my coworker keeps emailing higher-ups about typos

A reader in last week’s open thread writes:

How would you suggest dealing with the guy who literally emails every single higher-up he can every time he catches anyone making a typo? My boss now has to go into meetings with the big boss to account for us making typos.

Ironically, this dude is literally the worst at making typos in the entire office–about one out of every four things he sends us has incorrect information. He claims to “spot check” and blames it on the people who send them to him, but he has to retype his information and that’s all on him. He has a PhD and is higher up than us lowly clericals. Basically, we can’t yell at him to check himself (or even ask him to) or pull the same crap.

Also, he is not my boss’s direct report–he has another supervisor entirely who isn’t involved in this, to my knowledge. She has no control over what he does. He is cc’ing my boss (which is appropriate) and then her two bosses above her, who come down heavily on my boss because we have to be absolutely perfect. She’s defending us and keeping us out of the direct line of fire.

My boss is annoyed, but it seems like something we just can’t do anything about. She suggested that we have her email the higher ups every time he typos, but so far she’ll only do it if he makes a huge mistake rather than the usual “wrote down the wrong number” crap, because we look petty if we complain. But he doesn’t. In the end, I suspect there is nothing we can do about it other than to be perfect, of course.


Well, first, I hope your boss wasn’t serious in suggesting that the way to respond to this is for her to email higher-ups about this guy’s typos. No one should be emailing higher-ups about random typos. (If there’s a serious pattern with public typos, perhaps then — but individual alerts about each of them, and on minor things? No.) If your boss started doing it too, it would make her look bad — and it would prevent her from being able to ask him to knock it off, which is the real solution.

She should talk to the typo-reporter and tell him that while she appreciates him bringing typos to her attention, it’s not necessary to cc several layers of management above her, as she will take care of the problem. She should add that if he’s concerned that there’s a pattern that needs attention, she’d appreciate him saying that to her directly — and if she doesn’t resolve it, he can certainly escalate his concern however might be appropriate in your office, but unless/until it’s at that point, she doesn’t think he should be wasting the time of people who aren’t charged with handling it.

She might also mention, “For what it’s worth, we find typos in about a quarter of what you send to us. We simply fix them.” (However, she should leave out that out if his job doesn’t require him to produce error-free writing and your jobs do.)

Then, she should talk to his manager about the situation and relay what she asked him to do, stressing that it’s causing tension between him and your team.

She also should take a hard look at whether there really is a problem with typos — are these truly just occasional typos that are within the expected rate of error, or is there a problematic pattern? If the latter, she should figure out what needs to change to address that.

And last, she should talk to her own manager, who’s receiving all these reports. She needs to let her manager know that either (a) yes, there is a typo problem and she’s doing ___ to resolve it, or (b) for some reason, this guy is making a big stink about minor, par-for-the-course typos that aren’t showing up in things are going to the public or otherwise need to be error-free.

But make sure that in your annoyance over this guy’s behavior, your team doesn’t lose sight of the possibility that there truly is a real problem that needs to be addressed more broadly than just fixing individual occurrences as they’re pointed out.

{ 261 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*


    Are there actually typos (harmless little mistakes) or like “the company just invested 3 billion dollars in pork bellies instead of 3 thousand” kind of mistake?

    Because I can’t imagine why this is an issue for anyone otherwise. If the mistakes are making the company look bad or causing impacts to its bottom line, that’s one thing. But otherwise I have no idea what this guy’s deal is.

    I have to kind of think that this is all none of your concern. It’s really an issue for your boss to deal with. I’m not sure why she’s not – maybe she’s new or maybe the office politics are such that she feels she can’t address it, but it’s her issue to fix, not yours.

    As far as you and your coworkers – you probably do need to get a better handle on typos if they’re causing this level of consternation. Can you peer-check each other’s work as a starting point? Because at some level you ARE giving fodder to this guy to do this stuff.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      There are typos and then there are typos. One type require corrective and adjusting feedback. The other type, well…. I can say I understand where the OP is coming from. There is always that one person in the office who is so pedantic that it galvanizes people against him/her.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Oh I have no doubt. But since this guy is clearly a jackass, might be worth reducing the amount of fodder for him to be a jackass about.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          If someone what’s to be a jackass then they will find away. I don’t think there’s any need to pander to is stupid behaviour.

      2. Anonsie*

        That was my wonder as well, since it says typos but then the example is “wrote down the wrong number” which actually seems like a bigger mistake to me than what I would call a typo. If you’re relaying incorrect information, that’s an actual problem.

        1. alma*

          From the way it’s written, it’s ambiguous to me if the “wrong number” issue is OP’s or the Typo Guy’s, though:

          [My boss] suggested that we have her email the higher ups every time he typos, but so far she’ll only do it if he makes a huge mistake rather than the usual “wrote down the wrong number” crap

          Not to get overly hung up on parsing the OP’s words, but my first read on that sentence was that it was Typo Guy who had a tendency to write down the wrong numbers. I could see reading it as an office-wide issue, though.

          1. Anonsie*

            I read it the same way, but the way it’s characterized as a minor issue made me wonder if the typos from their own team are actually bigger than they are being characterized.

            1. University admin*

              OP says that 1/4 things this guy sends has incorrect information, which sounds consistent with “wrote down the wrong number.” She was probably referring to his mistakes, but I agree that on first read it sounds like it was possibly something they have been doing.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      “I can’t imagine why this is an issue for anyone”

      Some people just self-appoint themselves as the office typo police. I had a summer job in a government job centre when I was a student, in the department responsible for taking calls about job openings from employers, entering the information into our system, and printing out a card that we’d put on the appropriate job board. On my first day I noticed that lots of the entries in the system had notes saying “Corrected for spelling and grammer by Wakeen”. I asked, and heard that Wakeen was a peer in another department and the self-appointed office typo police. If anyone else ever found a typo that didn’t affect something like the wage or anything else important they’d just correct it without making a big fuss, but Wakeen was not the kind of person to miss an opportunity to make a big fuss.

      The funny thing was, he’d been doing this for years and no-one in my entire department had noticed that he’d been spelling “grammar” incorrectly (so I guess he may have had a point about the typos, lol!). But every single one of his literally thousands of notes said “grammer”.

      A couple of weeks in, after many more notes and after he’d also behaved extremely patronisingly to me in person a few times, I added a note at the end of a job entry I’d just added saying “By the way it’s “grammar”, not “grammer””. He didn’t leave a single other note on any of my entries the entire rest of the time I was there.

      1. Relosa*

        Sometimes I feel like the typo/proofing police.

        My boss will forward drafts/non-print ready stuff to everyone on payroll t hat has company email, even if it has nothing to do with me. His instructions to everyone are to proof it and suggest corrections, making it collaborative.

        I am always the only one who responds. Eveyrone else just says “yep, looks great!” or might point out one or two minor things, most of which are often inaccurate (saying a word is misspelled when it isn’t, etc)

        It’s bad. I feel like a meanie for doing it. But it’s important stuff! It’s part of our branding and ends up front-facing. And my boss did ask. And continues to ask for my input. He also likes it when I do catch something that had made it past the drafting phase. Again, I’m the only one who catches it! I even wait for others to see it. But they don’t.


        1. ArtsNerd*

          THAT is way different! In my company a lot of drafts get sent around, and few people take the time to do anything but a cursory glance to make sure nothing’s wildly wrong. I would LOVE for a diligent proofreader for my stuff!

          1. Relosa*

            I agree that it’s different circumstances, however it does annoy my co-workers and manager between myself and Owner-Boss.

            …don’t hate me ’cause I’m smart and observant, people!

        2. Diet Coke Addict*

          My boss does this too. Forward drafts of stuff before it’s released, and then gets upset when I actually proof it. “I would write ‘an exciting new teapot system which includes a solar module’ instead of ‘Exiting teapot system w/solar Module'” and the response is “Well, I thought it was good, the way I had it.”

          Well, it is entirely up to you to have second-rate stuff going out the door, O Boss, but don’t ask for proofing and then get upset when we give suggestions.

          1. Relosa*

            This! I seem pedantic but often the copy going out doesn’t emphasize our own practice standard.

            For example, one document actually says “Reservations cannot be made with complimentary ticket,” which is confusing for a bystander because they’re holding a complimentary ticket! So the practice is to always tell someone what they can do and not what they can’t. I suggested a change of “Complimentary ticket valid only for walk-up admission” which is still a little strict but makes it clear and still gives them the option.

            Everyone else just thinks of our own bottom line and forgets that the impression and language we use does actually affect the bottom line for everyone.

        3. Kelly O*

          This is said in great fun, and I am NOT at all serious.

          However, I think it’s really funny that you misspelled “Eveyrone” in the same sentence in which you talk about minor things that are inaccurate.

          If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the corner, giggling to myself and praying there are no typos in this post.

          1. Jamie*

            This is why I suck at this game – had to read it 4 times before I found it!

            Muphry’s Law will get all of us eventually.

              1. Jamie*

                Actually it’s Muphry’s – I learned that from Rana.

                I don’t want to go into moderation for posting a link, but from wikipedia:

                Muphry’s law is an adage that states that when a person criticises another’s editing or proofreading, there will be a mistake of a similar kind in that criticism. The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s law.

          2. Relosa*

            haha if it helps I’m freezing cold and I missed it too! That whole thing about how a word only has to have the first and last letters to be correctly placed might be true…

            1. Kelly O*

              Thank you for taking this in the fun with which it was intended!!

              If it helps at all, I accidentally marked that I am under 16 on a form yesterday. Oopsie. I have shoes that are older than that…

              1. Ruffingit*

                Don’t feel bad even Alison made a typo in the response. ;) this guy is making a big stink about minor, par-for-the-course typos that aren’t showing up in things are going to the public or otherwise need to be error-free. should say in things THAT are going to the public…

                I do this a lot recently with the new job and my brain being pulled in 100 directions. My typing can’t keep up with my thoughts.

        4. Cassie*

          I had a situation like that – a coworker sent out a draft flyer and asked us to “proof” it. I made corrections using track changes in Microsoft Word and sent it back to her; she went to HR and complained I was picking on her!

          Was I supposed to not say anything at all? Most of the typos were minor (extra space, extra comma) and not crucial, but if you’re going to ask someone to proof something, don’t be surprised if they do…

          1. Ruffingit*

            I think people like her are actually looking for you to praise their beautiful masterpiece rather than actual proofing. Don’t ask for proofing if you just want your ego stroked.

            1. Purple Jello*

              When someone asks me to proof, I always clarify if they want me to check for (1) typos and grammars, (2) clarity and/or flow, (3) content, including checking the math.

              It not only affects how I respond, but also how I do the proofing.

        5. Clever Name*

          I think you’re doing the right thing. I know that at least one of my coworkers really appreciates my nitpicky comments when I proofread stuff for him. He’ll ask me for any suggestions for making things more readable in addition to catching outright errors. I think as long as you are good-natured about your suggestions rather than being pedantic, you’re doing your job and not annoying people.

      2. Jamie*

        Sounds like Wakeen was a redditor and didn’t drop the habit of explaining edits at work.

      3. MaryMary*

        Cath, when I started reading your comment I thought to myself, is “grammer” one of those British spellings Canadians use, like “colour” and “grey”?

        Then I read the rest of your post.

      4. PJ*

        “I added a note at the end of a job entry I’d just added saying “By the way it’s “grammar”, not “grammer””.

        Oh, PLEASE tell me you copied the entire world!

    3. StevenO*

      I’m confused because when referring to this guy’s typos, the OP writes that the supervisor won’t forward them to the big boss unless they’re “the usual ‘wrote down the wrong number’ crap.” If THAT’s the kind of thing the OP considers to be a typo — and a typical one at that — then I can suddenly understand why a PhD is forwarding to the top brass every mistake the clerical staff is making. (And why this PhD’s own sentence structure etc. is totally irrelevant to the clerical input.)

      1. University admin*

        It’s not irrelevant to the clerical input. He’s sending the information to them and their team – obviously their input matters. In any case, I’m not quite sure that having a PhD means that this person’s sentence structure can’t be judged by a clerical staff member anyway. It’s not that difficult of a thing to do – having a PhD is about being able to conduct original research, not master sentence structure. Most people with an undergraduate or master’s degree can proofread just fine. Many people with a PhD don’t know how to use a semicolon.

        It’s important in business (and everywhere really) that your writing is concise, clear, and is written with your audience in mind. It’s not really appropriate to say “my sentence structure is irrelevant to clerical input” when it is being sent to the clerical staff.

        In any case, sounds like this guy is actually the one making the bigger error by “writing down the wrong number,” which around here we call “submitting incorrect data.”

      2. University admin*

        Also, it’s still not a good use of top brass time to report typos individually. If this guy has a problem with a pattern of typos, if he wants to bring it to the top then the least he can do is present it as a pattern and not bother them with what sounds like a barrage of one-off emails about individual errors. That’s just ridiculous. His degree doesn’t exempt him from basic norms of office conduct.

        1. Karen*

          I agree. Even if typos are a chronic, serious issue for the OP’s team and the guy has a point about them, there are many better ways to go about addressing the issue, starting with pointing the typos out to the individual typo-makers (Like “Hey, Jane, I noticed there were some errors in your message…”) then escalating to the typo-makers’ boss (“I notice a lot of typos come out of your team, and I am concerned blah blah…”). The upper echelon of management doesn’t need to be sent these emails. It’s ridiculous.

  2. Annika*

    Is he a lawyer? That kind of petty smug tone deaf bs sounds like a bunch of lawyers to me!

    – 1st year associate

    1. Frances*

      I’m assuming since he’s a PhD, he was in academia for a long time, which may be where this is coming from. When I worked in academia, there were always postdocs/faculty who seemed to just wait for the chance to point out errors in something. Which would be fine if there actually was an error, but the two people who felt the need to make the cc-my-boss kind of stink, were pointing out the following errors:

      -claiming I had listed the wrong date for a program when they were looking at a calendar for the previous year

      -complaining that I listed their title incorrectly when I pulled it from their own department website, where it was also incorrect (and they hadn’t responded to my previous emails asking them to confirm their title)

      I don’t think it’s only academics that do this, but I think that environment tends to encourage nitpickers to thrive, rather than learn how to handle corrections tactfully.

      1. Dan*

        In my field, industry PhDs are common. When you present something, it’s a given that you will never get compliments and only criticism.

        Me? I have a math degree from the business school. What I care about are results that matter or solutions that work. Did we actually solve the problem at hand? Did we do it in a timely manner. Did we do it at or below budget? Yes/no.

        Yes, we can have perfection, but how much time and money do we want to spend to get it? In the real world, frequently what the client wants (or what is necessary) is a good enough answer quickly and cheaply.

        What’s nice in my line of work is that the PhD doesn’t necessarily set you apart from those that don’t. We frequently have non-PhDs supervising PhDs. So basically, we’re allowed to tell them to suck it.

      2. Karen*

        I am not in academia, but I know a lot of PhD students/post-docs and while many of them are lovely people and very smart, a huge amount of them also lack practical work experience. A lot of them went from high school, to college, to a master’s program, to a PhD program, doing maybe some teaching along the way, so SOME of this might be – I suspect – not realizing that it’s not a cool practice in normal working environments to point out other people’s meaningless small errors to ALL THE BOSSES ALL THE TIME.

  3. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    I worked with someone like this before. It wasn’t over typos per say, it was basically about everything. “the receptionist put the letter in my mailbox instead if delivering it to me personally”, “the new intern called me Mike and my name is Matt”, “the café manager starting buying Starbucks brand coffee and I don’t like it”. LOL it was always something petty and what happened is everyone started ignoring his feedback. If he did ever have anything important to provide feedback on, it wasn’t heard because he was known as a random complainer.

    1. Jamie*

      Wow – I hope that guys HR manager has a box under his desk like Toby did for Dwight.

      1. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

        My apologies, I was typing this rather quickly and not policing myself for typos :)

  4. Lily in NYC*

    What a douche. However, if he’s frustrated because it’s an ongoing problem that isn’t improving, then I kind of get it. I’m actually surprised that there seem to be quite a lot of typos (if I read this correctly) – our admins and clerical folks have to send out impeccable emails with proper grammar and no little mistakes. A typo on a powerpoint would be even worse.

    1. Purple Jello*

      Spell check. Use it all the time. Turn on grammar check. Add your company’s names and special terms to your dictionary.

      1. Editor*

        Today spellcheck at my office turned a corporate name into a piece of fruit. Spell check won’t tell you when to use reign or rain or rein (although my pet hobbyhorse is that spellcheck could be programmed to list the alternatives with one to three word definitions so people could in fact choose the right word). Spell check doesn’t know some kid’s name has a random apostrophe in the middle of it. Spell check sometimes turns the beginning of “it,” “is,” or “if” into I before the second letter appears and makes me backtrack when I’m typing.

        Spellcheck can be a godsend, but it also introduces or camouflages errors, and it takes some skill to use it effectively.

        1. Purple Jello*

          Yeah but with the grammar check on , it can help you find some of those. I can’t believe the reports & messages I get that obviously haven’t been spell-checked. Of course, it cannot substitute for good proofreading.

  5. Jamie*

    She suggested that we have her email the higher ups every time he typos, but so far she’ll only do it if he makes a huge mistake rather than the usual “wrote down the wrong number” crap, because we look petty if we complain.

    This would be a source of great concern to me. The right numbers are far more critical (at least ime) than grammatical or spelling typos usually are – for internal stuff.

    I’m not saying I’d like to see a ton of emails littered with typos but I’d much rather have the numbers right and someone mistype “think” for “thing” because I can figure out the context – but the wrong number creates more work for me.

    That said – I don’t love how this is being handled at all…but personally if you cc’ed my boss on every typo I’ve made in a formal email (not just the hey, do you want to grab lunch kind – which I pay about as much attention to typos as I do to my posts here which is to say, none.) you’d have a couple a year. If that. Seriously, I proof my stuff before it goes out.

    I don’t see a lot of typos at all from people who aren’t on phones – and if he’s kicking up about people sending typo riddles messages and FYIs from phones I throw my hands up in disbelief – a quick email from my phone is little different than a text message and auto correct sometimes hates me.

    I just rarely see typos in emails sent from computers. However, I often see poorly written emails with punctuation, grammar, and spelling issues – but those aren’t typos. Typos are just fat fingering what you meant to type.

    I would take Alison’s advice seriously about looking to see if there is a pattern or problem with sloppiness. Because it sounds like it’s pretty pervasive and if he’s handling it wrong that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed, just that it should be addressed correctly.

    And for God’s sake – numbers are sacred…everyone needs to get on that page because I’m wracking my brain and can’t think of any scenario where numbers being wrong on a regular basis isn’t a BFD.

    1. Chinook*

      “I’m not saying I’d like to see a ton of emails littered with typos but I’d much rather have the numbers right and someone mistype “think” for “thing” because I can figure out the context – but the wrong number creates more work for me.”

      I am with you on this, Jamie. I expect the odd typo to slip through because we rely on spellcheck (which isn’t prefect). But numbers cannot be spellchecked and need to be eyeballed. As well, reversed numbers can cause miscalulations that aren’t obvious whereas reversed letters or a grammatically garbled sentence either has no affect or immediately makes teh reader go “huh?”

    2. Kelly O*

      I have to add I do tend to agree with this. As someone who currently lives and dies by numbers, I would want to see accurate information coming across.

      Every now and then? Sure, that’s understandable. But if it’s happening enough to cause an issue, then maybe it’s time to look at the system.

      I’m not saying the jerk-bender is right in how this is being handled. I’m just saying there are times accuracy is important. And as others have said, why give this guy fodder? Sure he’ll walk around feeling all self-important for a while, like he “made a difference” or something, but if he’s really a jerk-bender, then a new pattern of critique will show up, and THAT is when someone can step in and tell Bob to cut it out.

    3. Zillah*

      Yes, this. There’s a different between a typo and a mistake. People often use them as interchangeable, but they’re not. If there are truly a lot of typos in what someone is sending out, that’s a problem and indicates to me that they need to slow down a bit when typing… but a couple here and there are not a big deal.

      Mistakes are a different animal. They also happen once in awhile, and a dropped word is not a big deal, either… but again, when it’s happening a lot, and especially when numbers are involved, or something else that really requires accuracy? No way.

  6. HigherEd Admin*

    I would be very interested to know the types of materials he’s correcting. Are these emails going out over a listserv? Are these going to clients, board members, etc.? Is this in printed documentation?

    1. Jenna*

      Right. Public facing documents require more attention to detail. Letters to clients or donors should be correct. Database errors should be caught before they enter the database.
      Some people care more about accuracy than others do, though. When they took out the data double checking process at work because it took time, I thought it was not a good idea, and said so. Corporate was more willing to deal with typos and misplaced numbers than to pay to make sure it was correct. They pay the bills, so, they get what they want.

  7. delurking*

    I spent about eight years as a copy editor. I’m still an editor, just not one so focused on minutia. I know my stuff, is what I mean.

    And I have found that in every group where typo guy exists, it’s because he has very little else that makes him feel valued. Actual people who get paid to care about typos every day? We get that this stuff happens all the time, and our job is to minimize them, not make them disappear entirely.

    Guys like this – along with your cousin on facebook who points out every time you should use “whom” instead of “who” – give actual editors a bad name. People sometimes end emails to me with “oh I hope I didn’t make any typos, I know that bothers you…”

    Well actually it doesn’t, because I’m a human being, and you are too, and human beings sometimes let their fingers slip when they type.

    1. EvenEditor*

      Thank you for this! I worked as a technical editor for four years, and people sometimes correct themselves for their “bad grammar.” Um, it’s gchat. Being an editor means you minimize mistakes, not give up being an imperfect human. It made me the opposite of a grammar snob, actually.

      We had a few people at my technical firm who loved to spot tiny mistakes in my emails, because nothing brings greater joy to jerkfaces than editing an editor.

    2. Rana*

      Agreed! Part of being an editor is acknowledging that human beings are, well, human, and mistakes are par for the course. If they weren’t, there’d be no need for editors.

      Working as an editor has also made me less likely to correct comments and other casual text; basically if someone isn’t paying me to proofread, I let it go, just like I wouldn’t correct people’s pronunciation in idle conversation.

    3. 2Cents*

      Fellow copy editor here. +1 to everything! It was actually the beginning of the end of a friendship (clearly, there were many other factors) when a (formerly) good friend pointed out that I’d made a minor grammar error in one of my emails to her … and would NOT shut up about it. It wasn’t that I made an error or that she called me out (whatevs). It was that for the next few weeks, anytime we were in mixed company, she would mention how the great copy editor made a grammar error in her own email. Jerkface.

  8. AMG*

    You need to glue all of the numbers and letters on his keyboard. I would be inclined to make ny work so insanely error-free that he couldn’t touch me, then reply back every. single. time. he had a typo. all day long. Petty? Perhaps. Effective at proving a point? you would think.

  9. GM*

    My direct manger, who is at the Vice President level frequently says things incorrectly. She mis-pronounces diabetes, alzheimers, says “everybody shakes their heads in agreement” instead of “nods their heads in agreement”. I have never once corrected her. Why? Because it serves no purpose other than to embarrass her. And why would I want to do that? It has no bearing on how effective she is at her job. And that is my rule of thumb, if it serves no purpose other than to make me feel slightly superior and/or embarassing the person then just let it go.

    1. Joolsey woolsey*

      I’ve noticed our new admin constantly says ‘brought’ when she means ‘bought’ but I’ve not said anything because I don’t want too petty!

      1. Jamie*

        That sounds more like a speech impediment to me rather than an error – I wouldn’t point it out.

        I do admit to clenching a little bit when I hear some people use “brang” and “them boxes” rather than “brought” or “those boxes” but then I feel like a jerk for even noticing since it’s not customer facing. Ditto “aint” and “we didn’t get nothing.”

        And the thing is I’m no linguistic scholar – I can’t diagram a sentence to save my life and if I’m speaking quickly I am very likely to pronounce “wasn’t” with a d and water and wash with r’s after the a. So it’s kind of like Elly May Calmpett sitting in judgement of Vinnie Barbarino – but I do have a good ear what proper English and I get it right even if I couldn’t explain the rules governing it.

        I think it’s like table manners – anything stressed this strongly in my childhood is still with me so I notice when others are doing things in a way for which I’d have been corrected.

        (see, I go out of my way to not end sentences with a preposition in writing (and when I do it’s a deliberate choice not to reword since it’s an informal forum) but when I speak I’d have said “what I was corrected for.” because even though I know it’s wrong it sounds too stilted and I get mocked. I used “whence” in conversation unironically once at work and I’m still being mocked over that.)

        (and while I know you shouldn’t end a sentence in “at” or “for” or “with” I cannot tell you what a preposition is.)

        1. manybellsdown*

          I remember an old school poster that had the legend “A preposition is anywhere a cat can go!”, accompanied by pictures of cats going over, under, through, on, etc.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Heehee! I like this explanation.

            Another great comedic grammar rule is that you can tell a passive-voice sentence by whether you can stick “by zombies” at the end of it.

          2. DoubleYouElle*

            We had a poster saying, ‘A preposition is anything that you can do with two garbage cans on the moon.’

        2. Joolsey woolsey*

          It did occur to me that it could be a speech impediment, but it’s just that one word so it seems like she’s just using the wrong word.

          1. Jamie*

            I had a guy once come to me with a question about “your inventory charade.”

            He had a perfectly normal question about inventory dollars, asked in a perfectly polite and pleasant way and he was always a little intimidated by talking to people who out ranked him (which was silly – we’re not hung up on that here) and so he definitely wasn’t trying to be funny or combative.

            I just stared at him and he started to stutter that it wasn’t the word he was reaching for, it was the wrong word, didn’t know why he said that. I’ve always been desperately curious as to what word he was reaching for – even hit the thesaurus to see if I could figure it out.

            I had just sent out assignments relating to the physical inventory so tasks? Project? Assignment? I still have no idea what word he was looking for – but he was mortified at what seemed to be basically calling my project a fraud and since I only deal with the cost accounting end of things them are fightin’ words!

            Still cracks me up.

            Same guy when I was new overheard the office manager asking me if I wanted to order lunch and I said “no thank you, I don’t like mexican” blurted out that he didn’t know I was racist. I had to clarify that I don’t care for Mexican , but I have no bias against Mexicans.

            Food =/= people.

            1. Toothless*

              Oh, dear, now I’m afraid of doing this. Menopause Brain is robbing me of words and substituting different words, so that I might reach for “composition” and actually say “competition” or “juxtaposition” or “compromise.” So annoying!

            2. Betsy*

              And now all of us will be lying awake tonight, running it through our heads, too.


            3. NYC. Redhead*

              Scheme? Which is generally nefarious in the US, but (I believe) refers to a more benign situation in Britain.

              1. Monodon monoceros*

                Yes! With my new job, they keep on telling me about the pension “scheme” and the health insurance “scheme”. I had to keep from laughing every time.

          2. KerryOwl*

            It’s not a speech impediment. My mom does this the other way around (“bought” always, never “brought”) and I cringe when she does it, but I never correct her, because I don’t want to embarrass her. It’s not that important.

        3. CT*


          Many of my coworkers say “was ran” instead of “ran” or “was run” and I cringe every time. I can hear my mother’s voice correcting them in my head (and honestly, I’m not sure she’d be able to help herself if she heard it).

          Also, prepositions make my life so difficult! I normally make the same choice you do and just admit to myself that conversationally, ending with a preposition is less haughty.

          1. Jamie*

            I wonder if this is a minor form of code switching? When we speak incorrectly because it’s a way to blend with the audience – when proper speech stands out and creates a gulf?

            I’ve always heard of code switching attributed to more significant differences, like switching from AAVE to standard English depending on situation (which is usually where I hear the term used) but I’m wondering if it does apply to these more subtle variations.

            When my kids call me on this I chalk it up to colloquialism. That’s my catch all excuse for being caught breaking my own rules.

            1. AMG*

              It is a motor planning function. My FIL, husband, and my son have it. he knows the word, but getting it from brain to mouth is the challenge. Correctable with speech therapy.

        4. Relosa*

          I used to feel bad about stuff like that too, but I saw something recently that put the point into perspective: we correct people on basic math mistakes, so why not grammar of their native language? You absolutely would not let it slide if someone said that 2+2 = 6 because it doesn’t. Everyone may not know calculus, but everyone DOES know basic math (we hope, anyway).

          I’m lax about more advanced or subtle grammar mistakes – we all make them – but “I seen” or “she borrowed me five dollars,” things like that – I will correct them every time.

          Speech, language, and linguistics are logic systems, just like math and science. We are the only species known to have these advanced abilities; I’d prefer they continue to evolve.

          1. Elsajeni*

            Hmm. I disagree — I think the reason we’re less likely to let math mistakes go uncorrected is that they’re more likely to be relevant to the point at hand. That is, you don’t often hear someone say, “Well, 2 + 2 = 4, so…” unless they’re actually sketching out a mathematical proof or explaining some finer point of math notation or something like that, in which case it matters whether their math is right or wrong; if they say “2 + 2 = 6” instead, their proof won’t prove what they meant it to, or their explanation of how addition works won’t make sense, or whatever. But if the math mistake was legitimately beside the point, then I think it would be unnecessary (and potentially rude) to correct it, just as it’s usually unnecessary (and potentially rude) to correct someone’s minor grammar mistake when it doesn’t get in the way of the point they’re making.

          2. Jamie*

            I think language is different though. Basic math is not only black and white, it’s less personal.

            Language is loaded with class differences, community norms, educational level that can be really charged for some people. You correct their grammar because it’s unprofessional and for some people you’re calling their whole family uneducated because it’s how they speak.

            I’m not saying it’s right and believe me, I wish we lived in a world where this was less touchy – but I will correct people who are using a specific word wrong because that’s helpful and I’d want someone to do it for me. And the malapropisms sometimes, depends on the circumstances – but the run of the mill bad grammar I’m not touching with a 10 foot pole.

            Everyone has TV and radio – for native speakers they know about standard English – they hear it every day. They know they’ve never heard a newscaster say someone just “brang them this story” or an actor on a sitcom playing a mainstream character say “don’t nobody know nothing” unless it’s for OTT effect.

            For me it’s the difference in pointing out a one off that an otherwise moderately or well spoken person just doesn’t know and criticizing a pretty fundamental part of who they are and how they present themselves. In the first case you’re cluing them into something they don’t know and would probably like to know. In the second case the only thing you’re teaching them is that you noticed they speak poorly.

            If it’s affecting work it should always be addressed – but if not I’d steer clear of correcting others, even though it makes me sad that people choose to limit themselves this way.

            1. Windchime*

              Half of my team are non-native speakers of English, so it would feel rude to me to be constantly correcting them. Even if they are native speakers, I don’t see any point in embarrassing someone for using a word incorrectly in non-client facing communication.

              My co-workers imperfect emails and awkward sentence structure (“today morning” instead of “this morning”, etc) don’t prevent me from understanding the message.

          3. Zillah*

            I also tend to think that this is unnecessary at best and rude at worst. As Jamie mentioned, there are a lot of racial/class/community issues that come into play when you’re critiquing someone’s language. If they’re speaking or writing in an official capacity, sure, but otherwise? It’s just asking for trouble.

            There are a few phrases and pronunciations that I grew up saying. When I was away at college, a lot of people from the area we were going to school in would correct me, because some of those are technically wrong.

            It did not endear those people to me. At all. It made them come off as elitist snobs, especially since they made more run-of-the-mill grammatical mistakes than I did.

        5. Phyllis*

          Jamie, sounds like you are dealing with Southerners. Some of my relatives talk like this. Southerners have a disadvantage by virtue of our accent.

          Jeff Foxworthy nailed it when he said, “People hear this accent and automatically deduct 20 IQ points.” I’ve mentioned in this forum before, I stressed proper grammar to my children for just this reason. My rule of thumb for corrections is, if you are in my sphere of influence (children or grandchildren) you get corrected. Other people I don’t say anything, just cringe and mentally say to myself “You’re the kind who gives Southerners a bad name!!”

          1. Jamie*

            Not southerners, although I’ve heard similar from some relatives in the south – but I was talking about Chicagoans.

        6. Phyllis*

          If this posts twice, I apologize. I was typing and my post disappeared. I was saying it sounds like you are dealing with Southerners. I have friends and relatives who talk like this. I always told my children to be careful of grammar because a Southern accent already puts you at a disadvantage.

          Jeff Foxworthy nailed it when he said “People hear this accent and automatically deduct 20 IQ points.”

          My rule of thumb is, you are under my direct influence, (children and grandchildren) you get corrected. Anyone else I just cringe and think to myself, “You are the kind that gives Southerners a bad name!!”

          1. Phyllis*

            About prepositions, this joke is how I taught my children not to end a sentence with one.

            “A tourist in England asked someone, ‘Excuse me, can you tell me where Buckingham Palace is at?’ The gentleman drew himself up, and in a frosty voice, ‘One NEVER ends a sentence in a preposition!!’ The tourist said, ‘You are so right!! Please forgive me. Can you tell me where Buckingham Palace is at, A-hole!'”

            I don’t know if they thought that was so funny, or if was the shock of hearing their mother use such a crude word, but they never break this rule.

            My two oldest grandchildren are old enough to learn this…

        7. Phyllis*

          BTW, I almost spit my coffee at the screen when I read “It’s like Ellie May Clampett sitting I judgment of Vinnie Barbarino.”

          Perfect in our family because we live in Mississippi and have relatives in New Jersey. When we first became family it was like 2 countries learning a new language.

        8. Editor*

          Umm… actually the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition is based on a zombie rule. It keeps coming back to life even though the myth has been dismissed many times. I think it is one of the items featured in “Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins.”

          A surprising number of U.S. English textbooks perpetuate myths about English language usage that linguistics professors have been complaining about for years. There’s a big disconnect between the science and the textbooks.

      2. Claire*

        My best friend consistently does this, and it drives me bonkers. She knows she does it, it isn’t a speech impediment or anything, she just says the wrong word. Every. Single. Time.

        But I love her, so I don’t say anything and I try not to react when she does it. I succeed about 90% of the time, I think.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      My old boss always said “acrosst” instead of “across” and “nucular” instead of “nuclear”

      Probably because I just couldn’t stand him in the first place but it make me just want to scream. Especially “acrosst” – caused me irrational rage.

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        UUgghh I had a professor in college that always said “heighth” instead of “height” and it drove me CRAZY. Doesn’t help that on the first day (it was a tech theater class where we’d be doing hands on work), he looked around the room and went “huh, no guys! That’s ok – we don’t need brawn! :) ” with a big, genuine smile like he was being all nice. Grr.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          That one drives me NUTS. I have found that it’s a regional thing – everyone I know who does it is from Pennsylvania.

        2. Yozhik*

          The one peeve that drives me crazy is when people hyphenating compounds that are not hyphenated compounds. It honestly drives me insane but it’s never in anything I am supposed to proofread so I can’t do anything about it. Examples are “Thank-you,” “follow-up,” “clear-up” (both previous as verbs).

          1. Jamie*

            Serious question, what’s the correct way when it’s not really a word, but you need it to be?

            Like “can you readd those numbers?” I tend to make it re-add just so it’s clear, but it looks wrong.

            I know I could just say could you add those numbers again – but a lot of times I’m just using re- with a business term that people understand verbally here “I need you guys to re-disposition those items.”

            Or using words that aren’t words but should be. Remoted needs to be a word now. “I remoted into your computer” cannot possibly be better by saying “I did so need to access your personal computing device, so I engaged the VPN and in conjunction with remote desktop was able to gain access to replace your desktop with pictures of goats in cute outfits. You’re welcome.”

            Downloaded is a word so up next is remoted.

            1. Windchime*

              We use “remoted” at work in this way as well. (My spell check kept trying to change it to “demoted” above, so yeah…..not a word yet, but we’ll keep trying!)

          2. Helka*

            Ugh, one of my friends does that all the time! Excess hyphenation never used to bother me (I’ve spent a lot of time reading stuff written in the nineteenth century, when plenty of things were hyphenated which are not anymore) but after being on social media with her for a few years, it drives me bananas!

            “Hey, I saw a cute-red-car today guys!!!” uuuuuugh.

        3. Relosa*

          OMGGGG My least favorite professor of all time – OF ALL TIME – said this too. He would also say “strennth” instead of “strength”

          At the same time I am also bothered by those who insist on speaking with more sibilant S than it necessary. Those with actual speech impediments notwithstanding.

          1. Mephyle*

            “Lennth” and “strennth” are regional pronunciations. I think they come from Scotland originally.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Yes! It usually goes with overpronouncing T too. It has the effect of sounding sort of artificial and rehearsed.

        4. KerryOwl*

          I love saying “heighth!” Because it goes along with width, depth, and breadth. It’s WEIRD that it isn’t heighth. So I say it on purpose, as an affectation. Drives my husband bananas. :)

      2. Jamie*

        I think I say this wrong. And I have a close relative who is a nuclear physicist and they have never corrected me.

        New-Clee-Are – that’s how I say it. I think that’s wrong because it’s close to New-Cue-Lar which they mocked the former president over, but I thought that was just regional.

        1. De Minimis*

          I don’t know if it’s regional or what, but a lot of people at my job say “physical year” when they mean “fiscal year.” Drives me nuts!

          1. chewbecca*

            I had a coworker who would write physical year instead of fiscal. I can understand it spoken because they do sound alike, but written out kind of boggled me.

            1. Jamie*

              If they are spelling it wrong also I’d definitely say something. Just verbal no, because the last thing I want to do is call attention to an area where I’m not aces myself.

              But if they are spelling it wrong they really don’t know the word and pointing it out would be a huge favor. I mean what if it’s on their resumes that their numbers were X every physical year, or that they created broilerplate templates for documentation?

              I wouldn’t call it out at first, I’d just use the correct term hoping they picked up on it. I’d find a reason to use the phrase “fiscal year” in an email or two. But if it persisted I’d put this in the category of telling someone they have spinach on their teeth or toilet paper stuck to their shoe. They may be momentarily embarrassed, but not as much as if you let them walk around like that.

              So I’d just point it out in an off hand kind of way and mention something that I had been saying wrong that I was happy when someone corrected me…so they know it happens to everyone.

              Heck, I didn’t know “she felt bad.” was correct until this year – I always used “she felt badly” until fposte mentioned it and drew the comparison to “felt sad” or “felt sadly.” (She wasn’t correcting me – just talking in general and I lap up improvement in this area like a thirsty dog.”)

              1. De Minimis*

                I’ve never seen the co-worker in question write the word, but she has continued to pronounce it that way even after I make sure to say “fiscal.”

                My father [another accountant] also says “physical year.” I’m wondering if it’s regional, since both of them are from southern or southern-bordering regions.

                1. fposte*

                  There’s also something called the epenthetic vowel–that’s the vowel people put in to pronounce athlete as “ath-e-lete” or film as “fill-um.” It tends to happen in consonant clusters, so he may be saying “fiscal” as “fis-uh-cal” rather than saying “physical.”

              2. Windchime*

                The badly thing is something that I’ve heard people do lately. I don’t correct it, but yeah–I’ve thought, “Huh, do you also feel sadly? Happily?”

            2. NoPantsFridays*

              Boggles me too — it’s not just a typo, it’s an entirely different word, with an entirely different meaning!
              Kind of like how people say “conscious” when they want to say “conscience” — it’s a different word, again.
              I usually don’t bother correcting people, because I’m not perfect either.

        2. Arbynka*

          Once, when asked by Target worker if I need help finding something, I said “which isle for satan sheets?” If you are looking for tales of mispronanciacion, I am your gal. I swear, back then, my husband started to date me simply for the entertaiment value :)

          Speaking of pronunciation, IT crowd anybody ? Peter File ?

          1. Jamie*

            I love you – and I desperately want you to throw a dinner party like that and invite me.

          2. Windchime*

            This one confuses me…..where I’m from, “isle” and “aisle” are pronounced the same.

        3. Aunt Vixen*

          Your pronunciation is the one that is generally accepted as correct, Jamie. Pronounce the letters in the order they appear: nuclear, not nucular. (The fact that nuclear comes from the root nucula is outside the scope of our prescriptivism.)

          I have a colleague who refers to our same-in-every-document text as our “broilerplate”. Spells it that way, too. Deep breaths, smile and nod, we all know what she means.

          1. Relosa*

            Broilerplate reminds me of when I went to South America with a friend.

            Apparently, chicken is “broasted” there…at every street corner.

      3. iseeshiny*

        I has a social studies teacher in high school who said “northren” and “southren” and pronounced “Tunisia” as “Ton-sin-KNEE-ya” (I think she got it mixed up with Tanzania, but she was definitely talking about Tunisia). Also she injected a lot of her personal political views into her lectures, which would have been fine except they were the opposite of mine, so. I never said anything but it contributed to me thinking she was dumb as a box of rocks. (Although at 15, I thought most people were dumb. I was kind of a brat.)

        1. Cb*

          Oh gosh, did we have the same teacher? I had a social studies teacher who told us that the Jewish populations were misplaced after World War II.

          1. Editor*

            My daughter’s social studies teacher gave a fill-in-the-blank test about geography. It asked where the Pacific Ocean was relative to Oregon, so my daughter wrote “west.” She didn’t get any credit for the answer because the words “Pacific Ocean” were written off of the California coast, so therefore the so-called correct answer was “southwest.” We were so glad when the end of that school year arrived.

      4. Mallory*

        One guy I used to work with was training me to drive a forklift was showing me how to fill out the associated paperwork, and he kept saying “ass-o-turk”.

        He was talking about an asterisk. My husband and I have now eliminated the word “asterisk” from our vocabularies and they are now “ass-o-turks”.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          I usually hear “asterkiss” or “asteriks”, but “ass-o-turk” is a new one!

            1. Mallory*

              Ha! My husband mispronounced the word “pomposity” when talking about a coworker and instead said “pompacity”. I called it to his attention, but we decided that there really are pomp-asses and pompassity is exactly what they exhibit.

        2. Raine*

          Oh the very young daughter of one of my friends mispronounced wifi as weefee when she was learning to read and we all find it funny and use it together. But now I find myself avoiding saying wifi when in public because I’m afraid weefee might slip out.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            That is how it is pronounced in Norwegian, because i’s sound like e’s and e’s sound like i’s.

      5. KerryOwl*

        People around here (South Jersey) say “acrosst” and that is definitely my least favorite. THERE IS NO “T” THERE WHY ARE YOU PUTTING A “T” THERE. Oh man. Rage-inducing.

        1. Relosa*

          I’m from Minneapolis.

          APPARENTLY there’s an extra N that only non-locals know of!

          So I always board planes to “Minneanapolis” and hope to goodness I reach my intended destination.

        2. Mallory*

          One of my college English professors confessed that for years, when reading southern fiction, he had trouble with the word “oncet”. He would pronounce it “AHN-set” and didn’t know what it meant. Until a student enlightened him that it is the word “once” with a “t” pronounced at the end, as so many southerners do.

      6. Clerica*

        I can’t even tell you how many educators I’ve worked with who want to “ax” everybody. “Can you ax Jane if…” or “Well, I axed him what he thought he was doing…”

        If it’s someone I know fairly well I’ll sometimes joke, “Well, if I ax Jane, she’ll die and we need her” or “You axed him?? But I just talked to him on the phone and he sounded fine!” It just happens so. damn. much. And they’re teachers. Why.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Oh yeah, I have a coworker who does the “ax” thing… It’s funny because CW is from the same region as most of the rest of our team, who say “ask”. And CW’s pronunciation is otherwise impeccable. Very strange!

          1. Jamie*

            My eldest son had a very difficult time learning to speak and was in speech therapy his entire childhood to address the issues with autism and a speech impediment.

            The impediment, once pronounced, is 99% gone – he speaks carefully and deliberately and it’s hard to remember how he used to speak – but when speaking quickly, or when very tired there are two tell tale signs. Ax and f for th’s. Fiff for fifth, birfday, etc. Ax is the only remenant left of his trouble with S’s.

            I’m not saying these people had speech impediments, but I know a ton of people who had speech as kids with no learning issues, just for a lisp or trouble with r’s or whatever – and even as adults every now and again you can hear it when they are tired or excited.

            Not that people are deliberately policing their speech at this point, it’s mostly second nature but not always 100%.

            I find it interesting. And I have never had a speech impediment, but I refuse to say asterisk because my mouth doesn’t know that word. My brain and eyes do, but my mouth adds all kinds of sses and kkes so that word. Cinnamon I always have to stop and sound out in my head before saying – like I’m 5. Otherwise it’s cimmonin every time.

            1. Mallory*

              I had to go to speech therapy when I was in elementary school for trouble with R’s and a slight lisp. It was a lot of fun, and I thought I was very lucky to get to skip out of class to play checkers with a very nice lady who loved to talk with me. I do get the lisp back if I’m excited, tired, or otherwise not paying attention.

    3. Kelly O*

      My mother says “onacologist.”

      She did this when my dad was going through cancer treatments and it bugged me. It still bugs me, but it’s my mom, what do you do?

      I just try to pronounce it correctly and hope maybe one day she’ll figure it out.

      After that, we’ll work on “nuclear.”

      1. Jamie*

        Just choose to find it charming, Kelly. That’s my advice.

        My mother lived her whole life and never once pronounced “orange” correctly. And I had a friend named Andrea (Ann-dree-ah) who she kept calling Ahn-dray-ah for years – despite my correcting her every time. Ditto Sandra pronounced Sand-ruh which she turned into Sahn-drah. She could say Sandy correctly, but Sandra was impossible? And if you knew my mom she was so not doing it on purpose, she was so gracious – but as she said “I know how it’s pronounced, but my mouth doesn’t.”

        Why her mouth could for Sandy correctly but the rah threw it, who knows. Born and raised in Chicago, home of the hard A. Which now that I think about it she pronounced Chi-cahw-go. (can’t even type it – like a hybrid of how a Boston Brahmin and guy from Brooklyn would say it.)

        Moms are weird and they get a pass at most things.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Wait, how do you pronounce Chicago? (And in return, I’ll make sure you can pronounce Oregon correctly: Or’-ee-gun.)

          1. Jamie*

            Here? Chi-cah-go is pretty neck and neck with Chi-caw-go. But it’s a clipped ‘aw’ like in awe – not the drawn out “aw’ like how some New Yorkers pronounce coffee.

            It’s hard to type – but my mouth is totally different between the two sounds. On the east coast the aw sound tends to be drawn out and lengthened and we skip over it quickly.

            I’m a Chi-cah-go girl myself, married to a Chi-caw-go man. This kind of mixed marriage can be hard but we’re making it work.

            And I won’t admit that until this post I thought it was Ore-ee-gone.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Gahn,or gone – that’s how we know you’re not from around here. That and saying Spo-cane instead of Spo-can. I suspect every region has regional pronunciations as a way to identify outsiders. Even if I get Chicago right, I’ll get some of the other names wrong.

            1. Anon*

              As a southerner I’m trying to imagine the difference between Chi-cah-go and Chi-caw-go, lol. :)

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Yeah, those seem the same to me too, along with Chi-cahw-go, which is apparently using both. But I bet if I heard it, I’d be able to tell the difference.

                For me, ‘Say Ah’ and ‘A crow says caw’ rhyme.

                1. Felicia*

                  Written out like that, I would pronounce them the same, but since I am familiar with the Chicago accent, I can imagine someone saying Chi – cah -go in that accent. It’s not the way I’d ever say it unless I was imitating a Chicago accent which wouldn’t be nice. To my ear, they say the second syllable of Chicago like cat minus the t, which is not how I’d say it

          2. Windchime*

            Oh, heaven save me from the people who say “Or-eh-gahhhn” or “Ne-vahhhh-duh” (where the “vahhhhh” rhymes with “cause”).

            There are a lot of people from my state of Washington who say “Warshington” with an R. People from certain parts of the state tend to say it that way.

      2. Mallory*

        My mother-in-law says that she is “non-pulsed” when she means “nonplussed” (and I don’t know if she knows what that word means, either, although she keeps saying it).

        So now my husband and I, when we’re bored to tears (and out of earshot of his mother), say that we are non-pulsed. As in, we are so bored that we do not even have a pulse.

      3. Cruciatus*

        My mom pronounces protein (meat) like protean. She claims it’s from her Chicago upbringing but none of her also Chicago born and bred siblings say this. And in school she was also taught that dilemma was spelled “dilemna” so… No way to fix all the bad info out there!

        1. Ellie H*

          I also somehow learned that dilemma was spelled “dilemna.” I think I was 18 or 19 when I found out that it is actually incorrect. I am a superb speller, have been in spelling bees, have never in my life misspelled a word I have seen even once before, etc. etc. so I have no idea how I learned it incorrectly. I used to think it was an alternate spelling but I’ve never found even documentation of that.

        2. NoPantsFridays*

          I was taught that “dilemma” is pronounced dye-lemma rather than dill-emma … who knows how many times I butchered it before I was corrected! At least I was very young.

      4. Clerica*

        My favorite from my grandmother was (and this somehow came up often) people who attend “non-dementia” churches or “It was one of those non-dementia ceremonies.”

        Those are my favorite kind. A ceremony always goes smoother when none of the attendees is suffering from dementia.

        1. Jamie*

          My gramma used to say receipt for recipe – and when we were old enough to cook and said we loved something she’d say ‘let me get you a receipt for that’ and give us the recipe – and I always thought she was being funny.

          My dad (not her son) would use it on occasion, too, when he was in a playful mood and I thought it was kind of a weak joke to keep repeating.

          Little did I know receipt was equally valid and recipe wasn’t really used until the turn of the 20th century – it was still in somewhat common usage until the 60’s or so – in some regions. They were both using it as an intentional anachronism because that’s hysterical – ha – but what I chalked up to her ignornace was actually mine. Had I asked she’d have told me.

          But had I asked and it wasn’t a real thing and I was just criticizing her speech I’d have been in ‘big trouble, missy’ so discretion being the better part of valor I remained ignorant for decades.

          1. Cruciatus*

            I wonder if there was any German influence there. Recipe in German is rezept. It’s not the same exact pronunciation, but it’s kinda close and with time perhaps became receipt.

            1. Jamie*

              Ahhhh – maybe with my dad. He spoke German, but rarely used it since his parents passed decades before – totally makes sense.

              My Gramma’s family had been here since the early 1700’s so I’m thinking we lost any Germanic influence a century or 2 ago. :)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “non-dementia” churches. I now have coffee on my screen and my life is forever changed.

          There will be times where I need to talk about a church and which denomination it is. I don’t think I can do that anymore.

  10. AnotherAlison*

    Most of my typos are due to rephrasing a sentence.

    Something like this happens: The states could make legally challenge the EPA.

    When it was formerly: The states could make a legal challenge to the EPA’s new rule.

    My brain reads it correctly so it’s darn near impossible to proofread.

    If this is sent formally to clients or the CEO, the PhD guy is justified. You knew what I meant, but it’s got to be right. If it’s worker-bee level internal communication, or even a casual email to a client, let it go. Either way, the guy should just deal with the manager or offenders directly. Only after that has failed should any higher-ups be involved.

    1. LBK*

      YES. As someone who usually rewrites everything I type about 10 times before it’s sent/published, this happens to me all the time.

  11. holly*

    yeah, it depends on what kind of typos. if someone reporting to me (or anyone really) kept sending me emails that someone on my team typed “am” instead of “an” or “fro” instead of “for,” i’d be seriously annoyed with the emailer. but if it is consistently wrong numbers or more substantial stuff, it would be a problem.

  12. Arbynka*

    Speaking of typos, I was translating employee manual while back, orintational purposes only (lucky for me). Instead of “employees will have to participate in random drug testing”, I wrote “employees will have to participate in random drug tasting”. I can laugh about it now.

    1. Jamie*

      I am totally picturing someone having to order entries for that particular tasting buffet.

      I am not a typo pointer outer as a rule, but I do if they are funny. :)

      When I was new I caught what would have been the most embarrassing typo ever before I hit send. We had some software with volo in it’s name – I don’t know how I mistyped it but spell check changed it to…well you can imagine what it was changed to and I just clicked okay to spell check.

      I very nearly sent something to the effect of “I fixed your vu***, is it working better for you now?” to a female coworker.

      Now that we’re friends I know she would have laughed (and never let me forget it) but at the time I didn’t know anyone and I may well have been the first person in the history of mankind to die of embarrassment.

      Proof reading saves lives.

      1. Arbynka*

        Omg, it sounds like something auto correct would do :) Which is whole another chapter. I had to turn off mine because it kept changing my first name ( R***a) into “task”. Beats me why.

        1. Mallory*

          I was emailing one professor in my department, first name of Tajar, and Outlook corrected his name to “Tater”. I caught it before sending it to him, but I did share the funny with a couple of people, and now we sometimes secretly call him Tater.

      2. Mints*

        I’m feeling dense–what are the asterisks?

        Also, on here one time I said “Ask about what kind of pubic you’ll be facing” (instead of “public”) Totally different job

        1. Jamie*

          Not a dirty word – part of the female anatomy, but not a part one generally fixes for one’s coworkers or inquires about it’s status.

            1. University admin*

              I stumbled upon an old copy of Madame Bovary the other day in my house. I was amused.

                1. Mallory*

                  And now I’ m hearing the old gas-station attendant’s phrase, “Check that oil for ya?” except it’s “Check that Mulva for ya?”

                  I’m not weird. :-)

                2. University admin*

                  LOL to “Mulva-fixing.” Bovary was one of the names they thought Jerry’s girlfriend might have had. George’s face when he suggests it… *giggle* “BOVARY!?!?!”

            1. De Minimis*

              I am always afraid that I will accidentally refer to myself as a “Certified Pubic Accountant.”

              1. Dan*

                My university president’s faculty title was “Professor of Public Administration.”

                They printed it in every doc that referenced him.

                And one time the typo’d “Public.”

              2. NoPantsFridays*

                I knew a guy once who majored in Public Relations.

                He typo’d “Public” on his resume and didn’t notice for months!

              3. Anon Accountant*

                It’s fun when you write it out and it goes out without anyone catching it before it goes out. I wrote IRS response letter and under my signature typed my name and certified public accountant with a typo in public.

        2. MaggiePi*

          And this is why I think Microsoft and such should offer “business spell check” which would have a list of words that users could choose to have flagged in all programs even though they are real words.
          So if you do type something it would ask “Is ‘pubic’ really the word you’re looking for here?”

          1. Jamie*

            Accounts is another one that my fingers are often trying to use to get me fired. Fortunately that breakdown doesn’t pass the spell check muster.

            ‘U’s are imporant.

            1. Alter_ego*

              A non-native speaker that I work with once asked me to help him spell a word, because spellcheck was flagging it, but not offering any alternative suggestions. The word he was looking for was contingency. The o/u distinction is very important.

              Incidentally, this same coworker sent a CAD file out that spelled the word “communication”, as “cummu8nication”. I know English isn’t his first language, but he’s been here 25 years, and I’m pretty sure he should know by now that there are no words with numbers in the middle.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                The hardest manuscript edit I’ve ever done was on a draft given to me by someone who grew up not only speaking a different language, but also using a different alphabet. I have the utmost respect for people who can work in a second language and will stand on my head to make allowances for minor errors in their English, but when you consistently misspell a word that is written in 6 foot high letters above the main entrance to the building you work in, I will start to wonder if sloppiness and a lack of attention to detail are maybe a large part of the problem.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I need it to catch “busty.” I always typo it for “busy.” And while both are true, only one of them needs to be in my work correspondence. :D

            1. KarenT*

              I did recently tell one of my direct reports I couldn’t attend a meeting she was running because I’m too busty. I realized my mistake, after I hit send of course, and could not stop laughing all afternoon.

            2. NoPantsFridays*

              In college I did a lab on ultraviolet spectroscopy and wrote a report for it. I was disturbed when I kept typing “ultraviolent” instead of “ultraviolet”. I think I caught all the errors before submission (Word helped with that), but as I typo’d it almost every time, I worried for what lurked in my subconscious and was apparently so ultraviolent that it needed to find its way out.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Yet, when I’m bird watching, I deliberately call them ‘violent green swallows’ because the mental picture makes me laugh.

          3. MaryMary*

            It’s also unfortunate when the F in shift gets lost. When I worked more of a techie area, we’d see issue reports all the time where someone meant to type “is hitting” but put a space in the wrong place. It confuses folks when you send a ticket saying the user is sh*tting an error on the webpage.

          4. Kay*

            Yes! This should be a thing! :-D (I’m sure there’s a way to “remove” words from Microsoft’s dictionary, but this would be fabulous!

      3. NurseB*

        When I worked for a previous company we had a software that Outlook did NOT like the name of. Every time I typed it I had to carefully read over and make sure it hadn’t changed it to “Molester”. I would have been mortified to send out an email that said something like “I couldn’t find the patient information in Molester”.

      4. Laura*

        Oh my word. Dying of laughter over here….

        And deeply grateful. I won’t share mine – it would give away the company I work for – but suffice to say I also nearly sent an email involving a different (and slangier) term for a piece of female anatomy normally covered by clothes and not discussed in the office, in place of a similar syllable occurring at the end of one of our product names. I caught it *just* before hitting send, and spent the next while trying not to melt of embarrassment just at the thought of sending it out.

        (And that would have been to, um, my male boss, his male boss, and our male system architect. Who might have had an uproarious laugh at it, but please no.)

      5. Mallory*

        I have got to quit reading this stuff at work before people start to think I’m crazy. Unintended humor as a result of typos is my comic kryptonite, no matter how much I want to keep a stiff upper lip at work.

        1. Catherine in Canada*

          Best typo I’ve come across lately was in something my husband wrote. (Yippee, I can tease him for ever!)
          We’re both tech writers, currently working for the same company which is why I found it. He had to create a document in a hurry, so missed that he’d written that a particular piece of equipment required an air filter to “avoid dust contemplation”.
          Yup, can’t have a piece of network equipment dropping traffic because it’s been distracted by dust…

    2. Joie de Vivre*

      A couple of years ago, I sent out a contract to a customer asking them to sing rather than sign it. I was so confused when I answered my phone a few minutes later to a rather good baritone rendition of that particular contract.

      Lesson learned: spell check does not replace proof reading.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        I love that this happened. Sounds like you had a client with a good sense of humor!

      2. Jenna*

        I wonder if my brother was the baritone. He would have ADORED a chance to do exactly that.

          1. Mallory*

            A twerk-a-thon to raise awareness. Sponsor a psychologist by pledging $0.25/minute twerked.

    3. fiat lux*

      That’s a good one!

      I once had to write an essay for graduate school about assessment, and instead of writing “assess” I wrote “asses” throughout the entire essay! Luckily, I’m a diligent proofreader and caught my mistake before submitting the paper. That would have been quite embarrassing!

      1. Mallory*

        What’s the short story in which the lady buys her gentleman friend a silver toilet set? A college classmate of mine based his entire essay on the signifance of her purchasing him a silver toilet SEAT. And got an “F” for his efforts.

  13. fposte*

    It also sounded in the initial reports like the OP’s manager was simultaneously eyerolling and sharing this information with the OP and co-workers to make them more careful so the guy didn’t write any more emails. To me, that’s a problem: either the manager is giving the guy way too much power and letting his random complaints drive her management, or the guy is right and she needs to stand behind her closer management of her team’s output without blaming the guy who’s seeing the mistakes.

  14. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Obviously, the simplest solution is to stop making typos. *kidding*

    This guy probably also uses “___ and I” as the object of a preposition. That is my new pet peeve.

    Still, although I review a lot of documents in my job and see a lot of typos and poor grammar, I have gotten to the point where like Elsa I “let it go” unless it fundamentally changes the meaning of the sentence or just reads poorly.

  15. Robin*

    If the guy is truly a PITA who is making a big deal out of something petty, the higher ups probably already know that. Chances are, he has been harassing them on other minor issues as well. This sounds like a job for his supervisor. Where is he/she in all this?

    1. Chriama*

      This guy sounds like he’s a little outside the hierarchy. His manager either doesn’t know what’s going on, condones it, or doesn’t actually have any authority over him.
      However, if the higher-ups were being harrassed by him over minor issues, why would the “big boss” (I’m assuming 2 levels above OP’s boss) be calling OP’s boss into a meeting?

  16. Jamie*

    I am wondering if he was asked to do this.

    I’m not wildly speculating, but in the past I’ve been asked by former managers to forward or cc every X mistake from Y – because it was an issue they were watching and collecting data about.

    I doubt it since he’s ccing your boss, but wondering if it’s possible one of tptb is annoyed with the typos and tasked him with calling them out. Some people would be delighted with that kind of Dwight Schrutey task.

    1. KarenT*

      I am wondering if he was asked to do this.

      Good point. A manager in another department was watching one of her employees closely (she had heard bad things so was trying to figure out what was what with him) and emailed me and asked me to notify her if he was ever late with deadlines or rude to any of our authors. So I did, because he was horrible with both things. He was pretty pissed at me for not going to him first (I actually laughed; we’d been pointing these things out to him directly for a year). So I get that the bosses boss in the OP’s letter may have had her own concerns about typos and asked to be kept in the loop.

    2. Arbynka*

      I am wondering the same thing. I am trying to come up with some good advice for letter writter and I am stuck. Also feel bit guilty because it is a problem for her and I am having such a fun with our typo posts.

    3. WorkingAsDesigned*

      I’ve been wondering this, as well.

      Maybe it’s the classic schoolroom approach of putting the biggest troublemaker in charge of the class when the teacher needs to step out for a few minutes. (The idea being that the troublemaker will make sure no one steps out of line.)

  17. alma*

    I used to proofread for a living, and even I think this is kind of absurd. I understand the importance of getting things right, particularly if it’s going out the door to a client or other important recipient. My job used to depend on it! But there is a right way and a wrong way to tell somebody they’ve just made an error. As Jon Stewart would say, be a f***ing person about it. To me, it seems like Typo Guy is failing that test even if his complaints have some merit.

    And if he’s tattling about typos in basic internal correspondence (“Bob wrote ‘becuase’ in an e-mail on Thursday!!!”), I want to know why at least one of the higher-ups hasn’t told him to knock it off. If I had done that, even at my proofreading job, I think that would have been a clear signal to my manager that I clearly didn’t have enough real work to occupy my time!

    1. John*

      I’m a writer who seconds this sentiment.

      If there are problems, raise it to the author or the author’s boss. Copying higher-ups is a mark of (stain on) this guy’s character.

      A few months back I worked on an employee message that went out with some small error, as can on rare occasion happen in the last-minute flurry of tinkering by various parties, no matter how careful we try to be. A colleague spotted the error and emailed my big boss to point it out to him, when she knew full well I was the author. That burned me up. Did she really think she was helping accomplish anything other than getting me in trouble (which did not happen)?

  18. Chriama*

    I have to say, the fact that your boss is being called to account by the “big boss” for the typos this guy is pointing suggest 2 possibilities:
    1) This guy is pointing out a serious or pervasive problem with your group’s work.
    2) The typos are no big deal but management has decided to take his side over yours because he’s ‘special’ in some way.

    I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. If this guy is cc’ing higher ups every day and they haven’t told him to knock it off, they are bad at management (especially since he’s emailing multiple levels. Unless he has naked pictures of the manager 2 levels above your boss and is putting the pressure top-down through the ranks, why does he need to inform the entire hierarchy?). However, the fact that you’re being called to account for these errors indicates that they’re worth noting. Even a conflict-averse manager would probably ignore the emails from him rather than follow up with employees on a specious claim.

  19. Glorified Plumber*

    I realize everyone’s experience with PhD’s is different, but behavior such as this is one of the reasons I shudder at interacting with PhD’s in my industry (engineering design and construction). We get a few every now and then, and they are usually worthless.

    OP, I agree with AAM, this is 100% your manager’s (the one who is also annoyed, and the one who does not appear to be backing you all up directly) job to fix, and NOT by responding with sending the PhD’s typos out. You’ve done your job by escalating to the manager (after what sounded like attempts to achieve resolution yourself).

    Direct face to face communication with clear indication of the behavior that needs to change and why, and secure a commitment from the individual to fix. If/when it does not change, then directly to the PhD’s manager to secure a commitment to fix.

    I’ll definitely be interested in hearing resolution.

    I am curious what industry/work product requires this level of “typo adjudication.”

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I shudder at interacting with PhD’s in my industry (engineering design and construction).

      Funny related story. . .a department manager in my E&C office was a Ph.D. Let’s say he was the quality manager, just for discussion. He was one of those types who insisted people refer to him as Dr. Jones. Well, he had obtained his Ph.D. through an online program, and within a year of getting his degree, the school lost its accreditation. He stopped insisting people call him “Dr.” after that. (Side note: I think my company gives waayyy too much respect to people with doctorates because the up-through-the-construction-ranks don’t realize how little value an online degree in Quality Studies has in our day-to-day business. I’m not devaluing higher degrees in general, but people were in awe of this guy when his degree was worth about the same as a used napkin. )

      1. Glorified Plumber*

        Your post is giving me sad but still somewhat nostalgic flashbacks of working with a PhD’s in authority positions… though I can’t even imagine working for one who was an actual supervisor. I can see the conversation now, “This guy with a masters degree has zero years experience, but I am going to pay him $15,000 more than you Mr. bachelors degree with 2 years of experience.”

        I had a lead who was a PhD… and they lasted about 1.5 years before “seeking employment elsewhere.” Designing pumps, heat exchangers, control valves, and doing hydraulics to 4 decimal places of “accuracy” and “precision” was soul stealing.

        I too was in E&C, and thankfully they were pretty rare overall, even more rare at the client.

        I work semiconductors now, and all too often client individuals have PhD’s… and it can at times be a challenge.

  20. inigo montoya*

    This is my standard reply to our department grammar/spelling inspector when he sends back one my emails pointing out a mistake.

    You probably think your pretty smart but your still never going too catch me making two many mistakes know matter how hard you try … so their!

  21. Dan*

    One of the things that drives me nuts are people who post-edit a comment typo with (*) followed by one word.

    First, the human brain doesn’t generally catch transpositions or typos within a word. So, I generally don’t even notice the typo the poster was trying to correct.

    Second, one word means nothing to me. I have to figure out what you mean. And then I realize, “aha! They’re correcting a typo!” But then I’ll be damned as to what typo they were trying to correct, because I didn’t notice one in the first place (see point 1). Most won’t even include the typo in the correction (as in ‘*theer = there’, they’ll just write ‘*there’)

    Including the complete phrase *is* helpful.

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      There are definitely times when the typo is within a word and so minor that I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if the poster hadn’t corrected it.

    2. Clerica*

      I have a friend who sends me a ton of texts to begin with, sometimes 4 in a row which are all fragments of one sentence, even though she knows I’m on a limited plan. Then she’ll follow up to correct something stupid. I knew what you meant. You owe me a nickel. (The $0.20 for the rest of the sentence is on the house).

      What gets me online is when I see a really gross comment and then a post edit for some random word. I remember one on Consumerist that went something like “Well I don’t know what she expected going in there with her six kids from different dads and probly buying cigarettes and booze and lobster out of her Louis Vuitton bag. Of course the cashier assumes she was on WIC.”

      Then the post-edit was “*assumed.” Because that’s what was wrong with that post.

      1. Alter_ego*

        I know this totally wasn’t your point, but man, the comment section on the consumerist became so toxic and jugemental, I just stopped going to their site.

        1. Clerica*

          “Your account overdrew because Comcast auto-pay took out $5K instead of $50? Well, this is why I keep no less than ten thousand in my account at all times. It’s called being a responsible adult, people.”

  22. Levois*

    This guy strikes me as a busybody who has to point out everyone else’s mistake. Unfortunately if it’s not a typo it’s something else. People like this are everywhere. Unfortunately management has to check these things out it seems unnecessary but it is what it is.

  23. Not So NewReader*

    When does he find time to do the job he was hired for? I picture him spending half the day just sitting there and waiting for a typo to come in so he can pounce.

    Why hasn’t upper management responded to the flood of emails from him for these petty things? It’s got to be filling up their inboxes by now.

    It sounds like his pettiness could shut the place down. No work will be completed because of all these minor problems running amok.

    You could decide not to include him on emails… (no, not really, but fun to think about).

    Not sure why he is being sent emails. Is he being asked questions? Does he answer the question that is being asked? Is he given tasks? Is he doing the tasks?

    Does he tell people to their faces or does he hid behind email? For example, if someone approached him and said “This is the xth email you have edited for me without my request for that service, what is up with this?”, what would he say/do? Would he get flustered or he act like a pompous jackass?

    I hate to say it but he will have a job for the rest of his life fixing grammar and spelling errors. There is always a new generation coming along with their own set of misunderstandings. I cannot believe this is the best use he can find for his degree.
    Sometimes a good offense is the best defense. Is this guy actually good at his job or no? (I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that no one knows for sure.)

    If your boss won’t move on this one OP, I think I would go back to her with a question regarding how much time she wants me to spend on the PhD’s English classes. Can I just delete/disregard the remarks? I would try to figure out how much time it is taking me per day to deal with these emails and have numbers. “I got 10 email from Herman today, with 28 corrections. How do you want me to handle that? Is it in the best interest of our department to respond to these emails?”

    I would just keep reframing the question until I got some sort of answer.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed with all of this! How is this guy doing his own job or is he at all? As NSNR said, I would not be surprised to find out that he wasn’t up to par on his own duties since he spends so much time dealing with everyone else’s stuff.

  24. EvilQueenRegina*

    OP, what kind of typos is he making a big deal over? Is it usually something as minor as the “becuase” example someone mentioned, or are they errors in figures that could have serious consequences? Knowing that probably makes it easier to judge on this one, but either way, if the typos are serious, there are better ways of dealing with it than that.

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