How to Proofread, Politely

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dear Miss Manners:

Last night, when I was shopping in a nationally known, chain-type drugstore in my neighborhood, I noticed three different signs that contained misspellings.

These were the kind of signs that are input by someone into a computer, and are generated into a professional-looking typed sign. They were very large and noticeable.

When I saw the first misspelled sign, I mentioned it to a young lady who was working in one of the nearby aisles, and she and I laughed about it. Later, when two more came to my attention, I started feeling as though it wasn't that funny.

I work as a proofreader and editor, and it disappoints me to see so many mistakes regarding the English language. Would it be rude to call the store and mention the mistakes to the manager, in a polite way, of course? Part of me believes that I would be remiss if I did not bring the matter to someone's attention.

The desire to lead the entire world to correctness is an urge with which Miss Manners has the greatest sympathy. Even if it leads to proofreading your drugstore.

But neither of us can run around insulting people, which is what an amazing number of people do when they detect errors, little thinking that they are committing worse errors in so doing.

This applies to correcting individuals, however, not institutions. So you may inform those in authority to act (which the salesperson you approached probably was not) on mistakes of which you sympathetically know they would want to be aware.

Dear Miss Manners:

I recently purchased a condo for the first time. All of my friends are either renting or still living with their parents. Many of them have been supportive of and excited for me. They all cannot wait until I have a housewarming party.

The problem is that I'm going to be financially tight after my settlement and closing. I would be happy to spend a little extra money for food and drinks for a small party if I knew that I'd be getting something in return.

However, I'm not sure my friends necessarily realize that it is customary to bring the homeowner gifts at such a party. Also, I fear that the gifts they do bring will be relatively unnecessary and useless; after all, how are people in their early 20s supposed to know what a homeowner needs and what is proper? What should I do?

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company