Why We All Should Root For Grammar Nazis

 

We all know those people.  You know, the ones who swoop down on each-and-every-one of your misspellings or grammar mistakes like a hungry raptor on an injured baby deer and subsequently proceed to remind you that you’re a failure of a human being for missing that comma, or confusing “it’s” and “its.”  Well, it turns out that maybe they are onto something, and that maybe we are a bit too quick to judge these guardians of linguistic propriety, especially in light of what happened with today’s Associated Press tweet.

First off, if you don’t have Twitter, get it.  It’s free, and you’re really missing out if you don’t have it.  Second:  as everyone already knows by now, a Malaysian Air  plane was shot down while flying over Ukraine, killing all aboard – around 300 people.  For how those two things are connected, read on.

While doing my duty as an American by checking my Twitter timeline in-between cups of coffee, I came across a “Breaking News” tweet from the Associated Press account:

 “@AP Breaking:  Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash lands in Eindhoven.”

At first glance, I thought what most English readers would have – that the plane carrying the bodies had crash-landed.  Luckily, I had just watched a live feed from Eindhoven and saw the same plane safely land, so clearly some poor intern at AP’s social media department really goofed up – #RIPIntern.

A few minutes later, after probably being bombarded with what I can only imagine were very understanding tweets from its followers, @AP tweeted out a clarification that correctly described the events at the airfield.  No harm, no foul, right?  Well, not quite.  With the advent of social media, news travels faster than it ever has.  It is potentially likely that family members of the crash victims read or heard about that tweet, and had to relive the horror that now would have been compounded by them possibly not being able to recover the bodies and bury the dead.  And what if a mistake like that had happened during a national emergency, especially given that there’s a growing trend of people using Twitter to get their news updates?

Because the news travels so fast, and especially because there’s such a need to be the “first” to break a story, oftentimes editing takes a back seat.  Now, most of the time the mistakes are inconsequential.  But other times, we end up with panic across newsrooms and households because someone forgot to add a comma or wrote a clumsy-worded tweet – editing and editors are especially important when working with a word-limiting medium like Twitter.  Hopefully today’s mistake provided @AP and other news organizations with another reminder about the need to strike a better balance between the quality and speed of their reporting.

And for the rest of us, this should be a reminder that no matter how annoyed we might be with so-called grammar Nazis in our lives, they are after-all the grease that keeps the communications wheels spinning in order to keep us out of trouble.

~ By TheRealThirtyMinuteAbs ~

 

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Categories: Social Choices

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