To judge, or not to judge, that is the (editing) question (part 1)

Recently, I’ve had more than a few friends tell me they get nervous when sending me a text message.

Why would this be? I’m fairly direct, somewhat blunt and occasionally prickly—okay, I’m frequently prickly. But surely I’m not that bad? Am I?

Editing Question-Just Right Words

After some not so subtle probing, it transpires they’re worried I’ll pick them up on spelling or grammar errors.

In their text messages.

Where auto-correct and predictive text are our (ungrammatical) rulers and typos are a dime a dozen.

I’d like to think they’re joking—I hope so—but their concern prompts me to ask this question:

When is it acceptable to have made errors in writing?

The pedant in me is screaming ‘NEVER’, but there are definitely times I have to tell that part of my personality to shush. There are times we can, and should, look past mistakes in writing.

    • Text messages or quick emails or scribbled notes – when intended for your family, friends or colleagues – shouldn’t need to be perfect.
    • First drafts (or, indeed, second or third drafts) of longer written pieces should focus more on nailing the content than on the secretarial aspects.
    • Short posts or comments on social media can also get away with occasional spelling, punctuation or basic grammar errors. (I’m always wary, though, because social media appears to be a bit of a hunting ground for grammar-righteous people who have too much time on their hands.)

Your ‘care factor’ concerning the ‘correctness’ of your written communication should really be dependent on four things:

    • your audience
    • the platform
    • the subject
    • your intention.

As an editor and a writer, I believe these four areas make all the difference when it comes to the potential consequences of a few errors.