Online Community Management – fixin’thoes spellins and tYpOs

I don’t have many strong views. I do have strong views on grammar and spelling. But those views are not uniform.

If I am writing something like this and there is a spelling mistake, typo or grammatical error, I am always grateful if someone points it out – even if they are wrong, which they sometimes are.

But this is where the lack of uniformity sets in – and it sets in hard. Facebook, Twitter and blog comments are not the place for grammatical dictatorships. When remarks are rattled off quickly when the meaning is urgent, the formulation is less important.

This is a considered piece – I’m thinking about the grammar and the spellcheck is doing what it should. In the past I have removed tweets and comments post publication when I spot an error, but only my errors – never – nevernevernever other people’s mistakes.

And now to the nub.

I manage online communities. People make comments, post ideas, add their thoughts and it is up to me to facilitate that, to help where necessary and advise when required. (Advice like “Your comment breaks our Terms and Conditions. On our site you cannot call someone “a stupid fucker”. You are making a point you clearly feel strongly about it. Please rephrase your comment within the Ts&Cs and your comment will be posted.)

But it is not up to the community manager to “edit” – fix the spelling, fix the grammar remove the naughty words. That is disrespectful and frankly plain bad manners.

You are standing in a supermarket and someone gets their grammar wrong. The “could have went”, rather than “could have gone” – like many Northern Ireland politicians, sadly. Do you shout at the top of your voice “You are wrong – what you should say is …”

It is unlikely that anyone would do it – even if we want to.

Another example – a Northern Ireland politician is being interviewed on TV. Do you not think the interviewer wants to stop them and correct their grammar? Should they? Seriously? Of course they shouldn’t. It would be bad manners and disrespectful.

But that’s what you are doing when you “fix” someone else’s comments. There is also a legal argument about the ownership of the comment of you have fixed it – but that is for another time.

You might disagree.

Normally I listen to people who disagree. Not on this. Have your own opinion if it differs from mine – but I don’t care, because you are wrong.

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