Ever since I started writing this blog more than three years ago, I have always sought to recognise three important things. Firstly, I am a native first-language English-speaker. Secondly, I am an expatriate, living in a foreign country – in my case, the Czech Republic. Thirdly, I am a Christian minister – an Anglican priest in the Church of England.
Therefore, as far as I am concerned, numerous consequences flow from these three things.
- As a native first-language English-speaker, it behoves me to use correct English spelling and grammar; particularly so when I have written and posted many times about the numerous examples of Czenglish which I regularly encounter.
- As a foreigner resident in the Czech Republic, it is essential that when I write about Czech history and geography, I get my facts and locations correct.
- As a Christian minister, I have a duty and responsibility to always seek to be accurate and truthful in what I write and publish online.
In order to ensure I am true to each of these responsibilities, there are a number of precautions I take before posting anything either on this blog or anywhere else online. I always use a spell checker to pick up any spelling mistakes. And I also normally get someone else, usually Sybille, to read through what I’ve just written, to ensure what I want to say, is actually what I’ve written – not what I think I’ve written.
Of course, spell checkers do not think. If you misspell your intended word as another perfectly legitimate word in the English language, no spell checker will pick this up. An online friend of Sybille recently intended to write about ‘Public and private information’. What she actually wrote was ‘Pubic and private information’. You can imagine the hilarity that followed once this was spotted!
Likewise, I am quite thorough in checking my facts before publishing anything. For this, I use both books in my possession and online resources, always recognising that, because it’s on the internet, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s correct!
Despite all of this, I do still make mistakes, spelling, grammatical and factual. So I am always grateful when someone picks this up and points out the error of my ways. Thank you Tim, for the correction of my spelling. Thank you Sean, for pointing out that I had Jan Hus born in the incorrect part of Bohemia. And thank you Katka, for spotting my more recent mistake, in writing ‘Prague’ when I clearly meant to write ‘Brno’.
You will only know about these errors if you follow each of these links and scroll down to the comments. This is because, as soon as an error is pointed out to me, I correct the main text. But if the correction is made via a comment, then the comment still gets published, followed by a thankful and apologetic comment in response from me, acknowledging my mistake.
The reasoning behind this blogging and online philosophy of mine is quite simple. I write because I want others to read what I write, take it on-board and think about what I say. I want what I say to be taken seriously. Incidentally, it is ‘seriously’ and not ‘serious’, an ever-increasing error in spoken and written English!
This is because when I read something online which contains bad grammar, careless spelling and/or glaring factual errors, I have great difficulty in giving much credence to what that author is trying to say, even though they may be very well-intentioned. So consequently, I often do leave comments on other expat blogs, online newsletters and on Facebook, when I spot something wrong, be it a funny but unintentional typo, or a factual inaccuracy. I do this because, as I explained previously, I appreciate it when people do this for me because, so far as it is possible, I don’t want to ever be inaccurate or untruthful in what I publish online.
Most of the time, the response I get is similar to mine. The writer is grateful for the error being pointed out, their text is corrected, and a friendly acknowledgement is given. But in recent months, I’ve had a small number of rather negative responses. These have ranged from complaints that I’m ‘always finding fault’, through to the dismissive, ‘it’s vaguely right so why does it matter?’
Of course, everybody is entitled to their opinion and I am very aware that, having worked in publishing for several years before my ordination, I do possess what is usually known as ‘proof-reader’s eye’. But when these comments come from first-language English-speaking expats who cannot be bothered to use English correctly or get their facts right about the country they are now living in, I have great difficulty in giving any credence to anything else that they write about.
Am I being too harsh? Am I being pernickety (British English) or ‘persnickety’ (American English)? And I would be interested to hear about other people’s blogging/online philosophy. As always, comments and discussion are welcome.