27 January 2012

Thoughts On Blog Comments

This will be the first in a series of posts (not consecutive), where I will rant complain discuss certain things that bother me or strike me as interesting about how certain people comment on blogs, particularly Christian blogs.

After this series is done, I hope a ton of people will read it and learn from my wisdom and STOP doing all of this stuff. I'm kidding...about the wisdom part. This is pure op-ed and you can chime in if you disagree. You have every right to be wrong...kidding...again.

So, under discussion today will be the grammar corrector. Now, this is not exclusive to Christian blogs though I saw it today on a blog from a pastor I follow. He had a lovely article (which I won't link because it will be uncomfortably clear who I am talking about) about the grace of God to sin-filled people. I went to the comments to thank him for the post, when who did I see, but the grammar corrector! The G.C. said one short "oh this is nice" but then pointed out a wrongly used word and told the author to fix the problem.

The G.C. is not exclusive to blogs. This person roams among us. IRL as they say. How many times have you been in the midst of a great story to your compadres when someone in the group pipes up "you said aren't....shouldn't it be isn't"? A pall falls over the group and there is a distinctive uncomfortable pause. The kinder of your friends will look down and pretend not to notice. The not so kind will grin and rally round the G.C. laughing at your dumb mistake and forgetting all about the hilarious tale you were telling them. You have no other choice but to say, "yes...isn't" and then go on with your tale with the cheery glow completely gone. In your heart will rankle many uncharitable thoughts toward the G.C.

Is it pride that causes us to get so angry with the G.C.? Possibly. There is an element of pride. None of us like making mistakes and none of us like to be exposed as mistake-makers. We also don't enjoy our blog post or story being interrupted and the whole point being tossed over for something so silly as that. I think; however, there is some justification for our anger. There is a way of thinking about the G.C. that adds a touch of righteousness to our wrath.

There are basically only two reasons for correcting someone's grammar, especially in public. A. You wish to humiliate them; and B. You wish everyone to know how superior you are in your grammar skills. There is a small third which is, you really care about this person and know they would like you to correct them. This is rare, and I consider it a rather hard sell when you are doing it publicly.

One of my life mottoes has been: "Language is for communication." With the constant change of "proper English" and the nature of the English language as a whole and the debilitating effects of Strunk and White, "proper grammar" is often hard to keep up with. If the grammar of the person you are talking to annoys you, who cares? If the grammar of the person you are talking to, keeps you from understanding them, ask them to explain! Must we really stoop so low as to shame them in front of others? Must we obliterate all the good they had to say for the purpose of correcting the difference between "lie" and "lay" and how one of them was just used improperly? Is it really that necessary?

I do understand the urge. Sometimes I will be talking to someone and they will say something ridiculous like, "Yeah, he don't do that no more." The same lights that light up in your brain light up in mine. Inwardly I wince and sometimes it does take me a while to recover and listen to what the person is saying. What usually helps is remembering that this is a person with feelings, and what they are saying is vastly more important than how they say it. I will correct them if I'm being particularly cruel, and if I don't like the person. Perhaps this colors my opinion of the motives of the G.C. ...possibly....

I didn't end up commenting on the blog I mentioned earlier. I knew that if I did I would chastise the mellow-harshing G.C., which would in actuality mean I was correcting her(yeah, I said "her") publicly....for correcting publicly...but still. It's annoying. Everyone should stop. Think of the person you are talking to/interacting with first. Think of their arguments/article second. Think of their sentence structure last. And if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


Emily C. said...

"If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."
Do you think advice, kindly rebuke, or constructive criticism (not the damaging kind!) could be construed as 'not nice'? I am not objecting to your blog post in any way - I quite agree with all you said. I object rather to the above phrase. What do you think?

BerlinerinPoet said...

I would say...yes and no. I know, horribly vague. I mean, it depends on the spirit it is done in. If you were actually concerned with the person's grammar you could take them aside (in person) or shoot them a private message (online).

Advice, kindly rebuke and constructive criticism all sound like things that could be "nice" to me. And I actually think all three of those are very useful. Iron does, after all, sharpen iron. But I think that can go hand in hand with "if you don't have anything nice to say don't say it." Also...I have never effectively obeyed that phrase. hehehe. Sanctification is a rather long process.

Overall with these particular posts, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek. Not that I'm not serious at all, but it's fairly light-hearted.