The 180

Stop being a grammar troll, says copy editor

Walrus copy editor Sarah Sweet argues it's not always acceptable to correct other people's grammar.
An English local government reversed a decision to stop using apostrophes in its street signs after Britain's self-appointed guardians of the English language expressed outrage. (David Jones/PA/Associated Press)

Sarah Sweet writes and edits for a living. 

And sometimes, she admits, she does it recreationally. 

Once you've started noticing errors and typos in menus, newspapers, novels, and so forth, I defy you to be able to stop.- Sarah Sweet 

But Sweet draws the line at a certain kind of copy editing she's increasingly seeing online — people who police grammar instead of engaging in the actual conversation. 

When correcting someone else's writing, she says, you're saying that they're not as educated as you are, not as "proper" as you are, and therefore that they don't deserve to be heard. 

She argues that while the Internet is rife with grammatical errors, typos are common and happen to people from all kinds of backgrounds. So instead of engaging in pedantry, focus on the intended message instead. 

Nitpicking rather than engaging meaningfully with the substance of someone else's statement is just plain rude, and people will think you're rude, and they will be right.- Sarah Sweet

Click the play button above to hear Sarah Sweet's full audio essay. 


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