Linguistic rant of the day

I was going to tweet one simple question to the world, but then I decided it deserved more than 140 characters: when did pointing out misspellings become a bigger crime than the misspellings themselves? It’s a theoretical question, since I haven’t pointed out anything to anyone—not recently, that is.

If I find these so-called misspellings in random websites, I usually don’t care too much. I’m not talking about typos here—I’m the king of those. I’m talking about the consistent neglect for the rules of a language: its/it’s, whose/who’s, their/they’re/there, and so on.

The real problem arises when I find these misspellings in websites I really like, made by people I admire for their work. Should I tell them? And if I do, will I be able to conceal my disappointment?

What if these “minor linguistic mishaps” occur outside the web, on printed (or printable) matter? A few months ago, I read a book on web design—I won’t name names, but I will link links—that was very interesting and useful but had one small problem: there was at least one “typo” in every page, most commonly the confusion between plurals and singular possessives or the botching of polysyllabic words of Latin origin (vocalic randomness, anyone?).

Do it once or twice, it’s a typo. Do it once or twice on every page and it’s just ignorance—and bad editing.

I wrote to the author of the book in question, praising his work for what it could be praised, and trying to be gentle when pointing out its flaws. (Yes, I was gentle.) Despite having called for the reporting of errata, the author answered that the book was not supposed to be an academic work, but just a self-published collection of thoughts born out of years of blogging. He also said that he had two people copyedit the book, and they did a brilliant job. Well, they didn’t, did they?

(I won’t even delve into the whole issue of self-publishing: the guy claims—as I do—that websites should be made by professional designers, but decides not to have his own book published professionally. Does anyone else see the contradiction here?)

Since when does linguistic propriety apply only to academic writing? And since when casual writing corresponds to it being OK not to know how to spell and use grammar in your own language? Also, while I may (grudgingly) accept a website not being completely free of mistakes, why should I pay money for a printed work that isn’t?

No matter how carefully I select my web readings, I will always bump into linguistic problems, and I can live with that. But I don’t see why I should feel like the bad guy for pointing them out—especially when I do so with all good intentions, and certainly not because I like coming off as a presumptuous ass to perfect strangers.