Yesterday, I checked my mailbox as I waited for my girls’ bus. In it, I found a big, glossy postcard– a political solicitation. On the front were pictures of four homes, ranging from a tiny, modest home to a full-on mansion. They were labeled, “How you see your home,” “How the bank sees your home,” “How the tax man sees your home,” and “How your mother-in-law sees your home.”
It was a good campagin, to be honest. Any homeowner knows that tax assessments are notoriously high and bank assessments often come in low, meaning you get burned on both ends.
I flipped it over to read the politician’s bulleted list of campaign points. Right at the top, I saw,
“STOP over-taxing homeowner’s.”
And I gagged a little.
Here’s the thing…
I have a strong grasp of the language. I understand lots of nit-picky rules that go right over many people’s heads. I know when to use whom, that a possessive pronoun precedes a gerund, and that judgment does NOT, in fact, have an “e” after the “g” in this country. Still, I absolutely make spelling and grammar errors in my writing. I’m sure you could easily find some here on this blog, in my Facebook statuses, and in casual email correspondence.
Being a grammar geek doesn’t mean you’re infallible.
And, contrary to what some may think, being a grammar geek doesn’t mean you expect everyone else to have and use perfect grammar. Yes, it would be nice if people could figure out when to use “its” vs “it’s.” I would also love it if folks would spend a few minutes learning how to not do dumb things like write “viola!” when they mean “voilà!” or “adieu” when they mean “ado.” But, at the end of the day, I get over it. I don’t really spend much time worrying about the average person’s grammar faux pas.
Here’s what I DO expect, however…
If you’re a corporation or a politician or are publishing something you hope might be widespread?
INVEST IN A PROOFREADER.
Newsflash– auto-correct is a lousy editor. Spell-check is far from perfect. You simply cannot rely on your computer, tablet, or phone to catch your errors.
That postcard I got in the mail? It wasn’t very big. It would have taken even the pickiest copy editor maybe ten minutes to go over with a fine-toothed comb. How much do you really think that would cost, in the grand scheme of things? Heck, I’d have happily done it for twenty bucks.
But the campaign manager for that policitican must have decided it wasn’t worth the effort or cost. He or she had this glaring error mass-produced and widely distributed.
I used to work for a HUGE bank and we’d receive marketing materials to hang that had significant errors. I’d balk and my manager would roll her eyes at me, “No one will notice, JL. You’re just a freak with your grammar.”
But that’s not true. I’m not the only one who will notice. Even if only 10% of the population will catch the error on that postcard (and, to be honest, that’s a modest estimate with such an obvious mistake), that’s a ton of people– a ton of people who will be seriously turned off by the carelessness of it.
I don’t honestly care if my political leaders have good grammar– I care that they have good judgment.
And not knowing when to rely on someone who has talents you lack?
Is poor judgment.
At the end of the day, we grammar geeks of the world can overlook the average joe schmoe’s screw-ups. We might roll our eyes at some of the more egregious errors that creep across our social media feeds, but, deep-down, we don’t have much trouble getting over it.
But, if you’re willing to invest in a marketer? Invest in a proof-reader.
Because that’s where our patience ends.