Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today's Writing Tip Is Slightly Unrelated to Writing

I usually confine my writing tips to topics that concern writers, such as spelling, grammar, word usage, punctuation, plot lines for stories, maintaining clarity, etc., but this week I've been thinking a lot about what to do when people I know mispronounce words. Is it rude or is it useful to correct someone who does that? Does it depend on the context of the situation – if it occurs in a business meeting or over coffee with a friend? What if that person has English as a second language? Are you helping them by correcting their improper pronunciation or making them feel foolish?

My conclusion – don't do it. Or ask yourself if you would like someone to correct you. I know someone who always pronounces the word inundate as “in-young-date” and someone else who uses the word irregardless, which is not really a word. But I never correct them. It seems elitist to me. Ditto for someone with ESL. Unless people ask me to help them with their English, I don't want to run the risk of embarrassing them, especially around other people, by pointing out their errors. Are there exceptions?

 For sure, this rule does not apply in print. If someone asks you to read their unpublished manuscript, by all means it is an act of kindness to point out typos and misspellings before this goes to print. After the book goes to print, it's a different story unless the book has been self-published and there is the possibility of going in to correct the mistake. But when somebody tells me that he has just finished reading Ayn Rand and pronounces Ayn as Ann, I just smile and ask how he liked the book because I hate it when people sound snobby and superior. That's me. What do you think?

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books including Be Your Own Editor. Find her at  

Free Search Engine Optimization