Social Question

diavolobella's avatar

Would you publicly correct someone you do not know well?

Asked by diavolobella (7917 points ) September 23rd, 2010

Some time ago, I accepted a friend request on Facebook from a woman I was acquainted with in high school. We were not close friends, but participated in the same extra-curricular activity and got along perfectly well with each other at that time. She is now a high school English teacher, and while we are FB friends, she seldom interacts with me or comments on my page. Yesterday I posted the following as my Facebook status:

[My name] wishes it were permissible to strangle people who needlessly procrastinate.

She responded by saying “There is no such thing as needless procrastination.” I confess that her comment really annoyed me. First of all, I am aware that procrastination is needless by definition, so I could have just said that I wish I could strangle people who procrastinate. I’m sure she’s waiting for me to say something in defense of my comment so that she can then tell me how I am wrong, correct my usage or perhaps point me in the direction of Webster’s Online. I am not her teenage student and we don’t know each other that well, so we are not on razzing terms with each other the way I am with close friends and family members. Mainly, it bothered me because we are talking about my Facebook status here, not a term paper. Lighten up.

When and if she does correct me, I wish I could respond, “Mary gets an A+ in English, but only a C in Etiquette.” I won’t, of course, because that would only make me equally rude, but it’s tempting.

Questions: Would you publicly correct the language usage of someone that you do not know well? Would it make a difference if the situation was a casual one or one that is more important, such as something business-related? Would it depend upon whether it was an egregious error or a minor one? How would you react if you were the person being corrected?

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61 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Well, I have occasionally on Fluther . . .

diavolobella's avatar

@marinelife. I should clarify. I mean someone you actually know offline and, by publicly, I mean in front of their other friends/acquaintances/co-workers, not anonymous strangers.

JilltheTooth's avatar

If someone corrects me in a casual situation, exactly like your example, I usually say something about how much I like that language is so fluid and the use of colloquialism is one of my favorite parts. If they correct me when I’ve used a seriously wrong word, I thank them. As long as they’re not snarky In a professional or formal circumstance I will correct someone gently if they have absolutely screwed up, but I’ll do it gently, probably by saying “Did you mean to say (insert correct word, here)?”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I do occassionally, I don’t care if someone corrects me. It’s not that big of a deal. In the big scheme of life there are a heck of a lot more important things to me.

diavolobella's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe. That is exactly what I thought when she corrected me, i.e. doesn’t she have more important things to do than correct other people’s English? So, that line of reasoning goes both ways.

anartist's avatar

In person, no, except obliquely, as has been done to me. I will use the same mispronounced word, pronounced properly, in a conversational response.
NOTE: people don’t always get this.
I did not know the correct pronunciation of the article of clothing “waistcoat” was “weskit.” While discussing a historic garment with someone i pronounced it like it is spelled, she said “weskit.” This happened for two exchanges, then she said “vest.” LOL

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

It depends on how serious the required correction is, but in some circumstances I would, and I could give you several examples where I have. In your situation, I would be more concerned with the expressed sentiment than whether or not procrastination is needless. The idea that other people’s procrastination is your problem is more of an issue in my eyes.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

No,I wouldn’t correct anyone.
Life is too short to waste time with things like that.Next time,tell her to apply her energies to solving world hunger.That will make her feel way more important ;)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

No, I would not. I could spend all day every day correcting mistakes… but I wouldn’t appreciate it coming back at me any more than I imagine people would appreciate me doing it to them. @lucillelucillelucille is right, life is too short.

Seek's avatar

Personally, I think the “A+ in English, C in Etiquette” is brilliant.

Of course, she was totally asking for it. As far as I’m concerned, one good snarky remark deserves another. ^_^

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@diavolobella I look at life as I have x amount of energy to spend, what do I want to spend it on? I learned from the great and wise philosopher Lucille.

diavolobella's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh. The procrastination issue is not part of my question. However, since you seem to be implying that there is something wrong with me for wanting to strangle people who procrastinate, I will address it. The comment was joking in nature and the joke was understood by those who are my FB friends.

zen_'s avatar

I am perfecting the art of procrastination slowly. I shall continue tomorrow.

Oh, and to your many questions:

Would you publicly correct the language usage of someone that you do not know well? Publicly? Someone I don’t know? Probably not.

Would it make a difference if the situation was a casual one or one that is more important, such as something business-related? Still nope.

Would it depend upon whether it was an egregious error or a minor one? Nope.

How would you react if you were the person being corrected? I wouldn’t like it.

But on fluther… all’s fair in love and grammar.

Seek's avatar

I do have a feeling, though, that the person “correcting” you was making a joke in turn – like she is fond of procrastinating, and always has a “good excuse”.

“Procrastination is the key to success,” a friend of mine used to say.

diavolobella's avatar

@Seek Kolinahr. LOL It is a little tempting to snark back. I don’t think she was joking. She does this to people quite a bit. This is just the first time she’s done it to me. I wish she could “clock out” of her job when she socializes online.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I wonder if @Seek_Kolinahr is on to something. Perhaps she wasn’t correcting you, maybe she was trying to make a joke. Has she made other comments in the past that made you feel like she was attacking your grammar?

Oops, I sent that too quickly, since you answered me in the post right above this one.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

No. If you’re that irritated by what a random stranger says, lighten up. I’ve been corrected by strangers and it makes for weird and uncomfortable situation.

JilltheTooth's avatar

One of my good friends has been teaching for 30 years and tends to “assign” tasks to us. We’ve had to remind her on occasion that she’s not in the classroom…

diavolobella's avatar

@shpadoinkle. She’s not a random stranger. Also, I’m not as annoyed as you seem to be assuming. It irked me a bit, but I didn’t ask this question for that purpose. I asked it because the situation made me wonder how other people deal with similar situations and I used my example to illustrate.

I’m not asking for advice about how to deal with my situation. My situation is only what prompted me to ask the question.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie- :)
@Adirondackwannabe Ah,thank you,Grasshopper!—that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t think it fun to taser these people- ;)

iammia's avatar

Nope, i wouldn’t give myself unnecessary stress, after all you don’t know how they are going to react. As others have said life is to short! Simply Ignore, at times this ends up hurting more than any smart ass comment.

Seek's avatar

I have to ask – does Facebook carry the same rules that real life does? Because I won’t hesitate to be snarky on Facebook, but (for example), I held back from commenting on one lady’s possible Hepatitis due to tattooed makeup when she commented on my son’s impending doom due to parasite infestation caused by not wearing shoes in Target.

harple's avatar

Is there any possibility she was being funny? As in, procrastination is always needed?...

JilltheTooth's avatar

I just reread that, (her comment) and I’m thinking maybe she was being facetious… Ah, the internet, no nonverbal cues. Makes for socially awkward situations…

diavolobella's avatar

@Seek Kolinahr. That is crazy! :) I guess it depends on how well you know the person. I don’t hesitate to correct my daughter. However, that’s because you are supposed to teach your child and I don’t correct her on FB because I don’t want to embarrass her in front of her friends. My siblings and I zing each other freely, but that’s because we are close enough to do so without offending. I know they know proper grammar and they know I do too, so there is no undercurrent of superiority there.

I would also correct a co-worker, if it was necessary, but not in front of others or I would use JilltheTooth’s method.

diavolobella's avatar

@JilltheTooth Alas, she was not joking. She has posted again and, as I expected, informed me that procrastination is needless by definition, etc. Sigh.

tranquilsea's avatar

No, I don’t. If I know someone very well and they make a repeated pronunciation mistake then I’ll gently correct them (part of my whole belief of “do unto others…”).

The most stunning correction I’ve ever had was shortly after my mother died (3 weeks). I was at a friend’s house and still very much shocked by her death. This lady popped by to grab some butterflies and stayed to talk. I had been told by a few people that I would really like her. At some point in our conversation I referred to my mother in the present tense and she corrected me. I think she has issues. That felt like a slap in the face.

Life is too short to get nitpicky about the odd error.

Seek's avatar

@diavolobella A+ in syntax, D- in Etiquette.

diavolobella's avatar

@tranquilsea. That is shocking and I’m so sorry she did that to you. Good grief! I’m sorry for your loss.

diavolobella's avatar

Unrelated comment Fluther can be so hysterical. I just noticed that under my own comments, it gives me the option to “thank yourself”. I had to click on it just to see what would happen and it cracked me up. So clever. I think I’m in love with Dr. Jelly.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@tranquilsea I’m sorry to hear about your mother as well, so this is not to make light of your loss at all. I was trying to describe a situation were I would try to correct someone, in the gentlest of ways. I think you just gave me the standard: If correcting the person would hurt them more than the eventual embarassment they’re going to feel if they make the same error over and over, then I’ll hold my tongue Otherwise, I might try to correct them as subtlely as possible..

diavolobella's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe. I think you just nailed it. It’s finding the balance between how important the correction is versus how much it might hurt or mortify the individual being corrected. Well said.

Seek's avatar

@diavolobella Just see what happens if you try to add yourself to your Fluther

harple's avatar

@diavolobella the good news is, you can delete her comments on facebook… they don’t have to remain there for all to see… it might let her know they’re not welcome, without having to publicly or privately speak back to her…

diavolobella's avatar

@Seek Kolinahr. I actually did that by accident, fumbling around on my first day on here and it cracked me up.

@harpie. I think I may do that. [and I did]

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

How you feel is completely understandable. Publicly-voiced corrections sting. Even some private ones do, no matter how kindly they are delivered. It is easier to process feedback if one knows the person’s background. It can add credibility, as well as know if they are just being an intellectual snob or someone who cares about you.

I think that a fair amount of people who are knowledgeable and passionate about something often speak before thinking about the repercussions of the delivery. They (or I) can lose sight of the bigger picture. It makes it difficult to not reach out to someone and correct them. It really bothers them, or maybe it is because they care about you. Some don’t realize that when they do so, particularly in public, they are risking damaging their reputation in the eyes of others.

As for me? If it is an obvious typo and the message still comes across, it goes without a mention. If it is a word or phrase that is misused more than once, I’ll tell them privately, if I care about them. I have had others do the same for me, and it is always appreciated.

If I were in your situation, I’d go with the suggestion that @harple provided. Having a message posted on my Facebook thread that annoys me every time I run across it is worth deleting. If the friend catches it, maybe she will get the tacit message you are sending.

Austinlad's avatar

Good question, and I agree with @lucillelucillelucille in principle. Except in the workplace, where I manage several people and sometimes feel the need to correct them for a really bad mispronunciation or grammar, I usually refrain from correcting people in any forum, public or private. You never know what buttons you’re pushing. (Of course, if someone mispronounces “Austinlad” or “Roy,” well, that’s another story.)

tranquilsea's avatar

Edit on my answer above. I think I gave you the impression that my mother died three weeks ago. I was trying to convey that this happened three weeks after she died. She actually died two years ago but I still occasionally refer to her in the present tense. Sorry for the confusion and thank you for the well wishes.

diavolobella's avatar

@Pied Pfeffer. Beautifully put.

@tranquilsea. I did understand the time frame, but still wanted to express my sympathy. My father passed away in 2000 and I also still refer to him in the present tense from time to time.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@tranquilsea I thought that was the case but prefaced my comment just in case.
One of the classiest corrections I ever witnessed wasn’t grammatical, but dealt with spaghetti sauce. My sister had two college buddies at our home for a weekend. We were eating spaghetti and one girl ended up with a smear of sauce on her face. I’m trying to think of a way to tell her without embarrassing her or alerting everyone else. The other friend looked up, said her name quietly and tapped his face exactly where she had the sauce. No fuss, no one else caught it, situation fixed.

tranquilsea's avatar

@diavolobella and @Adirondackwannabe phew, I’m glad I you got the time reference, if vaguely.

I like it when people correct my constant mispronunciations. I had been mispronouncing cacophony until my friend let me know that the emphasis was on coph. I have found that because I read a LOT there are a lot of words that I have read over and over but never said out loud. That can cause problems.

And I’ve been known to gift, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”. I love that book.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@tranquilsea : ooh, I do that, too. Now I try to look up the pronunciation in the dictionary (what the hell does an upside down e sound like???)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would generally but in this situation, I’d probably pm on fb and ask for clarification.

ninahenry's avatar

It’s not incorrect, it’s just tautology. It probably annoyed her, and she decided to annoy you. I agree with @Seek_Kolinahr and think you should annoy her back. I also agree that you may have over analysed and misinterpreted. She may have been joking that procrastination is necessary.

As @lucillelucillelucille said, life’s too short, so don’t spend your time analysing it or being offended/angered by it. Do something to relax and forget about it :) I’m sure you’re okay now though.

ps, @tranquilsea, I’m shocked and disgusted.

Coloma's avatar

Fighting ego with more ego is usually a lose/lose proposistion.
I rarely ‘correct’ anyone unless it is a blatant falsehood that promotes untruth, or might be cause for some sort of damaging outcome.

I think that 99% of the time a persons motives in correction have much more to do with their ego needing to be seen as right or smarter than, and really, has nothing at all to do with genuinely wanting to ‘educate’ another. lol

Some egos will go out of their way to find every opportunity to trump another in even the most minor situations. Bleh..who cares. lol

diavolobella's avatar

@ninahenry. If you look above a bit, I followed up by saying she did come back to Facebook and correct me further, so as much as I wish I had, I didn’t misinterpret her. I went ahead and took Pied Pfeffer’s advice and just deleted the entire thing (status and the comments that followed). I’m fine now, but it was just sort of annoying. If she continues going around correcting all of her friends, someone will eventually bark at her. Just not me. :)

perg's avatar

I think you should strangle her. And if someone corrects your daughter’s spelling on FB, especially if they make a mistake in doing so, you should strangle them, too. Or try to. C’mon… I dare ya….

(zing)

diavolobella's avatar

@perg Hardeeharhar. I’ll get to you later, dork! ;p

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I deserve no credit, as I was only supporting harple’s suggestion. Your action of deleting the whole thread was an even better idea. No personal attack involved, tacit or not.

@perg There are times where pretty much all of us have the urge to strangle someone. Fortunately, it is rarely carried out. Unless I missed reading something on this thread, there hasn’t been any discussion regarding correcting someone’s spelling publicly, including someone’s child. Is this aggressive response coming from some personal experience? Whether it is or isn’t, it might be worthy of developing into a question of your own for the Fluther community. Oh, and welcome to Fluther!

ninahenry's avatar

@diavolobella sorry I didn’t read every response. Deleting it was the best thing. Maybe delete her too if she’s not actually your friend.

perg's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Sorry, it was an inside joke. We are acquainted in RL. And I correct @diavolobella a lot, though not on Facebook.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@perg Whew! Thank you for sharing that you already know her. Plus, I briefly considered flagging her response for calling you a ‘dork’. :)

YARNLADY's avatar

I hate being wrong about things, and I appreciate it when some corrects me so I won’t make the same mistake again. I thank them for letting me know.

perg's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer No problem. Plus, I AM a dork.

zen_'s avatar

@YARNLADY I hate being wrong about things, and I appreciate it when some*one* corrects me so I won’t make the same mistake again. I thank them for letting me know.

You’re welcome.

diavolobella's avatar

@perg. Always getting me in trouble…... I’m tellinggggggg!!! ;)

JilltheTooth's avatar

OK, this has been bugging me for some time, now I remember why:
From: Dictionary.com

_Pro·cras·ti·nate_   
–verb (used without object)
1.
to defer action; delay: to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost.
–verb (used with object)
2.
to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.

I see that nowhere in the definition is “needless” mentioned or even implied. Your acquaintance was accusing you of redundancy, no? Well, silly (and incorrect) her!!! So there!

diavolobella's avatar

@JilltheTooth. I know. I agree. She threw this out at me

“Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson have proposed three criteria for a behavior to be classified as procrastination: it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.”

I have no idea who those dudes are, but she found that in the Wikipedia. Whoever those three people (maybe not all dudes) are, it says they have proposed this anyway, not mandated it. :)

Seek's avatar

She sounds like a twat. I’d delete her.

JilltheTooth's avatar

In my book, definition trumps “proposal” any day. She must be a barrel of laughs at parties…..

diavolobella's avatar

@Seek Kolinahr and @JilltheTooth I put her on ignore and in a day or so will delete her completely.

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