Grammar Ethics: To Correct Or Not To Correct?

There are lots of theories on correction in the classroom…but what about correction outside the classroom? Should you, for example, correct your boss’ grammar mistake? Does the context or the mistake make a difference?

MSN recently featured an investigation into grammar ethics, and reported that SPOGG, the Society For the Protection of Good Grammar, officially says there are actually very few occasions when it is correct to correct someone’s grammar. One of them is when you are specifically asked to do.

Even this, though, can get hairy. Despite the typos which play a recurring role in my TEFL Logue posts, I have actually done a fair amount of proofreading, and have had, for example, a potential date who knew this ask me to proofread his work. It’s hard to win in that situation. Sometimes people informally ask for something to be “checked”; they may think they want it corrected (and even expect that of you as an English teacher)… but really, they don’t.

While I would never fill up a page of a student’s writing with red marks, sometimes that is exactly what I do with track changes for separate proofreading work. And it’s because the end result needs to be just right. It still makes me cringe and feel like an anal retentive ogre.

What about the converse: is it unethical to notice someone’s grammar mistake and not correct it if it may later cause them embarrassment? Some say it is.

After reading the article, what do you think?