Someone asked me at the circulation desk for help finding “How to Kill a Mockingbird.” I admit, I stared at her for a moment. It’s like when someone refers to Frankenstein’s monster as Frankenstein. These are classic literature pieces that people don’t know; they misuse characters and plot devices, mispronounce, assume, and other such things, and to a word-nerd and English Major like myself it feels almost like an insult. (Think of someone motioning to your Mustang and calling it a Chevy.)
Any one else feel that way? Just me? Okay, that’s cool.
Sometimes we forget that other people don’t know the things that we know. People who don’t read or write don’t know the things that we writers consider basic grammar or fundamental story telling. We forget and accidentally belittle those who don’t know. Sometimes we don’t realize it until afterward.
Don’t be condescending because someone doesn’t know something you think is simple.
I asked my sister, a dietitian, if there were calories in hard liquor. She laughed at me. Laughed out loud at me. To her, that question was like asking the color of the sky. The answer, to her, was obvious, and that I didn’t know the answer made her laugh. I have not asked her a food related question since, because it felt humiliating. It felt like she was calling me stupid.
Moral of the story – don’t be a jerk when someone doesn’t know how to properly use commas or dangles a participle or splits an infinitive. Kindly, with tact, advise them on the correct way. UNLESS they don’t ask. Don’t correct spoken word in casual conversation. You lose friends that way.
*Next moral – always proof your blog posts.