Monday, December 26, 2005

Everybody Makes Mistakes

I think it goes without saying that there are none among us who never make mistakes. For some, maybe most, it is hard to admit to making a mistake, but an absence of admission doesn’t change the fact: We all make mistakes.

Clearly, not all mistakes are of equal significance, or lead to the same consequence. Some mistakes are funny. Some are serious. Some would be funny, except for the serious nature of their consequences.

I read a lot of electronic communications (email, web sites and message boards), which means I see a lot of mistakes. I’m not talking about opinions I disagree with, or even factual mistakes. I’m referring to common spelling and word use mistakes.

While these mistakes are not limited to an electronic medium, they do seem more prominent there. I think the nature of the Internet lends itself to these kinds of common mistakes for two reasons: First, the speed at which the Internet functions seems to demand that writers operate likewise. The simple fact that an email can almost instantly reach me from halfway around the globe pushes me to respond as quickly as possible, sometimes too quickly to notice common spelling or word choice mistakes.

The second Internet influence on writers is the perception that the Information Super Highway is an informal convergence of humanity: Anyone can travel there – no license required. Although there are legal ramifications inherent in email, I think people typically view it as an unofficial and casual means of communication similar to neighbors standing in the backyard visiting over the fence as they water the plants. In conversation, you can’t generally distinguish between “their” and “there,” so no one is checking. Perhaps it isn’t so important anyway: If it appeared in an email message, few people couldn’t mentally correct “Joe and Susan were the last ones their because they had to check there luggage before going to the gate.” Rarely is there any significant confusion, but word choice can’t always be handled in a haphazard manner.

Recently I was checking out a website that described itself as an effort to service a particular subculture of the Christian community and I noticed an apparent word choice mistake that falls into the “funny if it wasn’t so serious” category.

On the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page an enquirer wanted to know how he/she could become a part of the subculture that is serviced by this particular website. The answer wasn’t bad until the apparent mistake in word choice:

The REAL question that should be asked is how do I become a Christian? Becoming a Christian is a step of faith...a step in surrendering to the Lord Jesus & excepting Him as the Lord of all.... (emphasis added).

As written, this statement means “leaving out” or “not including Him [Jesus] as the Lord of all.” In other words, it means exactly the opposite of what is apparently intended, rejecting instead of receiving. “Surrender to the Lord Jesus, but reject Him as Lord of all” doesn’t make sense to me.

I sent the web master a note pointing out the apparent mistake and the difference in meanings, but haven’t heard back and the wording hasn’t been changed yet. So, I can only hope this was an editorial mistake in choosing “excepting,” when the writer really meant “accepting.”

If you have something important to write, give it the effort that it deserves, which includes proofreading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.