Grammar Hammer: What is the Etiquette for Correcting Another Author’s Mistake?


A few weeks ago, my hometown high school football team faced a minor controversy that was featured in the news. During an away game, they had allegedly trashed the locker room at the opposing school’s facility.

The article, posted late one evening on a regional news site, was the official statement from my hometown school denying that the team was involved in any misconduct.

To my dismay, the article was laden with mistakes in the copy. As an editor, it was painful for me to read.

Naturally, I took to my own social media airwaves, first praising my hometown team for their integrity, then to take pot shots at the author of the article for publishing a story with a lot of mistakes.

As the granddaughter of an English teacher and daughter of a newspaper publisher, I cringe anytime I see mistakes in a newspaper or on a news site. Still, it was kind of a jerk move on my part.

Is there a proper way to correct someone’s grammar in the professional world?

Our digital platforms make it easy to turn someone’s mistake into a BuzzFeed-worthy, GIF-laden distraction.

I’m certainly guilty of firing off a quick post without fully editing what I’ve written. I got a healthy dose of my own medicine when I posted a picture of the delightful dinner of “seared suck” my friends prepared (instead of “duck”).

Most of the opinions I’ve read on this are in agreement, along with my own personal opinion of whether or not you should correct someone else’s grammar.

If the author is someone you know well, you’re most likely pointing out the correction because you have the author’s best interests in mind. Do so privately via a direct message.

If it’s someone you don’t know, a direct message would be better than a public one. Most writers I know pride themselves on flawless work and would appreciate a heads-up that they might have missed something. Everyone needs an editor.

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Click here for more Grammar Hammer and writing tips.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire. A version of this blog post originally appeared on Beyond PR

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