I admit it, poor SPaG irritates me. I have been accused in the past of being a Grammar Nazi. I find it detracts from whatever message the writer is trying to convey, and breaks me out of my attempt to concentrate on their meaning. There are some pretty highly thought-of blogs which I just cannot read because of their consistent inability to spell.
Most people will say "well, as long as you get your meaning across, what does it matter?". It matters because language is a code, and if you get the code wrong, your meaning becomes less clear. It matters because poor SPaG makes it more likely you will be misunderstood. It matters because if you want to disseminate a message, surely you want as many people as possible to understand it?
And yet... Everybody makes mistakes. Even me. So I can forgive the odd typo; a substitution that has clearly been made by an autocorrect or spell-checker; a slip of the fingers when typing or pen when writing (my own personal mental block is that I always tend to spell the word teeth as "tetth"). There is one spelling error that gets my goat more than others, though. One that I find pretty difficult to forgive. And that's getting people's names wrong.
I can understand typing in the wrong username on twitter (there's some poor Aussie lawyer called @jennierigg who often gets replies aimed at me) because unless you're replying directly to the person their name is not visible when you are typing. What I don't get is when you are replying to a blog post, when the author's name is clearly visible, and getting it wrong. There's a post by Caron Lindsay on Lib Dem Voice today where someone refers to her in the comments as Carol. When I used to write for Illiberal Conspiracy, I was regularly referred to as Jenny. This sort of thing really
fucks me off.
If you are talking to a person, and you can't even be arsed to check you've spelled their name right, what do you think that says about the amount of attention you think they are worth? The amount of attention you have paid to what they are saying?
Now I'll admit, I have as much form on this as the next person. Poor James Shaddock still suffers from me misreading his twitter name as James S Haddock, and el_staplador
happily took me misreading her name as El Stepladder as amusing. But I do try, if I make a mistake, to 1, apologise, 2, correct it and 3, not do it again.
Doing it again is the action that really takes the cake. I got a Christmas email the other day from a prominent Lib Dem. Someone I have known both online and in the flesh for well over five years now. It was addressed to "dear Jenny". This robbed the email of any festive goodwill it might have engendered - and as regular readers will know, I'm not massively full of festive goodwill at the best of times.
Where this matters to politicians is as follows:
- if you get someone's name wrong, you're going to annoy them and make them less likely to be persuaded of your point.
- If you habitually get someone's name wrong, you're going to make them dismiss you out of hand and not pay a blind bit of notice to what you say.
So if you are in contact with someone, and you are likely to want to persuade them of something, please take the nanosecond required to check you've got their name right. Copy and paste if you have to. It'll make the world so much nicer all round. I'm not saying I'm perfect at this by any means, but I promise I shall try if you all will too.