Monday, January 12, 2015

Plus Ca Change

To all the bloggers, journalists, and nonfiction writers out there, I share this excerpt:
Modern readers, as we know, take all facts as equal and rush to fill the correspondence columns with indignation whenever they catch any small mistake in print. For these slips, writers and editors apologize with a humility not seen since the early Church. The expensive apparatus for detecting error before publication grows nearly infallible about trivia, and nearly blind about what matters. A wrong initial in some obscure name is set right, while a colossal nonsequitur is overlooked. In the end this unsuspected lack of balance regulates (if that is the word) the public mind, which then wonders at the state of our education and the quality of our politics.
This appears on page 38 of Jacques Barzun's The House of Intellect, which was first published in 1959. Replace "correspondence columns" with "comments sections" and the sentiment still holds true today, over half a century later.

Please consider this before you turn some "obvious" error in print into a scathing indictment of the public education system. You may be breeding more trolls.

My opinion on handling "corrections" from commenters on a personal blog relies on the commenters' approach:
  • If they point something out with an apparent aim of helping your post become better, thank them and make the change (if one is necessary).
  • If they think they "gotcha" on some subtle minutia of usage or denotation, make the change (if one is necessary) but otherwise ignore them.
  • If the they are rude or abusive, don't change a thing, but say something disparaging about their mother, encourage them to copulate with themselves, and block them from further comment.
But that's just me.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: The more things change, the more they stay the same.