Among other things, I’m most often a proofreader at my firm, and I have the freedom to scrutinize others’ work, compare it to style standards, and make revisions, largely without approval from the author. It seems that, lately, I’m having trouble leaving work at the office.
I was skimming through JG’s blog recently, and I noticed a typo. I know he doesn’t want me to pick apart his entries, so I generally leave well alone, but this error affected the meaning, and I was torn. It occurred to me that maybe JG didn’t realize that there was an error at all, so he might appreciate a little pointer. Or maybe I’m just obsessive, and he actually wouldn’t. But still… I wouldn’t feel right letting something like that slide. It's really a question of ethics, you see.
So. I asked carefully, “If I noticed a typo on your blog, would you want me to tell you?” And JG responded, “Yes, if it’s actually a typo.”
“Oh, well, you used pouring, like a beverage, when you actually meant poring, like looking carefully.”
“There’s a difference? I didn’t even know that.”
Oh. Well, okay. And that was that.
It happened again soon after with a different blog, whose author I don’t know personally, and when I pointed it out to JG, he recommended that I not bring it up, so as not to come off as a, um, not-so-nice person. I’m sure that the readers wouldn’t have substituted white win for white wine in the recipe, but still. When I consider it in my own case, I would be kicking myself if someone pointed out a typo. I like to think that I would thank the person and fix it ASAP, all the while swearing to proof things more carefully the next time. At least, that's how it (mostly) went down when JG found errors in my posts. At the same time, I can see how pointing out errors could come off as being kind of mean…
I don’t think I’ll say anything about the wine thing, but really, what’s the etiquette for something like this? Is it dependent on how well you know the person? Or how grievous the error is?
Of course, a short answer to all of this could be for me to stop being such an anal-retentive, hypercritical person…