It’s fun for many of us to poke fun at or ridicule some of the errors we encounter, and online media seem to offer an abundance of opportunities to spot these mistakes and look down our noses at the authors. From misspelled words in online comments to errors in tweets, there’s no end of hilarity, right?
However, as we discuss in this class, for teachers it’s probably more healthy (and certainly more sane) to adopt a more compassionate or understanding attitude towards error. None of us, I suggest, entered the teaching profession because we take delight in marking up every error in our students’ writing (and there can be a lot of mistakes in developing writers’ work). And few students relish a returned paper that’s covered in angry red hash marks and corrections. Still, it can be hard for English teachers to silence that inner critic and feel like students are either lazy or deliberately disrespectful when errors come into their work.
A recent piece from the Washington Post provides some solid evidence that might help in this regard, looking at various studies that suggest that in hurried situations (especially when typing or adding a quick comment to something), typos and mistakes can be very easy to make and a totally unconscious thing. The author espouses a more gentle approach to these mistakes we find:
But people don’t need to be corrected any more than they need to be ridiculed. I know the rules for how these words should be used and spelled, and I’m sure most who make these mistakes know them, too. What I really wanted to know is why we make these slip-ups anyway.
The rest of the piece summarizes the evidence he’s found in research studies; if you find yourself struggling to accept the idea that errors are to be tolerated or forgiven rather than assiduously marked and corrected, you should find something here to help you embrace the former approach.