How Dare You?

Guess what?  Writers are not perfect.  You see proof of this fact every day if you read enough blogs, books, newspapers or magazines.  The best writers in the world make mistakes, misspell words, use poor grammar at times and punctuate incorrectly.  Why?  Because writers are human and humans make mistakes.  Sometimes humans make mistakes several times before they learn the lesson. Sometimes they never learn.

All writers’ have their pet peeves too, things they notice immediately that may go unnoticed by another writer.  A few of my pet peeves are the use (or misuse) of then and than and obvious misspellings of common words.  Writers will often point out these fallacies in material they find on the web, in the newspaper or in novels.  When this happens, the writer’s own shortcomings are subject to being scrutinized and pointed out by yet another writer who has different pet peeves.  Often the second writer does so in a way that is an obvious attack.  “How dare you point out someone else’s mistake when you make mistakes of your own?”

I’ve recently read several posts of this nature across the Internet.  The writer had pointed out several mistakes in material that he/she found disturbing; his/her own “personal pet peeves”.  Along comes another writer to point out the original posters mistakes (obviously these mistakes were the commenter’s’ pet peeves), but instead of constructive criticism, the commenter was blatantly rude, following that “How dare you” mentality.

As writers, we feel the need to correct mistakes that bother us, the mistakes that slap us in the face.  But we also need to be careful how we point out the mistakes that bother us because another writer will come along and catch our mistakes and be more than happy to attack us.  This attack is rarely pleasant.  Why?  It’s the “How dare you?” mentality again.  How could you possibly point out someone else’s mistakes when you yourself are such an imperfect writer?  You shall be attacked, stripped of your honor and humiliated to the entire world.

But, if you follow the writer who is giving the blatant criticism you’ll soon find they have mistakes of their own.  Why?  Unfortunately, they’re also an imperfect human who’s wielding a keyboard.  Should you jump on the vicious cycle of pointing fingers back at the writer who’s openly criticized your mistakes?  That depends on how well you can criticize someone, and how well you think they’ll take the finger being pointed back at them.

I’ve found mistakes in novels of well-known, published authors.  The author missed it in re-writes, the editor missed it, the publisher even missed it, but little ole’ me found it as obvious as a wart on a nose.  Did I attack the author?  No, I realize writers are human and are apt to make mistakes, even famous, published authors who have over 20 novels to their name.

Any time you point out someone else’s mistakes, you risk getting the backlash from another well-intentioned writer who has no concept of well-meaning, constructive criticism.  The only way to avoid this is to never point out another’s mistakes.  But writers are such a testy bunch and often feel it’s our duty to do these things.

If you do point out mistakes you should state that these are personal pet peeves of yours, and while you are not perfect, you feel these mistakes are simple and should have been avoided.  This does not give you a guarantee that you won’t be attacked, but its good defense material to throw back at the inevitable attacker who will find you.

Another pet peeve of mine is those writers who do attack in this way.  They come off as snobbish with a “better than thou” attitude.  And what really peeves me is the writer who attacks in this manner generally doesn’t have one published novel under their belt, nor do they have a degree in English like you’d expect.

As writers we should support one another and realize we are all imperfect, we all have different grammar rules and standards that annoy us to no end.  We should point out these shortcomings of other writers in a manner that is not intrusive, but helpful.  When I’m criticized (which is often, because I’m human and I write) I prefer to reply to the other writer with a “Thank You”, instead of throwing up my defense mechanism that can only lead to more harsh words.

Writing is a learning process, it’s a never-ending education.  No matter how long we’ve been a writer, we will still make mistakes.  Instead of attacking someone for their mistakes, try being a teacher and learn how to give constructive criticism, learn how to be a little more light-hearted when pointing fingers.  Remember, when you point a finger at someone else, you have three pointing back at you.

As bloggers we are in the public eye.  The quickest way to lose your audience is to attack and alienate other bloggers and writers.  No one likes a jerk.

If you see obvious mistakes in my work, and you will, please point them out without attacking and I’ll reply with a gracious, “Thank you”, as I’m sure other writers will do in the same situation.

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7 Comments

  1. Kyle Eslick June 30, 2009
  2. Rarst June 30, 2009
  3. Deneil Merritt June 30, 2009
  4. Milli Thornton June 30, 2009
  5. Cassie June 30, 2009
  6. Guest July 1, 2009
  7. Patti Stafford July 2, 2009