Here’s the scene: You’re on the internet somewhere. There’s a conversation going on down in the comments section that’s quickly getting ugly. Someone’s feelings are hurt, someone is trolling, someone is spending valuable Excel-spreadsheet making work time typing up an impassioned response. And there it is, the long, arduous tour through someone’s deepest emotions as they try to sum up, in 1,000 characters or less, their opinion. Responding to it would be difficult, or tedious, or simply not worth the effort–but leaving it blank would be a dick move. You need to say something, but what? And then, like the golden hand of God Himself reaching down from the clouds and handing you the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card of the internet, the commenter makes a grammatical error.
And there you have it, your all-encompassing, perfectly crafted response that both swiftly shuts down the commenter’s argument and puts him in his rightful place as the shamed, illiterate dunce of the internet. You are smart, you are witty, you wouldn’t touch a split infinitive with a ten-foot pole. And now, with just a simple correction and that dainty little asterisk, you’ve shown the whole world just how much better you really are. You can almost hear the dull roar of the hordes of Smart People around the world, patting each other on the back as they confirm their own blinding intelligence. They will write cutesy sayings like “You had me at the correct use of ‘whose’ and ‘who’s.'” They will make easy-to-read charts, explaining to the peons exactly how to use a semicolon.
Most of all, they will be right.
But here’s the deal: we all like being right. Everyone, even those people who are either typing too quickly or weren’t paying enough attention in Language Arts to get that sentence structure perfect, enjoys being correct. And I will freely admit, I try my best to use proper spelling and grammar on the internet, even in the fetid swamp waters of comment forums. I like to, in general, feel as though I’m writing in a generally articulate way. However, it should be stated that doing so does not, by any means, make me smart. Sure, having a firm grasp on the basic rules is enough to get us a check-plus on our quizzes and perhaps a smiley face sticker, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that it makes us anything more than that–Good Little Spellers, worthy of a pat on the head.
Sometimes I wish that we were all required to do high school-and-college level mathematics in comment forums in order to leave comments. I firmly believe that all of the sanctimonious English majors taking out their frustration over lack of employable skill on the errant mis-speller would be quickly revealed as the equally un-academically adept morons they are (in their own special way). I know I would, and I know I am not the only one who peppers her sentences with words like quixotic, yet can only respond to even a basic math problem with a light string of drool hanging from her lower lip. The truth is, there are many people who are incredibly intelligent, but whose writing skills are just terrible. They excel in math, in science, in technical skills, in anything and everything other than knowing when to capitalize after a colon. And I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t make you a better person for correcting them.
The point is, we could all do better not to be such massive tools on the internet and run around telling each other when we spelled something wrong. The novelty of pointing out the mouth breathers who actually don’t know the difference between your and you’re has worn quite thin, and no amount of pretentious correction is going to make them believe it’s an important skill to acquire. The rest of the mistake-makers, whether from errant typos or genuine disinterest in written English, are no less smart than you are. They are perhaps, if anything, just a bit more economical with their time–in that they’re not wasting it, serving as the traffic cops of the internet, doling out bullshit tickets.
Save us all the trouble. We know you’re smart. Do the decent thing and secretly judge the grammatically inept in silence.