“To err is human.” I’m not sure where that saying came from; it’s just one of those that’s been around forever. People make mistakes and when they do, those mistakes need to be corrected. Unfortunately, there seems to be a sentiment out there that pointing out a mistake to bloggers is somehow taboo.
Whether it’s a simple typo in a word or a factual error, why aren’t we, as consumers of the blogs, pointing mistakes out more frequently? If I see an error on someone’s post, I will try to send them a quick, private note to tell them about it. I admit, if it’s simply a misspelled word and I catch it while reading it on my phone, I might not reach out to them if I don’t already have their email address. That’s because navigating blogs on my phone is more cumbersome and I may not have the time to track down contact info on their page. If it’s a factual error, however, I will take the time to get their info and if I see a typo while on the computer then I also will make contact. Having thought about this more now, I can see where even posting a quick comment on the page will help them see their error. I’d have no problem with them fixing the error and then deleting my comment.
I started wondering about this issue yesterday when there were two errors in my blog post about Planet Google that I wrote for Digital Pivot. The post was just a fun romp through all things Google so it’s not like I was writing a treatise on Middle Eastern peace talks. But, as is often the case, I was writing the post early in the morning, pre-coffee, and in a bit of a hurry before work.
In my quest to finish the post, I was quickly changing my lead to make it more concise and, in doing so, changed the way I was referencing the planet Earth. Instead of something about it being the third of nine planets, I ended up simply referring to it as “the third planet.” At least that’s what I thought. In reality, I ended up typing “the ninth planet.” I also misspelled “course” by typing “of coure,” a typo I fixed later in the day while reading a comment someone had posted and the missing s caught my eye. But the ninth planet reference remained until quite late in the day, when my wife sent me a note via Google chat asking, “Since when is Earth the ninth planet?”
I was horrified and immediately went to the post and corrected my error. I then checked and found out the post had more than 80 views — which means several dozen people had read the post and not told me that the Earth isn’t the ninth planet.
I posted a question on Twitter afterward, asking, “If you catch an error on someone’s blog post, do you try to reach them to point it out? If not, why not?”
Here are some responses:
“If I catch it, and it’s a heinous one I do. If it’s a minor typo, it would depend. I don’t want them to look silly, so I contact.” ~ @jlknott
“Depends on the kind of error (glaring factual error vs. minor grammatical error) and/or how well I know the blogger.” ~ @LindsayMAllen
“I would, they’re putting themselves out there and a mistake makes them look bad. Let them know so they know.” ~ @akg1124
Should it matter how well we know a blogger? Should it matter if it’s a major factual error or just a simple typo? I would hope bloggers would be receptive to people pointing out corrections for them so, as @jlknott said, they won’t “look silly.” But it’s also a matter of pride. I would hope bloggers want to have credibility. I know I do. I know that, as @akg1124 said, I don’t want to “look bad.” And I know that if you see an error in one of my blogs — no matter how small — I want you to tell me.
After all, to err is human, shouldn’t correcting be, too?