You hear someone make a grammar/style mistake. Do you correct him or her?

Before we begin, a little housekeeping:

Please note the word hear in the question. Proofreading someone else’s written work does not count. I also don’t wish to count things like protesting a newscaster’s misuse of ironic. I’m interested in whether you are willing to correct a person’s error to his or her face. And, of course, I’m interested in why, but obviously you’ll have to post in the thread for that.

My own children only, and only in the form of repeating it back to them the correct way, i.e:

Kid: I goed to the playground today.

Me: Oh, you went to the playground today? Was it fun?

Although it grates on my nerves to hear things like “me and him are headed to the store” I generally believe that correcting another adult person’s grammar in a social or business setting is not for the benefit of the person misusing the word, but for the corrector.

You aren’t teaching the adult something he/she hasn’t already heard and either disregarded or slacked off, you are just trying to prove you are smarter than others in the room to anyone within earshot.

I voted as I did because I tutor on the side, and I take issuing such corrections, during a session, as implicitly part of the bargain. I don’t routinely correct my nieces and nephew, and I can’t be arsed with the cousins. And correcting adults is incredibly rude.

Not always, but there are times when the correction comes out of my mouth before I can stop it. That includes correcting everyone at times, my partner, parents, kids, my boss, her boss, etc. I really do try to restrain myself though.

I used to correct anybody, at just about any time. Then I realized it actually impeded communication, by derailing the conversation. The derailment was usually brief, but occasionally total. Since the point of a conversation is to communicate, and many things can interfere with that, it didn’t make sense to add yet one more piece of interference, especially one that was totally voluntary.

Completely unrelated, I’M SURE, is the fact I realized it was a totally jerky move when my sister yelled at me for about five minutes for doing this to her.

So, these days, I only correct people who I’m sure would appreciate it (my boyfriend, for example), and my students. All of these folks very rarely, and usually more of a gentle correction, “I think it’s pronounced ‘X’”.

After all, I’ve been known to be wrong in my corrections…

God no. The thought of somebody even correcting me is annoying, I wouldn’t even think of doing it to somebody else. I work in a school where most of the kids talk in slang, incorrect grammar, and so on. If I started correcting all of their grammar I would be there all day, life’s too short for that. If I can get the gist of what a person is saying, I’m fine.

I correct them as long as I know them well and they do not outrank me. There are very few native English speakers in my workplace, anyways, and accents are all confusing, so I’ll correct someone today, but I may be corrected tomorrow. I expect to be corrected, especially around people I work and socialize. If not with them, how will I improve? Better for them to tell me that mess up in a seminar in front of the department head, no?

I also correct (and get corrected) in Portuguese. Same reasons.

I find that the best way to go about this is the way I mentioned earlier, regarding my own kids. If possible, find a way to work the mispronounced word into your own conversation, and pronounce it correctly. That way you’ve let them know what the correct pronunciation is, without overtly correcting them.

That’s if you feel you really must correct the mispronunciation in the first place, of course. Unless it’s a constant thing that was completely on my nerves, I’d probably let it slide.

The most annoying and inexplicable offender I know of was this woman who technically outranked me in a community organziation and also lead or moderated a lot of meetings/panels, so I never said anything directly. She was also a director or somesuch in real life of a department in local health facility, which had to have required a great deal of education.

Not only did she use “axe” for “ask” but her moderating style caused her to constantly start her responses with, "Okay, then, let me axe you something . . . " Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

The only thing I could do was, in general meetings, try to use the word “ask” as much as I could, preferably right after she’d had a go at it.

Kids and cohorts I’ll correct, again usually by correctly reusing the word/phrase in some way.

Pronouncing the word spelled ask as /aks/ is not a stylistic or grammatical mistake, though. It’s just a difference in dialect. For those who protest, I point to the word iron, whose accepted pronunciation similarly flouts the typical rules of orthography.

The number of modifiers in that last sentence vexes me.

I chose I correct the mistakes of adults I know well. However, I also correct my bosses, etc. None of them seems to have a problem with it, if they did I’d stop. Two of my best friends in particular aren’t gifted grammatically but they seem to appreciate it when they’re corrected. I don’t think that’s typical for people their age.

I never correct anymore. Same with spelling errors. I’ve learned the hard way that people just get too pissed off by it.


No, even though I wish I could. Especially, “If I would have.” A little piece of me dies every single time I see or hear that.

[hijack]Yes, I agree it is a variation in dialect* but, given the setting, educational background of the speaker, and her otherwise correct use of grammar and syntax, it should be considered incorrect style-wise.

  • Being a lifelong speaker of SAE, Ebonics, AAVE and Jive, myself.[/hijack]

I don’t.

Nobody likes a Brainy Smurf.

I voted for ‘my children and nobody else’s’, but I also include the rare occasion when I’m treating somebody else’s kid like one of mine. I used to play grammar police once in a long while with the friends who hung around. And I do it once in a while with the grandkids.

I would only correct an adult if it was a good friend and I thought it was going to make him or her look bad sometime. And even then I would only do it in private, later. “Hey, just to mention. . .”

Though I am black, it has been pointed out to me by more than one person that I cannot speak Ebonics, Jive, or other African-American dialects while sounding even close to natural. I can’t imagine saying “axe” and meaning anything other a piece of wood with a blade attached that Gimli might use to kill an orc. Nonetheless, it seems to me that criticizing that pronunciation of “as” is akin to saying Britons pronounce “board” incorrectly because they tend not to emphasize the r as mid-westerners do.

You left out “only those whom I am paid to correct,” such as clients and employees. (I work as a writer/editor.)

He did specifically mention that proofreading someone else’s written work doesn’t count. :slight_smile: