Imagine that you go to a restaurant and a friend orders your meal based on healthy eating habits.
Imagine walking down the street when a stranger pulls you aside and forces you to change clothes to suit their opinion.
Imagine sharing your health problems with someone at a party and then having them force you to take a pill because they “know” that this treatment will work.
You wouldn’t tolerate it regardless of whether the interloper is a professional. You didn’t ask for their assistance. Most of the time, you won’t need or want it.
Imagine an anonymous adding apostrophes to your business’s signage . Someone who is so obsessed with their possessions that they won’t even care about your property. Someone who isn’t brave enough to confront you or publicly take responsibility. A person who doesn’t know anything about grammar, punctuation, style, or any other aspect of language and writing.
Would you be kind to that person? Would you be grateful?
You might feel angry they took down your sign. You were annoyed that they made public their error? Disappointed because they made you feel stupid
Sometimes, people are so passionate about correct grammar or punctuation that they will publicly humiliate others.
It’s not kindness, it’s abhorrent behaviour. It’s vandalism when you’re marking up property belonging to someone else. This was, according to my last check, illegal.
It gives the world an inaccurate idea of what professional editors do, which is also a passion for language. We don’t go around telling our authors how stupid and wrong they are. We make things work to allow our authors to share their message, and for readers to hear that message. The text is only a vehicle for author’s ideas. We are the mechanics who keep the vehicle running smoothly so that passengers can get to their destinations.
We are all human. All of us make mistakes. Readers who make mistakes in Copyediting will often hear me tell them that editors also need editors. Don’t be tempted to encourage vigilantism or publicly humiliate someone for being–gasp!—-human. Imagine how you’d feel if someone displayed all of your editing errors (we all make them).
It is fine to tell someone privately, politely and confidentially that they are having an error. But it’s best to leave it at that. It’s great if they do it. If they don’t, it’s okay. It is not your responsibility to manage it.
Passionate about grammar, punctuation, and writing. Be a diligent editor for your authors.
Do not be a grammar vigilante.