.

As they rightfully should. Spelling nazism is disrespectful of the original poster, disrespectful toward all those reading the thread, and childish.

I often have a muddled writing style that I don't always catch and correct on preview, I would please like to reserve the right to clarify a really confused syntax if necessary. Is that acceptable?

Of course.

The singular goal of textual communication is to communicate. If you have confused your audience, you have not successfully communicated.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 AM on June 28, 2005


That's not "courtesy," it's pure noise.
And what you posted right afterwards in that thread was courtesy? How does it help to add even more noise, especially after others already had?
posted by amberglow at 11:44 AM on June 28, 2005


five fresh fish writes "In my opinion, you show respect to your audience by not tossing out one-liner typo corrections."

And there's the crux. Some will find people who correct themselves to be showing respect, and some will find people who don't correct themselves to be showing respect. I'm highly doubting anyone is going to prove anything to anyone else regarding which group is really respectful, so there isn't a whole lot to discuss here.
posted by Bugbread at 11:55 AM on June 28, 2005


"If you have confused your audience, you have not successfully communicated."

And thus the debate is ended. As a bonus we can dismiss the vast majority of history's most creative written work as the confusing babble it is.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:31 PM on June 28, 2005


Guys, there is limited room on The Internets. Let's not fill that room with spelling corrections.
posted by ORthey at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2005


Heh. If the internet is running out of room for plaintest, I've got at least few hundred megs of free drive space I can donate we can fill with spelling corrections.
posted by loquacious at 2:26 PM on June 28, 2005


s/plaintest/plaintext
posted by loquacious at 2:26 PM on June 28, 2005


Don't worry, ORthey, I keep all my spelling corrections on a USB keychain. You'll notice that when I have it unplugged, all my spelling corrections disappear from Mefi.
posted by Bugbread at 2:32 PM on June 28, 2005


I care. Not that anyone cares.
posted by dg at 2:50 PM on June 28, 2005


Ninety-nine percent of the time, the corrective comment does nothing to improve clarity or alter the meaning of the original post. It is therefore unnecessary noise and should be flagged as such. (This applies to both self-correcting comments and attacks by the grammar/spelling Nazis.)
posted by gigawhat? at 3:34 PM on June 28, 2005


If the only necessary and sufficient conditions for not being noise are "improving clarity" or "altering meaning", would it therefore be safe to say that your comment (and mine, and most of the other comments in metafilter) neither improve clarity nor alter the meaning, and are therefore unnecessary noise and should be flagged as such?
posted by Bugbread at 3:40 PM on June 28, 2005


Or, rather, please, flag it and move on. I make corrections if I make spelling mistakes. If you flag it, and Matt deletes it, then we know where he stands, and as it's his board, I'm fine either way. If he comes down on us correctors, so-be-it. If not, well, we get to continue correcting spelling. Pretty cut and dried.
posted by Bugbread at 3:43 PM on June 28, 2005


Sure they improve clarity. And they should, but sadly don't, forestall any grammar nazism, since now they're bitching about the corrections themselves.
posted by amberglow at 3:45 PM on June 28, 2005


I think we've just witnessed the rise of a new breed: the "anti-grammar nazis". Used to be there were regular folks, and fanatics who would leap over your every mistake. Now we've got regular folks, fanatics who leap over your every mistake, and fanatics who have no problem with mistakes but leap over every correction.

Kinda cool seeing a new subculture in its incipient stage.
posted by Bugbread at 3:51 PM on June 28, 2005


I care that dg cares.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:02 PM on June 28, 2005


I care that stavrosthewonderchicken cares that dg cares.
posted by loquacious at 4:07 PM on June 28, 2005


I care a lot about disasters, fires, floods, and killer bees.
posted by Bugbread at 4:10 PM on June 28, 2005


Typo corrections are fine if they clarify something that makes no sense due to the typo.

If it still makes sense with the typo then nobody will care, except jerks. You can ignore them when matt gives you that pony.
posted by shepd at 4:33 PM on June 28, 2005


shepd writes "If it still makes sense with the typo then nobody will care, except jerks."

Or the person who made the mistake.
Or the people who don't care that you made a typo (and therefore hardly jerks), but do care (in a good way) that you corrected it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:42 PM on June 28, 2005


I think of the numerous "is this an FPP worthy of the blue?" Metatalk threads.

For a while I used to think a lot of those callouts were petty. I would never call someone out on an FPP. But now I've come full circle. I'm glad we've got FPP Nazis here. It's a job I don't want to do, but I think it keeps Metafilter a quality place and those call outs are necessary.

I used to "rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom they provide and then question the manner in which they provide it," so to speak.

Maybe it's the same with the spelling and grammar self-correctors? From this thread I can see a lot of people think it completely unnecessary and even detrimental - in the form of clutter.

But maybe the self-correctors are a good reminder for noobs (and regulars) that "Gee this is the sort of place where people really care about spelling and grammar, I should try hard to write erudite posts." Maybe the self-correctors are a necessary evil like the FPP Nazis?!

Just a theory.



Are you seriously telling me you appreciate that?

I appreciate the occasional brevity, yes, languagehat.

It doesn't happen often, and I get a chuckle out of someone correcting themselves with a series of posts that need further correcting. But I also think The Three Stooges are a freakin' scream, so maybe it's just me.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:02 PM on June 28, 2005


OK, I stand corrected. I seriously didn't believe anybody but the poster got any satisfaction out of seeing those corrections, but obviously I've completely misunderestimated their appeal. I will therefore ignore them the way I do other forms of harmless noise. Carry on.
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on June 28, 2005


Or the person who made the mistake.

Who says you can't be the person making the mistake and still be a jerk! :-D I know I've been both!

Or the people who don't care that you made a typo (and therefore hardly jerks), but do care (in a good way) that you corrected it.

Well, :-P

:)
posted by shepd at 6:47 PM on June 28, 2005


me: I would never assume that a minor spelling error means someone is ignorant.

mdn: well, they're ignorant of how to spell, if they consistently misspell things.

Note how mdn turns my "minor spelling error" into "consistently misspell things." Again, anyone who thinks minor spelling errors translate into ignorance is a fucking moron. There are lots of times I get involved in a long post and then look up to find I'm running late for work and rush to finish.

Sure they improve clarity.

Come on, amberglow. Like "check-and-balnces" really needs clarification? The more respectful solution is to assume enough intelligence on the part of fellow members to meet the oh-so-difficult challenge of figuring out a horribly confusing trainwreck of meaning like "check-and-balnces." Oh my stars! That requires immediate clarification!
posted by mediareport at 8:19 PM on June 28, 2005


Though good shot mediareport, i'll have to back amberglow up on this one.
posted by Dean Keaton at 8:27 PM on June 28, 2005


mediareport : "Note how mdn turns my 'minor spelling error' into 'consistently misspell things.' Again, anyone who thinks minor spelling errors translate into ignorance is a fucking moron."

I interpreted mdn differently. As far as I could see, he wasn't changing your "minor spelling error" into "consistently misspell[ing] things", but, I believe, agreeing that a minor spelling error doesn't signal ignorance, but consistent misspellings does.

Like saying, "I don't think accidentally bumping into someone is very annoying" "No, but bumping into someone over and over is".

And I don't believe that minor spelling mistakes translate directly into ignorance, but I believe they are an indicator of possible ignorance. The person may be bright but careless. The person may be intelligent but dyslexic. However, statistically, it's most likely that they're ignorant. It isn't a direct translation, but pair up consistent spelling mistakes with logical gaps or content-free comments, and the picture painted is not good.
posted by Bugbread at 8:52 PM on June 28, 2005


Spelling corrections are fine as long as the post that makes the correction doesn't make a big deal aobut it.
posted by Doohickie at 9:16 PM on June 28, 2005


about it, even.
posted by Doohickie at 9:16 PM on June 28, 2005


Spelling and grammar online are not unlike the clothes we wear out in the world. Even if it isn't true, if one is a snappy dresser, people will consider him more likeable and intelligent than if they are sloppy. Same thing goes for spelling and grammar on the net. Since all we see of each other are our words, they are kind of like the clothing we wear. To some people, clothes are very important. If I noticed my collar was was flipped up, I would correct it immediately. If I notice a spelling error, I have the same impulse.
posted by Doohickie at 9:21 PM on June 28, 2005


See, now what was the point of that second post, Doo? Are you seriously asserting it was necessary for the greater good of the site to clarify "aobut"?
posted by mediareport at 9:22 PM on June 28, 2005


It's a job I don't want to do, but I think it keeps Metafilter a quality place and those call outs are necessary.

[...]

Maybe it's the same with the spelling and grammar self-correctors? From this thread I can see a lot of people think it completely unnecessary and even detrimental - in the form of clutter. But maybe the self-correctors are a good reminder for noobs (and regulars) that "Gee this is the sort of place where people really care about spelling and grammar, I should try hard to write erudite posts." Maybe the self-correctors are a necessary evil like the FPP Nazis


This is correct, I reckon. 'Erudition' is a bit stronger a word than I'd choose, but still, spot on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:32 PM on June 28, 2005


I, too, am stunned by this thread. I didn't think I could imagine anything stupider and more pointless than someone adding a second post to correct a dropped vowel or two juxtaposed letters -- but it turns out there's a boatload of people who claim to appreciate it, to value it, and who even claim they'd miss it if it stopped.

This is the sort of revelation that makes me glad I don't do "meet-ups."
posted by cribcage at 9:36 PM on June 28, 2005


cribcage: do you completely discount the (albeit slight) value of correction posts signalling to users (especially but not exclusively new users) that composition is valued on these pages?

Anyone else tempted to throw in a spelling error in their post just for the sake of it?

Also, who thinks that people post corrective addendums just to add to their contribution tallies?

Why is it that Godwin's law is inapplicable in the spelling milieu?

Who here doesn't want me to ask any more questions?
posted by birdsquared at 9:48 PM on June 28, 2005


correction posts signalling to users (especially but not exclusively new users) that composition is valued on these pages?

Oh, please. The composition that really matters is the composition of ideas and arguments - *that's* the lesson to make sure newbies get. Neurotic self-correction of obviously mindless typing mistakes is hardly a good example; it should take a huge back seat to keeping the site free of stupid noise.
posted by mediareport at 9:57 PM on June 28, 2005


How about that I saw enough people get jumped on for spelling errors (sometimes I still do,) that when I started posting if I saw an egregious error after the fact, I try in correct it. Not all the time, but sometimes it seems stupid enough that someone will notice it and comment. (It has once, but only in jest, I think.)

And really, if some people do corrections, is it really worth it to get so wound up about it?
posted by Snyder at 10:18 PM on June 28, 2005


mediareport: Two points: a) Self-corrective "idea and argument" clarifying posts are far more rare than spelling corrections, so as much as either are useful from a pedagogical perspective, the greater number of the latter means they are more likely to be seen so as to have their intended effect (assuming the effect intended, of course).

b)Self-corrective posts are much better at this than posts attacking the spelling deficits of others - which posts I think most MeFites decry.
posted by birdsquared at 10:25 PM on June 28, 2005


A spelling correction does not signal that composition is valued.

Bright, sparkling prose does.
posted by cytherea at 10:41 PM on June 28, 2005


It is indeed the actual content that counts here, not just the form.

To flog the dead horse - it's not always just what you say, but sometimes how you say it.

Presentation is important. To use an extreme metaphor: If you went out to a fine restaurant, would you prefer for your exquisite meal to be nicely presented and executed on fine tableware, or simply tossed into and mixed up in a bucket, perhaps even slopped over the bare tablecloth?

I don't see anyone here arguing against critical thinking, sparkling prose, or even against the most excellent silliness MeFi has to offer.

But what some of us are arguing for is that the form that that content takes matters. A lot. A whole hell of a lot. True, here and now we're basically just talking about typos. And it is indeed a hard-line stance some of us are taking. But we are taking that stance because we see it as a very slippery slope, if there ever was one. We can easily argue along these anti-pedant lines that AIM-speak should be allowed "as long as the message is clear".

But the message isn't clear. And it can't be. Because language and communication often limits thought. The finer and more complex and more refined your language, the more refined your thoughts can be. It's just a tool. (Keep your tools sharp!)

Just like math is a tool. Without the advanced language of modern math, modern engineering is not possible. Language is important because the language itself not only allows thoughts to be described, it also allows more refined and complex thought to be formed in the first place.

This is why we care. And why we want to care, and why we want people to know we care. This is why we can have nice things.

Pedantic? Hell yes. Am I some sole arbiter of refined thought, some crown prince of the written word? Hell no! I'm embarrassingly undereducated.

For more information on language and it's role in civilization and the advancement of thought, I highly recommend Mario Pei's The Story of Language.
posted by loquacious at 12:58 AM on June 29, 2005


But you're not fixing the typo, you're making it worse. It looks bad, contributes nothing, distracts from the thought flow, and comes across as self-centered.

It would certainly be a different matter if you could correct the original post, but you're not doing that. You're making a second post which only serves to distract and gratify/protect the ego.

No one's arguing that proper spelling is not to be highly valued. But it should be put in its proper place, and I don't see anyone making corrective posts in order to get the phrasing or nuance just right.

And how dreadful would it be were people to concern themselves so vigorously with typographical mistakes: "s/-/--", "Sorry about the extra space.", "The title should be in italics", or "Whoops: the comma should be inside the quotation marks."

When a mistake is made while playing a piece of music, you don't stop, go back, and play the note again. That would be unendurable.

A typo in mathematical equation, on the other hand, would alter the meaning--the content--in a significant, perhaps indeductive, manner. But such corrections aren't in dispute.

What's essential isn't perfect spelling, but trust and respect.
And pedantry richly deserves the connotation it carries.
posted by cytherea at 2:31 AM on June 29, 2005


When a mistake is made while playing a piece of music, you don't stop, go back, and play the note again. That would be unendurable.

Well put. And I agree, which is why I generally don't bother with corrections, unless I really feel vulnerable and want to protect my ego.

But there is something to be said for caring, and showing that you care. I know that it makes me take extra time with my posts, and hopefully opens the door to newcomers taking time as well.
posted by loquacious at 2:44 AM on June 29, 2005


cytherea : "But you're not fixing the typo, you're making it worse. It looks bad, contributes nothing, distracts from the thought flow, and comes across as self-centered."

How are you making it worse?
Also, for reference, some of us find that it doesn't look bad, that it does contribute something, that it doesn't distract from the thought flow, and doesn't come across as self-centered. If you're going to state that it does those things, not just that it seems that way to you, you're going to have to provide some evidence.

To me, correcting one's spelling is the equivalent of saying "Excuse me" when you burp. Yes, everyone burps. Even if someone doesn't say "excuse me", I realize that occasional burping is human nature. "Excuse me" doesn't fix the burp. It doesn't clarify anything. It doesn't help further discussion. But I appreciate it when people say "excuse me" after a burp, and I rarely hear people complain that "excuse me" is distracting, self-centered, or noise.

I'm not saying that everyone should correct typos, or that everyone should care. I'm just trying to explain to the folks who seem not only to disagree but to be incapable of seeing what us spelling-correction supporters see.
posted by Bugbread at 3:34 AM on June 29, 2005


This thread has some of the most cogent and well-written arguments I've seen in favor of the "spelling doesn't matter that much" idea. But it does, most of the time. The original post here was a call to end all spelling correction posts. That would be a mistake. While some spelling errors are so minor as to be transparent (at least to those fluent in English), others do completely change the meaning of a statement, and they should be corrected. It's up to the writer to decide whether the mistake might alter their meaning.

It is common for mistakes to be invisible to a writer until some later reading. (That's one reason editors are needed.) The Preview and Spell Check functions help, but even with diligent use, they will never eliminate all errors.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:18 AM on June 29, 2005


OK, I'm not getting back on the "correcting your spelling in public is stupid" horse, and fortunately I don't need to, because cytherea made my position clearer than I could (well done, cytherea!). But we've gotten beyond that to poisonous nonsense, which I will have to slap down.

The finer and more complex and more refined your language, the more refined your thoughts can be.

Yes, but this has nothing to do with spelling or typos. To say "the message isn't clear" because someone misspelled a word or violated some invented "rule" is not only wrong, it's a recipe for the kind of elitism that's kept people who are "not the right sort" from having the impact their native intelligence and talents deserve for many centuries. We've pretty much gotten beyond the "using the right fork" test and the "wearing a proper suit" test, but there are still hordes of eager self-appointed Guardians at the Gates patrolling for letters out of order or commas in the wrong place, all so that The Man can rest easy at night with his expensive Ivy League education. I've seen many a boring, pointless chunk of prose get more attention than it deserves because it's all dressed up for the prom, formatted just so and spelled impeccably. It could be lorem ipsum, but it passes muster. And I've known people who were far more intelligent and sensible than 95% of the Yalies I've known but weren't taken seriously because they talked funny and didn't always know where to put their apostrophes. So take that shit and shove it where the sun don't shine.

For more information on language and it's role in civilization and the advancement of thought, I highly recommend Mario Pei's The Story of Language.


Ah, now a little light penetrates the murk. Mario Pei is perhaps the greatest source of linguistic misinformation ever born; his very existence set back the cause of popular understanding of language by decades. I beg people not to read his pleasant but wrongheaded works unless they've first gotten a decent understanding of language from someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about. You could start by reading Language Log regularly; it's written by linguists who have fun with their subject but convey the right approach.

But it does, most of the time.

But it doesn't, most of the time. If you write "untied" instead of "united," it could cause a problem. You can't tell me that's a common situation. Writing "check-and-balnces" doesn't cause a problem except for someone who likes creating problems where none exist.
posted by languagehat at 6:34 AM on June 29, 2005


It is common for mistakes to be invisible to a writer until some later reading.

I don't seem to pick up the errors when I'm previewing on a screen. I don't have a problem when I am using a pen and paper and it's not typing mistakes. I've no idea why this happens.
posted by Tarrama at 6:44 AM on June 29, 2005


hordes of eager self-appointed Guardians at the Gates patrolling for letters out of order or commas in the wrong place

I sympathize with your main point, LH, but this is wild hyperbole to the point of BS. Doubtless there's one or two cases in Mefi history where someone taunted someone else over such meaningless errors, but there are no hordes. There's not even a happy band.

Once again we're conflating typos and misspellings. A typo occurs because you're typing too fast or too inattentively. A misspelling - which is what I've most often seen corrected, and probably done so myself - occurs because your concept of how a word is spelled is wrong. Often these misspellings are homonym errors, which do indeed affect the sense. When someone says "Here, here" instead of "hear, hear," or "hone in on," they are perpetuating a slight misunderstanding of what the phrase means, and, uncorrected, the misspelling generates and/or strengthens other people's misunderstanding of it. Whether that makes it worthwhile jumping in and correcting every time is up to the judgment of the commenter, but it is a different kind of mistake than "aobut" or "check-and-balnces," and should be considered as such.
posted by soyjoy at 7:43 AM on June 29, 2005


Fair enough. I don't think you're right that "this is wild hyperbole to the point of BS" even when if we're just talking about MeFi (though things have definitely gotten better since I first came on board), but I wasn't just talking about MeFi, I was addressing an all-too-pervasive attitude in the world at large, hopefully less prevalent here. And no, there's nothing wrong with hopefully as a sentence adverb. But your points about what's worth correcting are excellent.
posted by languagehat at 9:38 AM on June 29, 2005

This thread has some of the most cogent and well-written arguments I've seen in favor of the "spelling doesn't matter that much" idea.
No one said "spelling doesn't matter," so let's check our straw men at the door. Spelling does matter, and standards should be maintained -- so post carefully. But mistakes will happen, and then it becomes an issue of trying to sidestep your inability to fix the mistake by "correcting" it. The result is the decline of a different standard: the signal-to-noise ratio of each thread.
True, here and now we're basically just talking about typos. And it is indeed a hard-line stance some of us are taking. But we are taking that stance because we see it as a very slippery slope, if there ever was one.
You don't get it. Proofreading your prose once, twice, three times before posting -- that's "taking a stance." It's not difficult, and that's exactly what you'd do if you cared about spelling, typos, etc. They're not hard to spot -- proven by the fact that in the vast majority of cases, the "correction" post immediately follows its parent, sometimes by less than a minute. That's not taking a stance. That's cluttering a thread with your clumsy attempt to make yourself appear careless rather than ignorant.
posted by cribcage at 11:17 AM on June 29, 2005


You don't get it.

Nigga, please.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2005


I've never spellchecked anything in any program ever. Both because the database is usually American and because I retain this probably misguided delusion belief that my brain is better than a timeconsuming bot. If I didn't preview, things might be different. So any spelling mistakes I make are either due to ignorance or poor skimming. I have corrected myself at times (but I really don't think I make many typos) and it was due to socializing -- seeing others do it -- rather than any egodriven caring.
This thread will have changed the site not one iota. Noone has been convinced of anything and will continue in their former fashions. Probably just as well. Diversity Disunity Dispellity
posted by peacay at 1:12 PM on June 29, 2005


This thread will have changed the site not one iota.

Has any MeTa thread ever changed the site one iota? (Well, except the flame-out ones; I guess the site is changed approximately one iota when somebody leaves in a huff.)
posted by languagehat at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2005


Good spelling IS important. So is good grammar and logical structure.

Good spellin is NOT so important as to warrant a correction for the teeniest and most subtle of typos. The misspelling of "abuot" up there did not even register in my brain until I read the subsequent correction. And even if it had registered, it would never have made a difference to my interpretation of what was being said.

Hey, anyone notice I left a "g" off "spelling", above? Heh. If you're a high-functioning reader, your brain automatically corrected it. It's like that brainteaser with the doubled "the" that's nigh impossible to spot without carefully checking the paragraph word-for-word.

Spelling IS important. A post filled with spelling mistakes would be painful to read, and the misspellings would certainly harm one's ability to read for content.

But spelling is NEVER so important as to warrant a one-word correction to a good post. Anyone who is so horribly pedantic that a single typo or mispelled word would completely ruin his or her ability to read the post, is someone who simply can not inhabit MeFi successfully.

By god, I hope like hell this thread has some effect on the frequency of spelling corrections. If someone is persistently misspelling a word or phrase, by all means inform them politely -- but let's give us all a damn break on the idiocy surrounding infrequent, random typos.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:34 PM on June 29, 2005


i retract the not-noticeable claim for the mispelling of spelling; it's so close to the beginning of the sentence that i now consistently see it. it'd have to be buried deeper in the paragraph, like "abuot" was, to be overlooked, i think.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:37 PM on June 29, 2005


Heh.
posted by loquacious at 2:58 PM on June 29, 2005


So does this mean I can politely tell posters that the word is "Voila" not "Wa-la"?

languagehat: I certainly gleaned a lot about what was and was not required/respected/reviled on these pages by reading the posts on MeTa. It would not surprise me at all if increased readership of MeTa resulted in reduced call-outs seeking to redress posting lapses.

And I would be remiss if I refrained from remarking abuot 9622v2, which changed the site by causing lots of JRun errors.

/end derail
posted by birdsquared at 3:26 PM on June 29, 2005


Good discussion. I find I can't get quite as worked up as others, one way or the other.

"The composition that really matters is the composition of ideas and arguments - *that's* the lesson to make sure newbies get."

Yes, but there's a problem with that. Quality composition and quality argument are hard but most people think they're easy. Similarly, correct spelling and reasonably correct grammar are easy, but most people seem to think they're hard. This is why it's useful to ask for reasonably correct spelling and grammar from people and why it is not so useful to ask for quality composition and argument.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:44 PM on June 29, 2005


Hey, anyone notice I left a "g" off "spelling", above? Heh. If you're a high-functioning reader, your brain automatically corrected it.

I know you retracted this, but I'm gonna haul up the bullshit banner here and point at it anyway. I'm about as high-functioning as it gets (thank you, thank you, I'm a unique snowflake), but I did notice and was very briefly annoyed that you'd use such clumsy means to try and make your point, while I was moving between that word and the next one of the sentence.

Once again we're conflating typos and misspellings.

Precisely. It was the former that my original comment was addressing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:11 PM on June 29, 2005


five fresh fish : "Anyone who is so horribly pedantic that a single typo or mispelled word would completely ruin his or her ability to read the post, is someone who simply can not inhabit MeFi successfully."

And, again, I think you're conflating the very separate issues of "people who appreciate others correcting their misspellings" and "people who are heavily bothered by misspellings". Once again, converted to burps: I am pleased by people saying "excuse me" after a burp. That does not mean that a single burp by someone will completely ruin my ability to enjoy my meal.
posted by Bugbread at 7:00 PM on June 29, 2005


I guess, bugbread, those of us who think minor corrections of obviously trivial typos are silly just have slightly different values. That is, we value "even trivial spelling errors should be corrected" much less than "please keep trivial thread noise to a minimum." And yes, it does seem horribly pedantic to insist there's value to the community in correcting a misspelling of an easily understood set of letters like "abuot."

It's simply unnecessary noise that distracts from both the fun and intellectual challenge of participation here.

(Oh, five fresh, if it helps, I didn't notice the missing "g" at all until you pointed it out. I read for concepts, not letters.)
posted by mediareport at 9:17 PM on June 29, 2005


StWC: The typo was, honestly, accidental. In normal circumstances, in a MeFi discussion, I would never bother to immediately post a "c/spellin/spelling/" correction, because I believe you are capable of reading through it.

As for burping, bugbread, let's do this analogy correctly: MeFi is the pub. We're all gathered around a huge table, dozens of us drinking our beer and shooting the bull. We've got a main conversation, and little side conversations going on. You burp.

Do you leap up on your chair and bellow to the entire table, "Sorry I Burped! Sorry!"?

Hell, no. No one gives a shit. They didn't even hear, over the roar of the conversation and pub.

If this were a couple of us sitting in a fancy restaurant, quietly having a private conversation, of course you'd apologize. And we'd all be very cool with that. But MeFi isn't like a fancy restaurant.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 AM on June 30, 2005


five fresh fish is my new hero. And I don't even like fish.
posted by languagehat at 8:24 AM on June 30, 2005


Let's not do the analogy at all. It's stupid. Burping is rude, disturbing, and deliberate. And does "nigga, please" even constitute a rebuttal?

Here's another log for the fire: Obsessive proofreaders are usually immature, uninteresting writers. It's important to read style manuals, but they're the least important part of a strong reading diet. Try a litmus test: Browse the St. John's reading list, and mark the titles you've read. If you're quoting Bill Walsh without having read Aristotle, you need to start over.
posted by cribcage at 2:37 PM on June 30, 2005


Hmm. Well, as a johnnie myself, I'll mention a couple of things.

The first is that my experience (and I qualify this because I've friends who say their experience was somewhat different) at St. John's was that errors such as the mispronounciation of a word or a name were rarely corrected by the tutors (what we call the profs) or other students, and this in a context where all classes are seminar-style classes. I always found myself pleased with this, even when someone's error of this type really annoyed me, because it reinforced the ethos there that we spent our time on the important things and little on appearances.

The second, seemingly contrary, is that there is enforced a level of formality and courtesy in all classes. Everyone addresses each other with an honorific, "Mr.", "Miss", "Ms.". At the Annapolis campus, males still wear shirt and tie to Seminar. (Not at the Santa Fe campus--we tend to look like hippies, all the time.)

Is the latter superficial? It seems that way to many. Certainly freshman, especially hippie-esque types, find the formality odd and perhaps stupid. But not for long. Because even though it seems superficial, it's not. The formality is but one among a combination of practices that continually reinforce a culture of productive and respectful discourse.

So my argument is that certain practices or community standards may seem superficial and unimportant, but actually are not. A huge potential danger of an education like what we get at St. John's is that it becomes merely name-dropping and about social status. And it's very much the case that the type of person for whom such an education is primarily about such things is exactly the sort of person whose worst nightmare is to mispronounce a word or a name when they drop it into a cocktail party conversation. By not worrying overmuch about such things, the culture there is subtly reinforcing the ethos that if you're there so you can successfully name-drop, then maybe you'd best leave. It's not just ignoring something that is relatively unimportant, it's making a point of ignoring something that is relatively unimportant. Similarly, the formality of the culture isn't about stressing some things that are, on their own, relatively unimportant; but, rather, doing so is a means to end. It's useful.

My argument here is that various things we do in the metafilter culture that may seem superficial and unimportant are actually quite functional and very important for maintaining some of the best things about the mefi culture. It really isn't important, intrinsically, to avoid spelling mistakes and to capitalize and the like. But it's useful to do so as something simply reinforcing the community ethos that we have higher standards for discourse here than do most other web discussion sites.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:09 PM on June 30, 2005


five fresh fish : "Do you leap up on your chair and bellow to the entire table, 'Sorry I Burped! Sorry!'?"

No, but "leaping up on the chair and bellowing to the entire table", in this case, would be analogous to "Posting a thread to MetaTalk apologizing for a spelling mistake". Instead, at the bar you say "Excuse me" and don't make a big deal. From what I can tell, that's basically what happens when people here correct spelling mistakes. They write "Sorry, 'spelling', not 'speling'" and leave it be. No bold, no oversize fonts, no blinking, and no posting new threads to apologize. In short, no standing on chairs and bellowing.

cribcage : "Burping is rude, disturbing, and deliberate."

Uh, unless you have a digestive system handed down from God himself, I think you're thinking "belching". Belching is deliberate, burping is not.
posted by Bugbread at 9:41 PM on June 30, 2005


Er, no. Posting a thread to MetaTalk about it would be to suck the cock and slurp the slit of every guest in the room in abject apology of having offended them.

Posting a one-liner correction of a pissant typo or insignificant poor phrase is the equivalent of interrupting the conversation to let everyone know that you know that you burped and want to explicitly apologize.

Not being stupid about it is to realize that in the roar of this place, a single typo is but an cokefizz bubble up your nose at an otherwise delightfully racuous party of mostly happy people, that most of the 20-odd thousand people grooving here didn't even notice you twitch, and the chatter buddies are only going to snicker. It's all cool.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:18 AM on July 1, 2005


c/an cokefizz/a cokefizz/.

Hah, take that, would-be snickerers! You are defied once again! I rule, you drool!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:20 AM on July 1, 2005


five fresh fish : "Posting a one-liner correction of a pissant typo or insignificant poor phrase is the equivalent of interrupting the conversation to let everyone know that you know that you burped and want to explicitly apologize."

What if we typed our corrections in small letters?
posted by Bugbread at 3:02 AM on July 1, 2005


actually, for me, that might actually work! strange brains
posted by five fresh fish at 9:33 AM on July 1, 2005


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