the grammar/spelling snob dilemma


There was this show on MTV long before the days of Jersey show. It was called Sorority Life and it was magical. I thought about it the other day. The episode I thought about was episode 10. MTV’s website gives this  as a partial plot summary:

Prior to her tattoo session, Julia makes sure Jewelez is spelled exactly the way she wants it. Maggie sits with Julia as the tattoo artist goes letter by letter. Suddenly, Maggie notices something isn’t right. The tattoo artist misses a letter in Jewelez, spelling it as Jewlez. The pledge sisters seem to notice as well but aren’t sure what they should do.

I’m glad I never had sorority sisters who got tattoos. I couldn’t handle the stress of deciding if I should point out a tattoo typo or not. It’s hard to know when to point out a mistake and when to move on with a smile.

I care about spelling and grammar. I was an English Teaching major for most of college and an editor on the college newspaper. I bragged to a friend once that my calling in life was to proofread and edit the world. That was before texting and before twitter. I work with teenagers and unfortunately have to overlook their grammar and spelling for the sake of the relationship.

When do you bring attention to an error, though? How do you decide if something is worth acknowledging or if it’s better to just pretend to ignore the offense? Sometimes it’s clear. Say someone breaks your arm. You’re going to point out “Um… you broke my arm.” That’s hard to overlook.

But say someone does something really sweet like sends you a present in the mail for free and the person (hypothetically a professional author)  signs the present and they use “you’re” instead of “your”. Do you make fun of that or just say thanks for the book? I guess I’m glad the person in question isn’t my sorority sister though guessing at how cool he is, I’d welcome him into my sorority anytime.

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