Subject: Nitpicking
From: MSTSACX -at- GSUVM1 -dot- BITNET
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 1994 08:32:46 EST

To all of you who justify nitpicking and think it's an appropriate teaching

I couldn't disagree with you more.

o This type of carping criticism rarely has any effect other than humiliating
the person who's nitpicked. Perhaps that's why experts in manners agree
that correcting others' grammar is distateful behavior.

Those of you who say "if you can't stand the heat," just remember, you're
not the one receiving it--merely applying it.

o Good grammar is an assumed skill of our job, just like good math is an
assumed skill for an accountant. It's not our primary job skill.
People pay big bucks to accountants to understand tax laws and
identify irregularities in audits. And people pay bucks (well, maybe
not big bucks) to technical communicators to complicate complex
concepts. Good grammar is just part of the bargain. (If grammar is
all people are interested in, they should hire a copyeditor, not a

o So much of "grammar" is actually style. As Fern Rook, a noted authority
on grammar, writes in Carol Barnum and my book, most of what we call
grammar is actually style. Style is merely preference and these
preferences change over time.

There's a difference between a healthy intellectual discusion and
picking on people. Within the confines of a close-knit, supportive,
face-to-face community, such nitpicking might be acceptable because the
people involved have other cues as to whether the nitpicking is given
in jest or not. And usually we refrain from such behavior.

But in an electronic community like ours, we have no such understandings.
In Connections, Lee Sproull and Sara Kiesler tell the story of a man
who sends an expletive-laden e-mail message to everyone in his building
he finding some damage to his motorcycle. The point of this story is
that people will say things online that they would never do in person--
like nitpicking.

Saul Carliner Ph.D. Student
Instructional Technology Geo. State Univ.
Note new userid----> mstsacx -at- gsuvm1 -dot- gsu -dot- edu 404/892-3945

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