correcting coworkers who use the wrong words, negative coworker is stressing me out, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Correcting coworkers when they use the wrong words

I’m seeking advice on how to correct coworkers when they misuse words. Whenever I notice this, it’s often in a group setting, and I don’t want to come across as obnoxious and rude if I speak up. Precision of language is very important to me, and I internally cringe whenever this happens. Plus, I think it can negatively impact a person’s professional persona, however subtly. Examples, from colleagues senior, peer-level, and junior to me, include: “treasury” instead of “tertiary,” “exuberant” instead of “exorbitant,” and “weary” instead of “wary” (this is a common one). One of the culprits is my direct report, but there are others beyond my purview. Help me help them!

It’s not really your place to address this except with your direct report. With her, you can certainly correct her language — although unless polished communication is a key part of her role, I’d let occasional mistakes go and just focus on the times when you hear the wrong word more than once (or if it’s a word she’s going to be using a lot in her work). Do it in private, and say something like: “A quick thing I noticed in that meeting earlier — you said ‘exuberant’ a couple of times when I think you meant ‘exorbitant.’ “Exuberant’ means enthusiastic or abundant, so I wanted to flag it in case you’d confused the two words.”

With everyone else though, it’s not your place to correct people’s language (assuming it’s not in a written document you’re reviewing). If you were talking one-on-one, you could possibly do an on-the-spot “wait, do you mean exorbitant?’ — but in a group setting, it’s not going to come across well.

2. My negative coworker is stressing me out

I have a colleague, a counterpart on my team, who went through a very tough time and ended up taking personal leave. In the lead up to this, I was supportive to her every day. She remains on leave; it has been almost a year now. We are still in contact and she texts me frequently, sometimes multiple times per day. More often than not, she texts to attack the team and talk about how much she hates the company. She rarely talks about anything else but I never prompt her — I deliberately avoid the topic with her. She has said she will never return to this job, but seemingly also will never detach. The company still thinks she is due to return.

She is clearly in difficulty and I want to be supportive. But in the meantime it is affecting me. The negativity makes it difficult for me to find positives in my job, and her constant complaining about somewhere she has spent months away from is starting to grate. I remain in my role and have picked up the slack while she’s been gone. I work in a high-pressure environment, and we are unable to hire cover while she will not commit to whether she will return or not. I have had quite a stressful year in part due to her absence, and now I am not sure how to communicate with her, my manager (who asks me about her frequently) and the HR team about this. What do you think?

At a minimum, tell her to stop texting you. You’re not required to listen to a constant stream of negativity, and I doubt you’re doing her any favors by enabling that anyway. Say something like this: “Hey, I know you’re having a hard time, but hearing so much negativity is really making my own job unpleasant. So I’m going to ask that we stop texting about this. Thanks for understanding.” If you’re not willing to be that direct, then blame it on work: “I’m swamped these days so can’t really text anymore.” And then in either case, stop responding if she ignores your request and continues anyway. If you don’t want to ignore her entirely, then wait for several days or a week to go by and then respond with something vague and unsatisfying like “sorry, just seeing this now.”

But I’d also strongly consider letting your boss know that your coworker has told you she doesn’t plan to ever return. You’re picking up a great deal of slack and stress while they wait to see if she’ll come back, and it’s not reasonable for your coworker to expect that you won’t share something that so significantly affects you.

3. Secretary keeps taking my bottled water

I am the supervisor of a team of 25 remote staff. In the office working beside me, I have a colleague who is also a supervisor, an assistant director, and a director. We recently added a secretary who works under the director (let’s call the new secretary Gigi).

Because supervising a remote team is so difficult, the office team each contribute something to make the office more welcoming in order to encourage staff to visit us. The other supervisor supplies coffee/creamer, our AD brings in snacks, and I myself supply bottles of water. We have found that this helps us connect with our team. During coaching sessions, I like to start the meeting by offering a bottle of water, or a hot drink when it’s cold out, and this has proven to be a great way to get staff to open up. The other supervisor, the AD, and I pay for these items out of pocket.

Recently I discovered that Gigi will tiptoe into our office and take a water bottle every day, sometimes two in one day. I was buying a pack of water bottles every two weeks; with her new habits, I am now buying water almost every week. She alone is doubling my costs. I brought it to the attention of our director, who sent an email to the four of us reminding everyone that the set-up is mostly for our 60ish staff who work outside of the main office.

This did not change Gigi’s behavior at all. The big problem is that she is not a staff member on my team, she works directly under the director, so I can’t pull her in and simply coach her. I also don’t want to start inter-departmental tensions. But I’d also like to address that I pay for the waters out of my own paycheck for my team, not for her. How can I put this to her so that it doesn’t snowball into a huge problem?

You don’t need to be her manager to ask her to stop taking your water. Just be direct and matter-of-fact: “Hey Gigi, sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I buy these water bottles with my own money for our remote staff to make them more comfortable when they’re here. It’s okay to take one in a rare situation, but otherwise please don’t take them for yourself. Thanks!” (If you think she’ll misunderstand “in a rare situation” to mean “several times a week,” then just take that part out.) No reasonable person is going to hold this against you once you explain.

Also, your director mishandled this — she shouldn’t send an email to everyone for something that really only needs to be said for one person. But again, it doesn’t need to come from her anyway; it’s completely fine and normal for you to address it yourself.

4. Can I praise my boss without seeming condescending?

I’m having some difficulty turning a situation over in my head, and thought I’d see if you had any thoughts. It’s basically around praising your manager, without seeming like you’re condescending or sucking up.

I’m relatively new to my organization (and the workforce for that matter), and I have a really new manager. I’ve been there nine months, he’s been there two and a half in his first management position. At my six-month review, my manager asked if I had any feedback for him, both in a general sense and in the sense that he was new to our team and our part of the organization. I told him that he sometimes had the tendency to jump to an emotional reaction before getting all the facts, and that that could be a little stressful (citing an example). He agreed that he wore his heart on his sleeve and promised to do better.

He definitely has. We’ve just had a stressful week, but he’s been steady as a rock, making sure to find out from our leadership team exactly what was required of us, negotiating potential delays and weekend work, dealing with unexpected errors and setbacks.

I really want to thank him for being so solid, but I don’t want to give the impression that I expected him to be a mess or that I think it’s down to my advice or anything like that. It was his first big release, he did well, and I feel like I ought to acknowledge that. On the other hand, I know his manager is generous with praise, and maybe it’d be more appropriate and come from a better place for her to pass that on. What do you think?

I think the key to avoid seeming patronizing here is to talk about it in terms of the impact on you. So you could say something like, “Hey, that was an awfully stressful week, and I really appreciated how you brought order to what could have been chaos and kept everything moving along steadily. It made the week a lot better than it could have gone.”

You could also mention to him in a bigger-picture way that you appreciate that he gave you a chance to give him feedback and actually used your input. For example: “I really appreciate that you asked me for feedback recently, and I wanted to mention that I don’t have the same concerns anymore. I had said it could be a bit stressful when you jumped to an emotional reaction before getting all the facts, and I don’t think it’s happened since we talked — so thank you for hearing me out.”

5. Should I alert rejected candidates that we have another opening they’d be good for?

About three or so months ago, we were hiring for a full-time curriculum development specialist position and we had three candidates who we absolutely LOVED and believed would be a huge benefit to our organization (lucky problem to have!). Of course, it was with much regret we had to let two candidates know we selected someone else.

We now have the opportunity to open up a second full-time curriculum development specialist position. Would it be okay, and appropriate, to reach out to the two candidates we liked to inform them of this opportunity? And would it be okay to encourage them to apply if they’re interested? We of course would still post the job ad, interview, and select candidates as we normally would. Any insight you can give on whether this is okay (and a good idea), or not, would be greatly appreciated!

Yes, absolutely! It’s very normal to do, and candidates generally appreciate it. They may not still be available, but if they were strong enough that you would have happily hired them, it makes a lot of sense to alert them to the new opening now.

The one caution I’d give you is to lower the bar to entry for them. You already have their application materials from last time, so there’s no need to ask them to submit new cover letters and resumes. Just ask them if they’d like to be considered again, and if so, put them into your candidate pool. And if your process includes multiple in-person interviews, you should consider letting them skip the first stages since they’ve already gone through your process recently.

{ 715 comments… read them below }

  1. sacados*

    OP #5 — Please do!! That situation is basically how I got my previous job.
    I had applied for an in-house translation/interpreting position at this company, but was passed over because they decided to go with someone with more practical interpretation experience (fair enough).
    Fast forward a few months later and they were looking to hire in that department again. They called me back up, asked if I was still looking/interested, and eventually I was hired.
    And anyone who would be snitty about getting rejected the first time around is probably not a personality you want on your team anyway.

    1. dragonzflame*

      Yeah, I got a job like this too. It was actually a better one than the one I’d originally interviewed for :-) They just got me to do another interview with my manager-to-be and her boss, and called me half an hour after the interview to offer me the job.

    2. First Time Caller*

      This was sort of my case, as well. The group came back to me a few months later to ask if I would consider their new position. Even though I had already accepted another job, it was extremely flattering to hear this. I mean, half the reason to be gracious when hearing that you’ve haven’t been hired is hoping they’ll keep you in mind if their situation changes, isn’t it? (The other half is just plain good manners.)

    3. Murphy*

      The person who replaced me at my old job got it this way as well. I left shortly after someone else had gotten promoted (leaving a vacant spot). They didn’t even post the job again. They just called someone they liked and asked if she was still available.

      1. Michelle*

        We are currently doing this now! We had a spot, filled it, a new spot became available, we called the other candidate, asked if she was still available and interested. I sent her for pre-employment drug screening yesterday and submitted here info for a background check. If all results come back ok, she will start next week.

    4. Lance*

      That last point’s a key one. It’s just in the nature of hiring that there have to be choices made, and just because someone wasn’t ultimately selected doesn’t make them a bad candidate (at least, not on its own).

      1. Ama*

        I just hired someone this way a few months ago — she originally applied for a job in a different department and they liked her a lot but another candidate had more direct experience in the software that makes up 90% of that department’s duties. But they recognized that her skillset was very much in line with what I was looking for, and passed her resume along to me. I could not be happier with how she’s worked out so far.

    5. Alli525*

      This happened to my coworker – we had both initially applied for the same job, I had more direct experience so I got the job, but they loved her so much that they hired her for a different role that she is great at, and I adore having her as a coworker so I’m glad they brought her back.

    6. Kat Em*

      I also got a job this way! I was a wee bit underqualified on paper, and wasn’t too surprised when they went with someone with a relevant degree over me for the original job. Two months later I got a call and found out they were expanding and had several openings nearly identical to the job they’d posted earlier.

      I was the ONLY person they hired for the new location without a degree, so I must have made a good impression. Starting with a whole new staff from scratch was a new and stressful experience, but also incredibly educational. I definitely appreciated their reaching out after a rejection.

    7. Megan*

      This is how I got my first full time job in my field! Came down to me and one other candidate, she was hired, they had another opening 8 months later, called me and said “when can you start?” Great learning experience and I was there for four years.

    8. LBK*

      Same, this is how I got my current job (and ironically the person they chose over me originally quit 3 months after I started, whereas I’m still here almost 3 years later).

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’ve hired several really good people who’d previously applied for another position. (We mean it when we ask if we can keep their application on file!) Thus far, no one has refused to apply because they were rejected the first time, though obviously, some people have found other jobs in which they’re happy.

    10. Ornery PR*

      This is also how I got my current job. The person they hired the first time around didn’t last, and an entire year later they reached out and gave me an opportunity to come in again.

      Definitely contact those you know would be a good fit. I think there’s a misconception that hiring needs to be an overly strict or formal process simply because there are rules around discrimination. But business practices that are too formal don’t lead to the best hiring, in my experience. Alison’s advice is spot on!

  2. Turtle Candle*

    For #1, seconding letting it go in the vast majority of cases. I say that as a writer who also considers words to be important, but honestly, for most people it’s just not that big a deal—so I only mention it if I’m helping someone with a presentation or it’s in a written document that I’m reviewing, never if it’s just in conversation. In my experience, correcting people like this rarely does anything but annoy everyone involved. (Sometimes, if you have an excellent rapport and a particular single mistake is repeated, a quick “hey, did you mean X?” can work, but that’s the exception.)

    If it helps, just think of it as one of those mildly irritating but harmless quirks that everyone has, like having a weird laugh or something. (In fact, being The Word Corrector can be perceived as an irritating quirk too, which is why I do my best not to!)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It struck me in the original question that OP was able to figure out what was meant. In that case, there’s no need to draw attention to it.

    1. Safetykats*

      I’m having flashbacks of a very important meeting I attended a few years ago, that was the introduction to a weeks-long assessment of the company by an external government regulator. The company president (several times) emphasized that the regulators were ensured “unferretted” access to any and all information they requested.

      I was stunned. I still don’t know whether he never did any dry run of the presentation, or whether his direct staff were too intimidated to correct him, or whether direct staff hated him and wanted him to look like an idiot. This was a huge project by a division of a big, multinational company.

      Obviously it wasn’t remotely possible to correct his error in the meeting. After the meeting I went back to my staff and told them that anyone who supplied the regulator with a ferret, or even a small weasel or an ermine, would be in serious trouble.

      1. Boy oh boy*

        I love this. I would have been very tempted to use the word ‘ferret’ as much as possible around him, “let’s ferret out the cause!”, “I’ll get Jill to ferret out those files”, “this weekend I’m pet sitting my sister’s ferrets!”

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Right, because the access was unferreted so if you provided a ferret you were directly disobeying.

        But if you were determined to outfox the boss, you probably could…

      3. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

        Wow. That’s so bad that my brain actually read it as the word I assume he meant to use (unfettered) and I had to re-read it to find what I missed. Unferretted access? I’ll have to remember that one.

    2. Anion*

      Ditto. I work very hard not to correct word usage, heh; I still do it occasionally but only when I think it’s genuinely necessary and helpful, and I always add some sort of comment about how it’s a common mistake, or that I’m not trying to be smarmy, or whatever.

      But it’s very difficult for my little writer’s brain not to immediately leap on every incorrect word or eggcorn or whatever else and scream, “No! It’s ‘biased,’ not ‘bias!’ They’re not called ‘draws,’ they’re ‘drawers!’ You do not ‘tow the line,’ you ‘toe’ it! BLAH!”

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        My husband always pronounces “egregious” as “egg-gregarious”. Drives me batty but I don’t know how to correct him. I also had a colleague who said “could of” etc all the time. But unless I have the standing or a reason to correct them I just inwardly cringe and ignore it as best I can.

        After all I grew up certain that the right spelling was dilemNa, so I make mistakes too. (Though I’m absolutely positive I’m living in a parallel universe a la the Mandela effect. Only half joking!)

        1. Shrug*

          I have an acquaintance that regularly corrects word usage and pronunciation. 50% of the time she is totally wrong, but super confident and thinks she is doing people favors. She looks like an ass when she does it.
          Most people just look at her and continue with what they were saying. There are a few words that she regularly mispronounces and I’ve been so tempted to correct her, but I don’t.
          Unless I genuinely don’t understand what the person means, then I don’t bother.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I have a friend whose wrong word usage used to drive me crackers. Highlights include defraggling the computer.

            1. JulieBulie*

              Yeah, I’ve been saying “defraggle the hard disk” for years… though it occurs to me now that a lot of people have no idea what a Fraggle is.

          1. Specialk9*

            Defraggling, that’s hysterical. I’m imagining tiny little Muppets stampeding around inside your hard drive.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              Yeah, this person distinctly pronounced the “of”. She also wrote it that way, but it was just in social messages so I ignored it.

          1. No Parking or Waiting*

            I can tell when some says, “I would never of done that.”
            Particularly my one coworker, because her actual words were: “Him and her had went to get them things. I would never of got none of them.”
            I really wanted to correct her and say, “You mean, I would never of got none HAVE them.”
            Because I don’t like her.

        3. nnn*

          I grew up certain it was dilemNa too! I have a clear memory of a moment in Grade 5 when I “learned” (from a book I was reading, not from being taught by a teacher) that “dilemNa” was spelled with an N, and it wasn’t until well into adulthood when I realized it wasn’t.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            When my oldest child was little, I REFUSED to allow Junie B. Jones books in my house for this reason. They’re full of incorrect grammar and misspelled/misprounced words on purpose and as a confirmed Word Nerd, it just seems like a terrible idea to expose beginning readers to that.

            1. GG Two shoes*

              Oh my god, yes. I used to tutor reading 3rd graders and the whole time I’m thinking, “They shouldn’t be reading this book! It’s all wrong!”

            2. Happy Lurker*

              Plus Junie B’s actions are not really what you want your kids to mimic. I couldn’t stand her…but after 70 of the Magic Tree House and I sometimes needed a break.

        4. Batshua*

          My dad says “ephisode”. It drives me BONKERS. Sometimes I correct him. Every so often he pronounces it correctly. English is my mother’s second language, so I had to teach her the difference between “ankle” and “uncle”. At least both of my folks are good-humored about my pedantic streak.

          Then again, I am dead sure it is “pronounciation”, not “pronunciation”. I know it’s wrong, but it makes more sense to me, which is why it’s so hard to use the correct word.

          1. Jesca*

            I say “probly”. Everyone in this region says “probly”. I can always tell someone is where I am from haha! And for whatever reason, I can not code switch this out!

            1. GG Two shoes*

              I have four words I say incorrectly and for whatever reason, I cannot correct myself. Library (liberry), quirk (cork), bagel (BAGel), and always (oys). My lovely family and friends are happy to point this out to me repeatedly. Luckily, it’s a running joke now- I got over my embarrassment.

              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                My sister-in-law says BAGel too! She kept trying to insist that everyone pronounced it that way where she was from (Buffalo, NY) and that her mom said it that way too, but she doesn’t– she says bay-gel.

                1. Inspector Spacetime*

                  I say this as well. I’m from MN but lived in upstate NY as a kid, so maybe that’s where it comes from?

                2. GG Two shoes*

                  Truly, it was so so hard for me to hear the difference. The first conversation went something like,
                  “why do you say BAGel? it’s BAYgel.”
                  “yes, that’s what I said.”
                  “No you said, ‘bagel’. It’s Baygel.”
                  “yep, we are both saying bagel.”
                  ad. nausem.
                  PS I’m from Iowa, born and bred, so I don’t have any idea where I picked this up.

            2. Kelly L.*

              “Probably” has sort of a glottal stop in it when I say it, but still only one B. It’s kind of like pro-uh-bly.

            3. RabbitRabbit*

              I say “offen” – for whatever reason, pronouncing the T in “often” just sounds wrong, but it’s weird when I hear others saying it.

            4. ClownBaby*

              At least they put a “b” in there! I know so many people who say “prolly”. I just want to shout ENUNCIATE!!!!

            1. Specialk9*

              Because of the -ge vs -dge rule in English, one of the most consistent internal structures in our inconsistent language. The vowel before -ge is long, eg rage. The vowel before -dge is short, so adding a d to rage (radge) would turn the a from ay to aaah. So if one spelled fridge without a d, it would be said fryj.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  It took me literally years to break myself of that habit, and I still sometimes slip. Can we just all agree to put the damn e back in where it belongs? If we all start doing it at once nobody can correct all of us…

            2. Anion*

              Because otherwise it’s spelled “frig,” which is probably not a word you want to use in everyday conversation.

              (Seriously, I think that’s at least part of the reason we started adding the d. I’ve read old books where they used “frig,” so I always assumed the addition of the d was fairly new (like in the last fifty-sixty years or so.)

              1. Elizabeth H.*

                I see people use it all the time, my mom uses it sometimes, etc. (my mom also spells “veggies” as “veges” which nags at me a tiny bit every time I see it but have never said anything to her) – it seems super normal (though less common) to me as an alternative abbreviation. The verb “frig” is really uncommon and they seem so semantically different to me that that’s never even occurred to me before!
                Side note that I feel like when people say “frigging” or “friggin'” as an epithet of frustration, it’s a phonetic spelling of “freaking” which is itself a substitute epithet.

              2. Wendy Darling*

                My mom spells it like that when she texts and it knocks me for a loop every. Single. Time. But I’m actually incredibly dedicated to NOT word/grammar peeving, so I haven’t said anything.

                My all-time horrible-est coworker was also a “precise language is very important” person (that phrase now makes all my hair stand up). She got upset because I used a word in a way she did not approve of — I wasn’t even wrong, just very casual — and started picking at me about it. When I told her I did not care, she yelled “This is why you couldn’t finish your PhD!” in front of a roomful of coworkers.

                I was so angry I just got up and walked out and took an early lunch.

                (Also I quit my PhD voluntarily because my advisor was a dbag and the job prospects for PhDs in my field are a dumpster fire, not because I said “correlated” in casual conversation when I wasn’t talking about something I’d statistically tested.)

          2. AKchic*

            My 2nd ex-husband says “supposedly” just like he spells it: “saposivly”. I have never seen him spell it correctly, even when it is spelled properly RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIS FACE. I want to tattoo it on his arm. He is terrible at spelling in general, but “supposedly” bothers me when he does it.

            My grandma has a few gems. She says “vare-ly” instead of “barely”. I never did understand why, and to this day I can’t figure it out.

            Some people say words wrong because they have read them their entire lives but never actually heard them spoken out loud. That’s always been my problem. My family isn’t well-educated and their vocabulary is pretty much 8th-9th grade standard. Anything more than 2 syllables confuses them unless you’re discussing guns or trucks. I’m the one with the huge vocabulary, but sometimes I don’t pronounce the words right because I’ve only ever read them (or because I’m missing teeth and my mouth hasn’t adjusted yet. Thanks genetics!).

            1. Megpie71*

              Would your grandma be of Irish extraction, by any chance?

              I ask because there’s an interesting little transliteration convention for Irish Gaelic, where the letter combination “bh” (as in “Aoibhell”) is pronounced “v” (“Eevall”). So possibly grandma comes by it from Gaelic-speaking ancestors?

        5. CMF*

          my husband constantly adds an L to the end of “idea.”

          “Do you have any ideals about what you want for Christmas?”
          “Here’s an ideal! Let’s go to the movies!”
          “Do you think the baby has any ideal how much we love her?”

          Ideal is a word but it is not the word he means in any of those sentences! It is my least favorite thing about him.

          1. Judy (since 2010)*

            I may have worked with him. Does he also say “bub” instead of “bulb”? Another coworker called it conservation of Ls.

            “A light bub went on over my head when I got an ideal”

          2. MashaKasha*

            One of the first Americans I talked to (back in the Old Country – she was a missionary) told me that she had “no ideaR” about something. I came to the US absolutely positive that “ideaR” is the correct way to say it. I have no idea (lol) where she was from, and why she was saying it like that.

            1. No Parking or Waiting*

              New Yawk. Freaked me out when I heard Ricky Schroeder on Silver Spoons say he had an idear.

            2. Breda*

              Or Maine! Mainers add Rs to the ends of all sorts of random words. My soccer coach (who is still a family friend) has always called me “Breeder,” for example. The thing is, this is DIALECT, not an error. The aforementioned soccer coach is an extremely smart and successful lawyer – he knows how it’s spelled, that’s just not the way the word comes out of his mouth. Though I can easily see how it’d be confusing for you, hah!

              1. MashaKasha*

                Oh, I figured it was a dialect. Just didn’t know which one! Definitely not one of the area I’ve moved to. People here (Northeast OH, almost Midwest, but not quite) would’ve found “idear” confusing.

                “Breeder”, OMG

                1. Anon for This*

                  There’s actually a rule! I mean, it’s not a grammatical rule, but there’s a pattern. They make the distinction in the the UK, too. If the word ends with a vowel like “idea” and the next word starts with a vowel, there’s an R at the end (the idear is). If the next word starts with a consonant it doesn’t have the extra R (the idea speaks for itself).

            3. Mephyle*

              That’s the intrusive R, a feature that’s packaged together with the non-rhotic R (the R in the middle of words that isn’t pronounced – it’s a feature of most (but not all) British regional accents. And, as several people have mentioned, it’s part of a very few regional American accents.
              I remember my first encounter in real life with a British person, my Grade 7 science teacher. This was before the days of internet, nor did we have British shows on TV back then, nor did I commonly go to the movies, so I really had had almost no exposure to that accent. We weren’t much fazed by his non-rhotic dropped R’s but we never stopped finding it weird that if he ever mentioned his wife “Linda”, she was called what sounded to us like “Linder.”

              1. Mephyle*

                Meant to italicize only “isn’t” – please read the rest of the post as though it weren’t italicized.

              2. Breda*

                Yeah, I have always kind of enjoyed how it sounds like the Rs were removed from the words that had them and randomly sprinkled through the rest of the sentence. :P

            4. Science!*

              That’s me (not the missionary but adding the r to idea). I CAN NOT say Idea, it needs the R! It just sounds wrong to me otherwise. I’ve tried to say it the right way because my husband does tease me about it, but I’ve given up.

              Born and raised north of Boston! At least I currently live in Maine so it’s less noticeable.

            5. Sarah in Boston*

              I both grew up and still live just outside Boston and have always referred to that as the Conservation of Rs – you may neither create nor destroy them, only move them around. Hence we have dater (data), idear (idea), and paster (pasta) but we also have beah (beer), pahk (park), and the always classic Hahvahd (Harvard). This area also tends to leave out middle ts. I say offen (often) and pichure (picture).

            6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              I think this can also be a down home country type thing. My Midwestern great uncles say “idear” but it’s kind of a dying thing.

            7. SignalLost*

              I’d say mod-Atlantic. My dad’s family says idear, and also warsh. Neither of those make me as crazy as his use of the word “ironical” where every other person on the planet says “ironic”.

          3. Bagpuss*

            CMF – do other members of your husband’s family say it that way? (Or, if he is English, does he come from Bristol?)
            Bristolians do this with lots of words ending in ‘a’ (there is an old joke about the person who named their daughters Eva and Ida (which comes out as Evil and Idle, in a Bristolian accent…)

            1. CMF*

              we live outside of Philadelphia, his parents grew up in the same neighborhood here, but only his dad also says it like that. None of his extended family says it, nor my brother-in-law (unless he’s making fun of my husband and father-in-law). I am sure he picked it up from his dad, but I don’t know how it originally got into his dad’s head. They’re Italian, but several generations here so I don’t think it’s like an inherited quirk from relatives with a different accent than us or something.

          4. NaoNao*

            Hee! The funny part is that in a way, it *almost* works if you squint. Like “My *ideal* gift is…” “Here’s an ideal [plan], let’s go..”

            My pet peeve is “coolio”. It’s not…wrong per se, but it makes my skin crawl when I hear it.

            1. CMF*

              I know, when I’ve tried to correct him, he gets annoyed because I’m apparently not articulate enough to explain why “idea” and “ideal” are similar words but not synonyms in the manner he is using them. I can’t tell exactly if he’s mispronouncing or just using the wrong word. And it’s one of those stupid things that’s probably not worth it to correct constantly.

          5. Annony for this*

            I had a friend who had a habit of saying “evidentually”. Drove me batty for months. We finally had a conversation about it. Did you mean evidently or eventually? They laughed after I explained it, but could not break the habit.

          6. annejumps*

            There seems to be a Midwestern(?) speech quirk that adds an L to “both,” thusly: “bolth.”
            Why do people do this?

        6. Anion*

          My husband calls Advil “ibuprofren,” rather than “ibuprofen.” It makes my spine twitch every time, but I pick my battles. :-) (I did get him to stop saying “irregardless,” so I figure that’s got to be enough for at least a few years.)

        7. JulieBulie*

          I thought it was “dilemNa” too, and I don’t know why.

          Also “renumeration.” (Because “enumeration,” I guess.) I even “corrected” “remuneration” in someone else’s document, and no one challenged me, because I was the expert.

        8. NotAnotherManager!*

          I worked with someone that pronounced “frustrated” FUSS-trated, and it drove me absolutely bonkers. I try very hard not to correct people’s grammar, pronunciation, or word usage unless there’s a clarity issue, which I will usually blame on my (legitimate) mild hearing loss. I am a total pedant on ALL of those things, but I have yet to run into a situation where it was useful to share my corrections outside my own head unless I was being asked to proofread something or keep someone from embarrassing themselves in a presentation or something.

          One of my kids is going through a phase where they will correct EVERYTHING – “It’s 8:00, time for bed!” “It is NOT, it’s only 7:58!” Sigh. Genetics.

          1. Lissa*

            Oh you work with my boyfriend? He does that with “frustrated”, and I have pointed it out though generally he says the word when he’s, well, frustrated! So it could turn into an argument if I pushed it, LOL.

        9. Shoe Ruiner*

          I say “could of” though I know it’s “could have” and I write it correctly. It’s the dialect where I live.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s interesting that you include spelling, because I regularly notice “tow the line” “reign in” and so on. And I twitch, here at my keyboard. BUT, as a reader of internet comment threads, I know that nothing good has ever come of correcting those–everyone knows what was meant, and the occasional “Hey, it’s actually ‘toe the line’ and here’s the etymology :)” helper is just annoying, derailing and ignoring the actual point of the comment. (Which was not the etymology of ‘toe the line.’)

        If it’s pointed out more snarkily, I’d lay 2:1 odds the correction also has an unintended grammatical or spelling mistake, and down the thread goes.

        1. Jesca*

          Haha. This is funny and so true. In the beginning of time of internet chat boards, this was such A Thing to correct grammar and spelling. Once things like facebook exploded, it became clear to all how much you, the corrector, will be attacked for it haha that it is just not really done anymore. What was once an arrogant troll, is now considered crude and crass. To me, that’s sign enough on how people en mass hate spelling and grammar corrections.

          1. Sue No-Name*

            It’s creeping into publications too which seems more problematic but I don’t know what a solution to that is…style guides for websites seem less important than quick posting on a hot topic. I know some huge standard-bearers are still good, but pretty much everyone below big time international journalism outlets seem to be OK with errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar. One that really bugs me is the apparent belief among many (otherwise professional and meticulous) websites that “its” and “it’s” are approximately interchangeable.

            1. Jesca*

              LOL no I don’t mean in actual published paper in articles. I mean in comment sections. Comment sections are a new thing people participate en mass in an informal setting. There, people are discussing things in real time, and people don’t want the grammar and spelling police popping up to derail the flow.

            2. Anion*

              Oh, UGH. The apostrophes used as plurals on every word drive me CRAZY.

              But yeah, generally when I see stuff like that in comments I let it go. Nobody likes the Grammar Police. (Again, unless there’s a real reason for it, or the person seems receptive or I know them fairly well or whatever. And I always try to downplay it as much as possible and make clear that I’m not trying to insult them. I probably do that maybe once or twice a year, if that.)

          2. JeanB in NC*

            Someone online once called me a “Grandma Notsee” – it took me forever to figure out what they were calling me.

        2. Birch*

          I don’t mind at all when people use these kind of incorrect things in speech–it’s just dialect differences and a lot of the time you can’t tell very clearly that they said the wrong thing. It’s the written mistakes that drive me totally batty. Faze/phase, palate/palette/pallet, and “sub x for y” when they mean “sub y for x” are probably the worst. I think they bother me because they aren’t actually spelling mistakes, they’re logic mistakes or words and phrases that you only differentiate when in writing, which tells me that the mistake maker has either not actually thought through what they’re writing, or they’ve never actually seen the correct spelling in writing (in context, where the meaning-spelling match would be obvious), which means they don’t read enough.

          As for dialect things, my dad says “marshmellow” and “robut” and “warshing machine” and I find it kind of charming! The only mispronunciation that really bothers me is “nuCUlar.” And that’s probably the only one I’d correct.

          1. EVCats*

            Is he from Missouri!? Most of my family says all of these things and more (think winder for window and farty for fourty). I had to excise the extra “R”s when I went away to college.

            1. Lindsay J*

              I was going to guess NJ/Pennsylvania/Ohio for the dialect.

              I definitely say marshmellow and have family that say warshing machine.

              I had to correct myself on nuclear after people piled on W. for pronouncing it incorrectly.

            2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              Ha, mine too! Also warsh, squarsh, etc. Grandma used to say sodee instead of soda but now she says coke.

          2. Turkletina*

            I think there’s legitimate dialect variation in the meaning “sub x for y”. If I ask a server to “substitute fruit for potatoes”, I mean I want fruit and not potatoes. I’ve heard it mean the opposite enough times that I don’t think it’s an error anymore.

            1. Lindsay J*

              I see the same for

              “X, nevermind Y”.

              I was always taught that X was the lesser/easier thing, and Y was the more intense/difficult thing.

              So, “She can’t even crawl yet, nevermind walk”. “I’ve never left the state, nevermind the country.” But a lot of people seem to use it the opposite way so I barely notice which way it is used anymore.

        3. Mephyle*

          There’s a word for these; they’re called ‘eggcorns’. The definition is: “In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as ‘old-timers’ disease’ for Alzheimer’s disease.”
          The name ‘eggcorn’ comes from a case where a woman thought that ‘eggcorns’ was the word that is known to the rest of the world as ‘acorns’.

        4. teclatrans*

          When I was a fledgling legal secretary, I corrected things like thid in an attorney’s correspendence that I was expected to finalize. We had a knock-down, drag-out argument over “taking a new tact,” and I never did convince him. (He did, however, birth and nurse a grudge that I looked down in him and thought he was inferior. It’s baffling, because I was a mere high-school graduate.) I like to think that nowadays I would know to just let it go after the first pushback.

          1. Cube Ninja*

            Having worked closely with many attorneys for the better part of a decade, I can tell you my experience is they are often *TERRIBLE* writers.

          2. The Rat-Catcher*

            I cannot convince a bunch of my staff about “all intensive purposes.” I’ve long since given up.

          3. TardyTardis*

            Well, I’m a gauntlet vs. gantlet fanatic–a gauntlet is a heavy glove that will hurt you if someone hits you with it, and a gantlet is the way the Iroquois used to amuse themselves on dull Sunday afternoons. But I have given up worrying about it (mostly) after seeing the History Channel misuse it.

        5. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

          I don’t correct people, but I do correct bad corrections. Like when someone says “well, actually, the original version of ‘blood is thicker than water’ was ‘the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb’”, when that’s BS (it was an extension thought up by some dude to play on the original phrase “blood is thicker than water”). In my experience, the people who “correct” people wrongly like this tend to do it in a super condescending way. I hate seeing people being condescended to, especially when they’re not wrong.

      3. Kimship*

        The bias/biased thing drives me batty. I see it so often online, and almost always from someone who doesn’t really understand how bias works.

      4. The Rat-Catcher*

        I don’t usually correct but it seems like everyone I know says “FASFA” when referring to the college aid application and it makes me twitch a little bit.

    3. Tin Cormorant*

      After being paid to nitpick other people’s grammar for over 5 years, it was a habit I had a really hard time breaking. I cringe a lot internally when text chatting with people. Thankfully I’ve been away from that job for a few years now, and I’m no longer “the grammar police” around others. I really had to put a lot of effort into just letting things go. You ask me to proofread something though? I’m all over that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Young people don’t use periods in their texts.

        I read that, looked back at my texts from my children, and it was true! So I asked them, and they agreed that it just seemed too abrupt, a rude-ish ‘so that’s DONE’ in the conversation.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Adding that while my texts feel incomplete without the period, I had never noticed this consistent trait in theirs until it was pointed out in a different context.

          1. Jesca*

            I am entering my mid-thirties, and I do not add periods. It does seem abrupt! And kind of arbitrary to go All The Way out of my way to hit that key! So funny, as I think people just see text as informal.

            1. No Parking or Waiting*

              I was way too excited when I discovered I can hit the space button twice while texting and puts in a period and capitalizes the next letter.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                You can? Thanks :)

                (I always use a full stop in messages… why wouldn’t you? It’s the end of a sentence!)

                (Or alternative punctuation!)

            2. Kirsten*

              Yes! Ending a text in a period can seem harsh. It’s like when your friend is mad at you, but instead of yelling, they’re icy and polite. Like anything, though, it depends on context.

        2. Dankar*

          Yes! A coworker told me that she thought I was angry at her for a good week when we first started texting. Apparently proper grammar reads as brusque and annoyed. Now I go back and remove periods after I’ve written a long text.

          My partner had a tendency to pronounce “volume” as “valume.” I put up with it for a few years until he said it at a party and I snapped, “Everyone thinks you’re talking about Valium–stop it!” Until that moment, he thought he was pronouncing it the same way everyone else did, and couldn’t hear how wrong he was.

          1. teclatrans*

            But…but…what do you use instead, in a long text? I can see not using a period for “nope” or “Home in 5 minutes,” but what happens if you want to say: “Line at store was super-long, it took an hour. Home in 5 minutes.” Do you just use all commas? Use the first period but leave the second one off? (*shudder*) Do you have to make a separate text for each sentence?

            Now I am wondering if my younger text recipients think I am being snippy with them. *fret*

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              Line at store was super-long, it took an hour. Home in 5 minutes
              Line at store was super-long, it took an hour – Home in 5 minutes
              Line at store was super-long, it took an hour . . . Home in 5 minutes

              I am a very heavy user of dashes and ellipses in casual correspondence but that’s how I’d do it. Also, to my mind the second two variations both work fine and don’t sound snippy or formal or stiff with a period at the end, because the omission of the interior period casual-ifies the tone a bit. I DO think that the first sentence would sound stiff/formal with a period on the end as well as in the middle.

            2. Kirsten*

              Haha! Well, I think sometimes you need SOMETHING to show that the message is friendly. Emojis are our friends. :)

            3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              You could start adopting the thing I’ve seen all over Facebook, which is using multiple commas,,,,,, between every phrase,,,,,, for no obvious reason,,,,,,

          2. Geillis D*

            My kids actually believe “please unload the dishwasher.” = me yelling at them, while “please unload the dishwasher :-)” is a socially acceptable form of textspeech.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously, so much this. OP#1, I couldn’t tell if you were joking with the reference to the movie version of The Giver (in which precision of language is not a virtue, but a method of controlling and subjugating people’s emotions).

      Here’s a non-comprehensive list of when you shouldn’t correct folks: Ever (it’s super rude), unless the mistake would cause tangible harm, embarrass the speaker, or offend the client. Please don’t correct people’s word choice unless it’s absolutely necessary.

      You also likely know this, but being the word police will probably use up goodwill with your coworkers and even possibly with your direct report. Given that we all have limited amounts of goodwill and political capital to draw upon, do you want to waste yours in this way?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          “Precision of language.” It only appears in the movie adaptation of the book, but it’s used frequently in the movie by Katie Holmes’ character to restrict emotive communication.

          1. Observer*

            Interesting. But that’s not the only place that phrase is used – I’ve seen and heard it before, and I’ve never seen the movie.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Oh, to be sure it’s used elsewhere! It’s just the specific context OP mentioned is similar to the movie. But of course the concept and phrase exist independently of a (relatively poor) movie-adaptation of a dystopian YA novel!

          2. Bookworm*

            I’ve never seen the movie but I remember that quote from the book, so it’s used at least once in that context. (After the protagonist says he loves his mother.)

            1. Bookworm*

              Ack, I see someone else mentioned that before me. Didn’t mean to harp on it.

              Regardless, I completely agree with your point of using up goodwill. You also run the risk that people will become increasingly sensitive to your small mistakes – that’s not uncommon if someone makes a habit of correcting people.

          3. Batshua*

            No, it’s totally in the book, too. When Asher wants a smack, for example, or when Jonas asks his parents about love. Also the reference to starvation and how “nobody here has ever been starving”.

      1. Lehigh*

        I totally disagree with “ever.” If you’re close to someone and respect their intellectual capacity, by all means correct them so that they can be correct in the future. But don’t extend that courtesy to your coworkers. Most people do take offense and it’s no use making yourself unpopular to try to help someone who doesn’t want it.

        1. Karo*

          Agreed. The most I’ll do with coworkers is try to model the correct usage of the word (e.g. “let’s go get esssspresso”) but with my family, I’ll correct them straight up. It’s doing them a disservice not to, and I’d rather them feel like an idiot with me and think I’m being overly precise than have them experience that interaction with, say, a co-worker.

        2. Karo*

          It looks like the site ate my reply…but I’m with you. I’ll correct my family because I don’t want them to be in a position like the OP is describing where it’s happening at work – and I’d be incredibly upset if I found out that I had been doing something wrong and my family both knew and ignored it because they didn’t want to upset me.

        3. LBK*

          I used to feel like this but in recent years I’ve come to feel that the point of language is communication, so as long as you know what you mean and your audience can get your meaning, it’s not worth harping on the details, particularly in casual conversation. All words are arbitrary anyway.

          1. Kate 2*

            Yeah, but as more and more people misuse and mispronounce words, it is less and less likely that what they are saying will be understood. Thus preventing easy and accurate communication. This is why it’s so important to have a common language, so we know what someone means when they say “exuberant” and not to have to guess whether they meant “exorbitant” or something else altogether.

            1. LBK*

              If the misuse is that widespread, then the language changes and the new meaning becomes an accepted one. Prescriptivism feels so pointless with something that’s, again, completely arbitrary in the first place. If suddenly 90% of the world starts using the word “blue” to describe what used to be green and “green” to mean what used to be blue, what’s the point in insisting on the old meaning so long as everyone understands each other?

        4. New Window*

          That, or you could oh-so-subtly have this song played, say, at the start of a team meeting, or just “happen” to have found it on the interwebs and are delighted to share a cute little video with your dear coworkers on a break:

          (↑ “Word Crimes” by Weird Al Yankovic, which perhaps has already been posted elsewhere in this long, long thread.)

        5. Jaguar*

          Agreed. I correct friends and coworker’s incorrect word usage (how is using the wrong words “word choice”?) or pronunciation all the time and they correct mine. I don’t do it with everyone, but if I’m familiar with someone and built up a rapport and I respect their ability to not take things personally, why wouldn’t I tell them they’re unwittingly appearing foolish? One of the important functions of people you’re close with is that they will let you know when you’re making a mistake and being open with someone like that is an expression of the trust you’ve built up. The idea that some people get offended by corrections so nobody should be corrected is a bizarre form of censorship. Don’t treat people you know like strangers.

        6. Pommette!*

          Yeah – if you are in a relationship with someone where the corrections flow both ways (partners, friends) or are in a mentoring relationship with someone who will benefit from the corrections (parent-child), go ahead.

          The only situations I can imagine where such corrections would be appropriate in a work setting would arise when someone was new to a specific field, and unfamiliar with its linguistic specificities. In such a context, it would be fine for another person (supervisor or peer) to correct them. I am grateful to the people who have done so for me!

          But correcting a colleague’s usage otherwise? Nope!

          1. Someone else*

            Yes. This is the key to me. Are the people misusing words that are, for lack of better phrase, just plain English words they happen to be misusing? If so, I’d probably not correct them unless I needed the clarification to be sure I’d understood what they meant. But if they’re using industry-specific terms, which have particular meaning relevant to the business it is probably worth it to correct them. The OP’s mention of “precision of language” especially rang true to me in that sense. Fake example but if someone were discussing a database and kept saying “table” when they mean “column” or interchanging other objects, even if you could probably get the gist from context, it’s probably important that they stop doing that. If the person doesn’t know any better, they probably shouldn’t be in a position that requires discussion of said objects, and if they do know better but for some reason are just careless in their phrasing…well…I wouldn’t want to work with that person.

            Or a different example, as much as it bugs me, if I were a chef and had a coworker who kept saying “marscapone”, it’d annoy the crap out of me, but I probably wouldn’t correct that person. If the person said baguette when they meant brioche, I’d absolutely correct it because then you get into a position where the mis-speaker is misrepresenting the product.

        7. The Rat-Catcher*

          Agreed. I do correct my husband, but mostly because he’s going to graduate school where correct usage of large words is expected and his background in that area is lacking. I’ve told him that as well and he’s cool about it. But unless I had that really close type of rapport, I wouldn’t do it.

      2. Jesca*

        You are absolutely right on this score. And it is the exact reason why those who are “correctors/perfectionists” raise our hackles. They are not doing it to be helpful, but really just to tear people down. Grammar and word pronunciation are the most common ways, but certainly not the only!

        Sort of like the way people under your thread focused so heavily on what they perceived to be a mistake, that they completely derailed the conversation and your point to “right fight” a minor detail. – And trust me, I say this with warmth as a long time right-fighter myself!

        1. a1*

          Before I state my response, let me say I am not a “corrector” except with family where we can get into semantics ‘games’ (my mom was an English teacher, we were corrected all the time at home).

          OK, on with it. I disagree that correctors are trying to “tear us down”. Or at least that all of them are. Being corrected does not mean “Hey, I’m saying you’re stupid or ‘lesser’ in some way” it’s simply saying “that word doesn’t mean what you think it means”. Although a lot of people seem to take it as the former, even with the most neutral or kind tone, which is why I’m not a “corrector” unless it really does effect the job somehow, or if I really am confused (and then that’s not a correction, but a question/clarification “I’m confused….” ).

          All that said, I’d much rather be corrected that continue to use an incorrect word, or have an incorrect definition of a word, even if there is a certain tone to it. E.g. Even if someone said in an incredulous tone to me “What??? The prices were happy? Ha!” (in the exuberant/exorbitant example), I’d take it stride and say something like “Oh, did I use the wrong word? Ooops. No, they were too high. blah blah blah” and then not make that mistake again.

          1. Jesca*

            Well, I am glad that works for you. But the reality (not the ideal), is that the vast majority do see it that way, because it is used that way the vast majority of the time. It is sort of like how people use health now to fat shame. At the end of the day, it is done with one goal in mind – most of the time.

            But I do understand where you are coming from. I am a highly logical thinker who does not like to waste time on semantics or arbitrary thought. What a lot of people harp on or find offensive, I do not. It it is all a means to end for me. All part of the bigger picture. But the reality is, most people do not function that way.

            1. Beatrice*

              I think it depends on the context and delivery. For example, I have an online friend for whom English is a third language. He’s about 95% proficient with written English (we text chat), but roughly once a conversation will either use a word incorrectly or wonder about the correct word to use. I always correct him when we’re talking one-on-one, but he’s welcomed me to do so, and our discussions about English usage are always warm and friendly. However, we both participate in online discussions that sometimes include a passive aggressive troll who uses grammar and spelling corrections belittle people. I defend my friend in those discussions and would never correct him in that context.

            2. Kate 2*

              The idea that most people correcting others word usage is done to shame is YOUR opinion. It’s not a fact set in stone. In my opinion most of the time it is done because people love words and love their friends and hearing the wrong word used is like nails on a chalkboard. I’m not a corrector except with family and friends, because I know they appreciate it, as I do when they correct me. We always ask “Did you mean blank?” or “Is that how it’s pronounced? I read it but always wondered.” Then we usually go to the dictionary or Google and learn something interesting together.

              1. teclatrans*

                Agreed, just because youbpeeceive it as usually being a tear-down doesn’t mean it is. I am a Helper/Fixer, and if I were making a mistake I would want to know. This led me to unfettered correction of others during my youth. I know better now, of course (though I may still occasionally fail to apply the correct social filters to my mouth — hooray for ADHD). But I have never once corrected someone’s word usage from a place of perceived superiority or a desire to tear them down. And I have never experienced these when I have been corrected.

              2. Lissa*

                Yeah, I agree. Just stating “this happens the vast majority of the time” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s true for everyone, or everyone’s experience. It might be yours, but it isn’t mine, and it’s fairly dismissive to say “oh, how nice for you, but YOURS is the experience that is in the minority, the truth is actually this!” In *my* experience very few people correct others specifically to make them feel worse. Sometimes they might not be thinking through what the other person will take from it, but they are either trying to help, or it’s the “nails on a chalkboard” thing.

          2. Laura*

            Yes, I’m a corrector and it’s so people don’t embarrass themselves any more. I hated when I lived in a foreign country and people let me make mistakes without correcting me – the more you repeat a mistake without having someone tell you, the more you think it’s the right usage.

            1. DaBlonde*

              I’m with Laura on this one.
              I do not correct regional pronunciations or dialects, although “liberry” and “axe you a question” make me grind my teeth, but I will privately correct someone who is using the wrong word.
              The most recent example was a coworker that kept saying “casual connection” instead of “causal connection” during a training that he was giving.

              1. SarahTheEntwife*

                “Axe” used to annoy me until I took Old English in college and learned that that used to be the pronunciation in very early English and it’s just *so cool* that it’s randomly reverting back in some dialects.

              2. chi type*

                I give people a pass on “library”. It can be a bit of a tongue twister as I learned answering the main phone line at my busy central library.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            What I notice in written communication is that I pick up errors, and they do have an affect as my brain pauses to sort out the intended meaning. But what throws the discussion off isn’t someone typing “reign it in” but the person who chimes in to explain that it’s “rein it in” while completely ignoring every substantive part of the comment. No matter how well intentioned the correction, it derails, feels rude and diminishing, and tends to kill the conversation.

            And I’ve observed spoken conversation works the same way. It’s never a fabulous visit from the pronunciation fairy, sprinkling delicious sparkly frosted usage corrections that the receivers are thrilled to receive, and the bystanders think “Wow, I sure hope they give me a few of those wonderful corrections too, because this is the essence of a pleasant conversation.” Work has some situations where your being right is going to trump the other person feeling humiliated–but pick them carefully.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              An effect. To illustrate why these derailments never end in a place of grammatical joy and feelings of camaraderie.

            2. the gold digger*

              Nope. It is my husband’s father, telling my niece that it’s “EXtract, not exTRACT” even though

              1. She had said “Anise EXtract” in reference to making pizelles
              2. Even if she had not said it properly, we all knew what she meant

              and then doubling down to tell me that I was not the boss of him when I said that my niece had said it properly. (And he and Doris were still cranky about this incident on their deathbeds, years later.)

              Sly never made his corrections kindly or in private. He corrected people to show his superiority. He wanted an audience and he wanted to be right.

              If you really care about someone making a mistake, you correct that person in private and kindly.

              1. Jesca*

                Just about 100% of the time, its more about the corrector then the corrected. Just because something bothers you, doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to suffer for it! Veiled excuses or not, it is meant to rise to superior.

                I mean even when joking with my mom how my stepdad mispronounces words like “pole” with “pool”, it is always because it works on MY NERVES, not because it has ever bothered or hindered him at all. I can pick up context quite well, thank you very much.

                Plus correcting someone like you describe is like forcing people to be perfect All The Time. You are going to at some point say a word wrong. It happens. Let it go.

                1. Brittasaurus Rex*

                  No, it really isn’t, not for many of us. I’d rather be corrected than to say something wrong continually. Your opinion doesn’t it make it fact for everyone.

                2. Jesca*

                  Yes, haha it actually really is. I guess we will all have to agree to disagree. See this is a huge lesson on how the phrase “treat others how you would want to be treated” can absolutely backfire. I’m sorry, but its all so arbitrary, it is just an excuse.

          4. Brittasaurus Rex*

            I’m the same way. I mispronounced “detritus” and was happy to be corrected. It wasn’t done in a snide way. I’d seen the word in writing several times but had never heard it spoken. Now I know!

          5. Pommette!*

            I agree that chronic correctors are more likely to be motivated by a love of language and/or a perfectionist streak than by a desire to put others down. (At any rate, that seems to be the case for the correctors in my life).

            That said, the chances of a correction being taken as a put-down by colleagues are high; I wouldn’t risk it.

            1. Observer*

              That’s probably true. But that’s still not a desire to help others. That really is an excuse. It’s not about the other guy but about their issue with the “wrong” language.

              I think it’s important to recognize that. Because correcting people is generally not pleasant for the person being corrected. So even if you aren’t trying to put the other person down, you (generic you) need to be really, really clear on whether this is just your perfectionism or love of language – in which case do NOT do it – or something that is genuinely important to the other person.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I can think of a few situations when corrections are called for, like when you and the CEO are at an international conference together, and the CEO is about to give a talk, and you KNOW he’s going to say “unferreted” in front of all these people unless you warn him not to. But in 99% of the cases, I agree with you that correcting is unnecessary and would do more harm than good. Especially since, as everyone else has pointed out, the absolute majority of “mispronunciations” are really local dialects.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Definitely one of those cases where if you haven’t blown all your social capital by being a pain about every intensive porpoises, you have the standing to give the correction and have it taken as it was intended.

            (I know of a company changing the name of a new product line because the CEO pronounced ‘ventures’ as ‘wenches.’)

          2. Turquoisecow*

            The thing is that a lot of times these pronunciation quirks/errors are so ingrained in people that it will take someone a long time and a lot of effort (and maybe therapy, even), to correct it. So telling the boss a few minutes before his speech is unlikely to prevent him from saying it wrong, it’s more likely to just embarrass him.

            I have an English degree, but a combination of having to work with people who do not really care about spelling and grammar (I do not work in a related industry at all) has kind of mellowed me a bit. I also tend to code switch easily in speech, so that if I’m around my midwestern (US) relatives, I speak noticeably different than when I’m with my northeastern relatives (with whom I grew up). Same if I’m around people who speak more casually. My degree is in Writing, not Speaking.

            To correct grammar or spelling is derailing at best and insulting at worse. I have never been especially senior in a business setting – if I (privately) correct my boss, it wouldn’t matter, because the rest of the company is no better at writing correctly. Just like with the internet, it’s a losing battle. I’ll definitely correct my (future) children, and my husband and I correct one another on occasion, (although we’re more likely to question one another than outright correct), but I don’t believe I have the standing to correct anyone else. Maybe if I were higher up in the hierarchy, I would feel different, but even then, I’d my employees were doing their jobs well, I’d mostly leave it alone (assuming their job did not hinge on communication).

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you for noticing that! I was surprised that a pop culture reference became the focus of responses to my comment! (I of course agree with you on everything you noted.)

          1. Jesca*

            Yes LOL I stayed focus on the message. And I think what people are missing here very broadly is that we are talking about work relationships specifically. People are taking that some what personally. But in life, we all build various levels of relationships with different people. The point here is that if you do not know when or how to broach grammatical, spelling, or word use errors, then it is best the ere on the side of caution and just not do it at all. This is a hard and fast rule with many things in life. You have to be able to bring to the table various versions of your whole selft depending on the audience. Correcting these types of things of colleagues, bosses, and even subordinates on a regular or semi-regular basis is going to come across very poorly. Even among some closer friendships, it will not be taken as appropriate all the time. Time and Place – or not at all.

        4. Anion*

          I agree a lot of “correctors” are trying to tear people down, but some of us are genuinely trying to help (which is why we’re very, very careful about when and whom we correct). I never, ever, ever want to hurt or insult *anyone.* That is *never* my goal. If I’m pointing out someone’s error (which I do very rarely), I’m attempting to do it in the kindest way possible because I genuinely think the error might cause a problem for the person at some point–like, might make them appear uneducated or whatever to other people. I also love language and want to see it used correctly simply because I find pleasure in both seeing correct language and using it.

          Really, we’re not all ogres or meanies. Some of us genuinely care.

        5. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s a lot of discussion here about pronunciation, so I want to point out that the OP is talking about someone who is using the wrong words, not pronouncing them wrong.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, one of the OP’s examples really is about pronunciation. Also, some words are close enough that it’s possible that the OP is mistaking the correct word pronounced differently than they are accustomed to, for the wrong word.

            So, it really is apropos.

      3. Annie Moose*

        100% agree! Correcting people’s pronunciation to your preferred way is almost always extremely rude. (I’d add “it’s OK if they’re your prepubescent child” to your list, but that’s not likely to come up in a workplace!) What is OP#1 hoping to get out of it, anyway? That she will be slightly less annoyed when listening to someone else speak? Because that sounds like her problem, not theirs.

        In the case of her direct report, if their job requires polished public speaking/interacting with finicky clients/etc., I can see room for gently bringing it up, but in the sense of “hey, here’s a thing to help you with sounding better in front of clients” (in conjunction with other public speaking advice), not “you need to change the way you talk because I don’t like it/don’t approve of it/am secretly judging you”.

      4. But you don't have an accent...*

        The only example I have of correcting someone’s pronunciation/grammar/spelling at work that was 100% necessary was when my colleague sent our client an email and missed the “o” in the word “count”. I wanted to make sure he saw it so they wouldn’t think it was on purpose. It is still the funniest typo I’ve seen to this day, mainly because he was the nicest person in the world and would never say that to someone on purpose.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Ha, yes! I work in public health, and we all have to be very careful to spell “public” correctly, because spellcheck won’t necessarily stop you from embarrassing yourself if you drop the L.

          1. Sue No-Name*

            Ctrl + S + “pubic” has been a lifesaver for me many times (and ESPECIALLY important for MPH applications haha). I’m not in an area of the field where we should be using that word at all!

        2. Merci Dee*

          Heh heh heh . . . . the accounting system for the company that I work for was designed in a foreign language, and then “translated” into English when the company went global. Every time I had to process an accounting document for sales/use tax, I cringed when the document printed. Someone tried to set up a label for the county tax GL, and left out the “o”, as well. But this wasn’t a one-time thing . . . this was in every. single. accounting. document with use tax that we produced. For years. Yeeeaaaaars.

      5. NW Mossy*

        At some point I probably should intervene with the project manager I work with who uses “hoo-ha” to describe a to-do or fuss. I mean, it works mostly to get the intent across, but every time I hear her say it I wonder if she’s aware of the slang meaning and how decidedly NSFW/out of context that is when we’re talking about IT timelines.

        1. MashaKasha*


          Mad respect for everyone in an IT environment for listening to her say “hoo-ha” with a straight face and no commentary. Not every IT department that I have worked at, would’ve been capable of that.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think this falls within the “embarrassment” exception! I had a boss who did something similar, and I privately and gently let him know that the word he was using had a vulgar and unintended slang meaning. He was grateful to get the feedback because, understandably, he had no idea that there was a second common meaning.

          But notably, the purpose was to help someone avoid embarrassment, not trying to correct something because I personally found it irksome. I didn’t correct him in the moment, because there were others around. If the goal was to limit his potential to be embarrassed, i had to be thoughtful about how and when I brought it up.

        3. Turtle Candle*

          Oh yes, in these cases I will make the correction too! If it’s going to cause significant embarrassment when they find out (rather than a more normal “oh crud, I totally thought it was pronounced different” thing). I corrected someone (gently, and in private) who was using “knock up” to mean “get in touch with” (like “I need the teapot sales numbers so I’m going to knock up Carol”) because, yeah. I think it might have actually been correct where they were originally from, but that one is going to raise more eyebrows than exasperate for exacerbate, so I will make the correction there.

          1. Susanne*

            What about using “hook up” in the sense that people my age and older use it (to get in touch with, get together with) versus the sense in which younger people use it (to sleep with)?

            Is it OK to tell a forty-something coworker that when she says “you should hook up with Bob in Accounts Receivable to explain this report to you,” that younger people may be laughing under their breath because to them, it sounds as though they are being told to sleep with Bob?

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I personally wouldn’t, because I do and have heard younger people use the term to mean “get together with” in addition to as “have sex with”—it’s usually perfectly understandable in context IME. “Knock up” is different because in my region there is no alternate meaning besides “make pregnant.” But obviously it’s going to be a judgment call; this is the kind of social assessment where there will never be a hard bright line.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, that “knock up” thing is definitely a regionalism. But I agree that it’s something many people would appreciate knowing doesn’t mean the same thing everywhere!

      6. OverboilingTeapot*

        I had a coworker who tended to use the word “service” when she meant “serve.” As in, “how can we service you?” The boss eventually said “you want to say ‘serve.’ Service is what a lady of the evening does in exchange for money.”

    5. Not Australian*

      Totally agree; grit your teeth and try to let it go, and I speak as someone who had years and years of having to listen to someone referring to ‘an honoraria’…

    6. TimTamGirl*

      I feel you, OP1. I really do. I currently work closely with someone who believes that using long or uncommon words and convoluted syntax tells the world that he is A Genius… and consistently uses those words incorrectly and makes his syntax impenetrable. (A recent example: he used ‘I was behooved’ to mean ‘I was shocked’. Not the same, dude. Not the same.) And if you’re confused by something he says, he reads that as his being smarter and better at words than you. It pushes all my Word Nerd buttons at once, so hard.

      Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can really do, at least not in conversation. He gets a lot of weird looks and I occasionally have to translate, but I’m not senior to him and to do anything more than that would eff up our already-tenuous relationship. I have my Director’s standing approval to proofread and edit anything written that comes from our department; but even then, I have to convince my co-worker to give me access to his work, and that can be more of a fight than it’s worth.

      Tl;dr: I make corrections when there’s a chance his mistakes will reflect poorly on me or on our department. Otherwise, I go to a quiet, dark corner and tear paper until the Word Nerd Rage abates. He is not my problem to fix.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        TimTamGirl, it sounds like you work with my husband. I apologize for him. (If he gets sulky when corrected and says, “Well, that’s how I use that word,” I’ll know for sure it’s him.)

        1. Buffy Summers*

          My husband used to use the word “procrastinating” to mean being obstinate or belligerent. We’d be arguing and he’d get frustrated and say, “You’re just procrastinating!” LOL He laughs about it now.

      2. Synonymous*

        With the holidays coming up, you should give him the mug that reads, “Sometimes I use big words I don’t understand, so I sound more photosynthesis.”

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I’m someone who internally cringes when I hear the wrong word used. I don’t make any mention of it unless I’m truly confused as to what the person is trying to tell me, or someone is making a presentation and using the improper word would impact the effectiveness of the presentation and the ideas or information they’re trying to convey.

      A former manager of mine liked to correct my grammar and word usage. It truly grated on me when he would interrupt me while I was speaking to tell me the correct word to use (“I had went to the store” vs. “I had gone to the store”). The reason it grated so much wasn’t so much that he was correcting me (I was trying to move up in the company, so I know he was trying to be helpful). It was that he would interrupt me mid-sentence, which usually broke my chain of thought (it’s very easy to break my chain of thought…). Plus, along with other personality traits, he just came across as a know-it-all.

    8. Annie Moose*

      I’d like to add onto this a couple of things.

      First of all, consider that some of these mispronunciations are not mispronunciations at all, but are variations in dialect. (which means someone isn’t speaking incorrectly for their dialect, it just happens to be different from yours) For example, “draws” for “drawers” is perfectly cromulent in some dialects. It’s not wrong just because it’s different from you. There’s also some words that have common alternate pronunciations–it makes me cringe every time someone says “processes” with a “long e” in the last syllable (that is, /i/), but I have to recognize that pronunciation isn’t wrong, it’s perfectly valid and is quite common. It’s just not my preferred pronunciation.

      Secondly, if a particular mispronunciation is only said once or twice, consider that it might not be a mispronunciation at all, but just a slip of the tongue. Metathesis (swapping sounds in a word) is very common, especially when someone’s stressed out a bit, like speaking in front of a group! I’m very nervous at speaking in front of groups, and stumble over words A LOT when I’m doing this. I know what the common pronunciations of those words are, I just mess them up sometimes.

      I know these don’t account for non-dialectal differences that are repeated over and over again, but maybe they can help you care less! (it’s helped me)

      1. CheeryO*

        Yeah, I slip up and say the slightly wrong word sometimes because my brain-to-mouth wires get crossed, and I would be annoyed if someone felt the need to correct me rather than letting it go. Pobody’s nerfect.

      2. Alex the Alchemist*

        YES THANK YOU. My partner has an Appalachian accent (“roof” becomes “ruff” for example) and people often point out how she’s mispronouncing stuff but it’s literally just how she and her family talk. And it’s not like anything’s being made worse in the conversation by these perceived mispronunciations anyway, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My spouse is from upstate NY (close to Canada). I’m not, and that’s far from where we live, so I don’t hear people who have his accent very often. I always thought he didn’t know a roof truss was a “truss” and not a “trust”, but then I watched a Holmes on Holmes where it sounded like the guys were saying trust. It was a lightbulb moment. He does not have the best grammar, either, so it is sometimes tricky to figure out what is a different pronunciation and what is actually the wrong word.

        2. Susanne*

          I don’t think anyone is talking about things such as pronouncing roof to rhyme with tooth or to rhyme with woof, or pronouncing route to rhyme with bout or to rhyme with toot. Those are simply regional accent variations and don’t need correcting, as they aren’t incorrect in the first place. Incorrect words or phrases are an entirely different matter.

      3. CleverGirl*

        I cringe when people say it like “proh-ses-uhs”. When you use a long e it matches the plural “-es” sounds in words like”crises”, “axes”, etc. Just sounds better.

        1. Birch*

          Uh oh. I say it that way.

          Now I want to know what people think about “spee-sees” vs. “spee-shees”!

      4. Another person*

        Yeah, I have some speech problems that will show up if I’m a little tired or sleep deprived and I will often swap syllables in a word (or worse, just swap out words in sentences). For formal presentations where I have practiced multiple times, this isn’t usually an issue, but it does come up in more conversational things (chats with coworkers, social occasions) and I am glad that most people tend to approach it by just letting it go if they understand what I am saying or asking for clarification if something I said was unclear. (Or occasionally, when I mix things up in an especially funny way, they will point it out and I usually find that funny, too).

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Correcting people like this rarely does anything but annoy everyone involved.


      The exception Alison pointed out–IF they are your direct report and IF the word is one that will get used a lot for your particular work, point it out once in private. That’s within the realm of coaching someone to do their job better, when it is explicitly part of your job to do that.

    10. UrbanGardener*

      One of my colleagues (and terrible former boss) both have the supremely annoying habit of correcting pronunciation, of words that can be pronounced 2 ways, depending on what part of the country you grew up in. Specifically, radiator. I say “rad-iator”, they try to correct to “ray-diator” . Both are right!!!! And I just give them dirty looks and say it my way again. Yet they never take the hint because they both think they’re right about everything.

    11. Catherine from Canada*

      Daughter in hospital, post-birth (yay! I’m a new gramma!).
      EVERYONE (doctors, nurses, social workers and my dear daughter) said “exasperate” when they meant “exacerbate”.
      I mean, I can see that an incision would be exasperating, but still.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        When one of the discs in my spine decided to explode, I ended up in the E.R. It’s midnight, I’m in serious pain, flat on my back on a bed with a morphine drip in my arm, and every time the doctor said “lay down” I wanted to correct him. “Lie! It’s lie down! Chickens lay, people lie!”

        I did not do it. There is no point irritating the man who controls access to the morphine drip.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There is no point irritating the man who controls access to the morphine drip.

          It’s a good day for AAM throw pillows.

      2. the gold digger*

        My MIL emailed me about some medical issue – maybe when Sly had surgery and was in the hospital? and her big observation to me – this was the most important thing – was that nobody in the hospital – NOT ONE PERSON – had used “lie” correctly. They had said, “lay” instead.

        1. OverboilingTeapot*

          Maybe they were doing it deliberately? I know I turn up the folksiness when I want to be gentle and reassuring. I’ve had people tell me I sound more Southern when I’m being nice. :)

        2. oranges & lemons*

          Ooh, this one bugs me too. But I don’t really care when people say it in casual speech. It’s just when it’s used in more formal contexts that it gets on my nerves. Not sure why–I’m usually more of a descriptivist.

    12. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      This all reminds me of when the big kahuna at ToxicJob was making a speech at the end-of-year meeting and pronounced “banal” as “BAY-nal.” At my table, two of my coworkers and I all murmured the correct pronunciation in perfect unison.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OMG I hate autocorrect so much. And ironically, I think it may be as annoying as having one’s grammar/diction corrected mid-stream!

        2. Pommette!*

          I think so, yes. It’s one I have heard often, and from people with diverse backgrounds (age, geography, ethnic background & social class).

          I’m a non-native English speaker. It took me a while to understand the breadth of variability that is characteristic of this language. Starting off, I assumed that pronunciations that differed from the ones I had been taught must be incorrect (“it’s bah-nal, you fools! Like canal, but pronounced by a sheep! Even I know that.”). That did not last. At this point, that assumption has been proven wrong so many times that I adopted a new assumption: if the way someone pronounces something sounds odd to me, it’s probably because I am unfamiliar with the specific variant of English that they are speaking. It’s fine to ask colleagues to clarify if I don’t understand what they are saying; aside from that, there really is no need for me to comment on their pronunciation.

      1. N.J.*

        This is a perfect example of how correcting folks can be fraught though. Most dictionaries recognize a few pronunciation variants of “banal” and one way to pronounce it is the way you identified as incorrect. I personally pronounce the first syllable as BAY and that is as common as the other pronunciations. You were just discussing it with your coworkers, but what if someone had tried to correct the boss afterwards? One problem with correcting pronunciation or grammar is that, oftentimes, the person making a correction is in fact mistaken themselves. It’s an interesting thing to consider.

      2. k8*

        lol, this is why correcting people’s speech/pronunciation should be avoided– you can pronounce it either way.

    13. k.k*

      Agreed, very rarely will correcting someone have positive results. Beyond mildly annoying someone, if you’re in the habit of correcting people you may find yourself accidentally being very hurtful. You never know if someone has a speech impediment/disorder, a medical issue that causes difficulty speaking, has always been embarrassed by their accent…the list goes on. There’s a much greater chance of annoying or offending someone than being helpful, so it’s not a battle I would pick.

    14. girl who messes up terms*

      I will second this whole hearted. I had a speech impediment has a child which was corrected but still makes me seriously self-conscience about it. Yesterday, I said a rather complicated word (photogrammetry) wrong; my boss then corrected it loudly in our open office floor plan. It made me so uncomfortable and nervous that I couldn’t say it back to her correctly.

      It was not fun and super awkward for me and people listening. Unless its for a presentation just let errors go!

    15. Mrs. Fenris*

      I had a boss who misused and mispronounced words all the time. It drove me absolutely bonkers, because it drives me bonkers any time, but especially from him because he was an elitist, arrogant jerk who really thought he was a superior human in every way.

      When I was a teenager, I worked for a summer with an older lady who was, well, as dumb as a box of rocks. One morning I said that I had passed a large group of cyclists on my way in. She said, “I thought they were going the other way. You ‘passed’ them?” Uh, what? Yes, they were going the other way. “Then you say that you MET them. ‘Passed’ means they were going the other way.”

      Sigh. Thanks for the lesson on one-syllable words, Mrs. Dumb as Rocks…

  3. DecorativeCacti*

    #2: I have a negative coworker and disengaging helped me tremendously. She would be going on about whatever and after getting only a “hmm” or bland “too bad”, she eventually moved on to people who would react better.

    You have the benefit of your coworker not being in the office! Turn off read receipts if you use them, and start ignoring messages without guilt.

      1. Leo*

        (this was my question) – thank you, both of you. I feel so stuck as we’ve always had a friendly relationship, and I hate being rude. There are four of us in a group as well (we all used to work together, but I’m the only one left) which complicates matters, but I think I just have to avoid.

        1. RVA Cat*

          If you haven’t already, head over to for some great scripts about setting boundaries and dealing with “those” friends (and relatives, etc.).

        2. SarcasticFringehead*

          Seconding the Captain Awkward rec – it might help to remind yourself that she’s the one being rude, by monopolizing your time and making all of your conversations about herself.

  4. Old Cynic*

    #5 – if only 3 months have gone by I wouldn’t post the position but would make an offer to one of the 2 candidates that weren’t selected before.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      Yes, this was my thinking. Sourcing, interviewing and hiring is a long and tedious process. If you say that both were well qualified and the role is the same as the previous one, why go through the process again? Reach out to your 2nd choice and see if they’re interested and make an offer.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        To add, especially since it’s the *exact* same role and on such a recent timeline, as the candidate I would feel really odd about redoing the whole process unless the company showed that something big had changed (new management, new org structure, different responsibilities). Otherwise, the company has the information they (presumably) needed to make the hire the first time around, and I’d be confused about starting over.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        Same, if it’s literally the exact same role it seems incredibly weird to actually go through a search process again – why??

    2. RedinSC*

      I was thinking the same thing. I’d offer my number 2 pick the position if they’re still available.
      Going through the hiring process is so hard for everyone, the interviewee and all the people who have to participate. If the 3 were exceptional, just offer the job. Don’t go through that whole process.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I thought this, too. Better to offer it to one, and if they turn it down, offer it to the other. If you would have been willing to make them an offer, that seems more polite than asking them both to reapply, in which case one of them is going to get rejected again.

    3. lulu*

      Agreed, reach out and see if they’re available (start with your first pick). If you haven’t checked references for them, do so before you make an offer, but otherwise why go through the process all over again?

    4. Kathleen*

      I agree as well. The OP sounds as though he/she is under the impression that there is some sort of rule that requires that the job be reposted and that you go through all the same stuff that you just went through. But there is no such rule. Unless you work for a government agency or something like that, OP, you can just hire the person you want to hire.

      1. Bess*

        Well, since it’s a curriculum position, if it’s in education, there’s often a lot of rules about posting/going through a full process/etc., even if the last hiring round was recent. So LW may need to ask them to apply again and go through the whole thing. Depends on the institution, public/private, etc.

  5. Insert Alias Here*

    OP #4, you’re my hero! I know that if a directo report of mine gave me that feedback, it would absolutely make my day, and possibly my year. It’s clear that your manager was receptive to your feedback and made the adjustments that you asked for, and it would be a huge kindness to let him know that you noticed and appreciated it. As a long time manager, I’m really grateful that you noticed his behavior change and want to acknowledge it.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This. Simply telling someone that you’ve noticed the change is in itself encouraging. That’s not sucking up.
      “Hey Fergus, remember when I gave you feedback about getting emotional during a crisis? I’ve noticed that you’ve really changed your reactions. In fact, this last crisis I was really impressed with how you held the team together and got us the information we needed. It made it so much easier to do my job. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give you feedback.”

      1. Dana*

        If I was the boss, I think it might rub me the wrong way a little if one of my reports said they were “impressed” by how I’d improved–that might come across as condescending, just as the OP was worried it might.

        I think the best approach for a boss is to think in terms of expressing *gratitude* rather than praise. Gratitude feels even better than praise for the one receiving it, and will never sound condescending.

    2. Mookie*

      LW4’s letter is the best kind of problem. She’s great, her manager’s great, and they know how to communicate to and with another. It’s so nice to hear about conscientious, actively non-dysfunctional people sometimes. :)

      1. Specialk9*

        I disagree. OP, please be care with the tack you’re taking, you may find your career stalling and not know why.

        You felt perfectly free giving two very big criticisms to a manager at a time, but you don’t feel free to give praise. That’s off, at work and at home, and dangerous. You got away with it this once, but be super super careful about criticizing managers in the future, and be liberal with appreciation.

        There’s that saying of 10 praises to 1 criticism – I’d actually go higher. I remember every negative feedback in vivid detail, but praise gets hazy. You’re potentially searing yourself into the brain of someone who controls your career trajectory.

        Many times when managers *say* they want critique, they either read that they should do that but don’t actually have the EQ to process criticism maturely and implement on it, or they were expecting super low level stuff like “we need a recycling bin”.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s overly ominous. Many managers are indeed open to feedback, particularly when they explicitly ask for it, and there’s nothing to indicate that the OP read the situation wrong.

          1. LBK*

            Agreed. Gauge the situation based on your relationship with your manager; if they’ve proven themselves to be a good manager overall, it would be weird to assume they’ve suddenly decided to set a trap for you by asking for feedback if that kind of game-playing would otherwise be out of character for them. It seems like that’s the case with the OP, and the boss has taken her feedback to heart. I mean, I wouldn’t take that as permission to go forth and criticize him every day, but there seems to only be good coming from this situation.

          2. Lison*

            Given what the OP said, the situation is that they gave criticism and want to say “wow you really cancelled out any thing i said then by how you dealt with that last crisis. Thanks for that” without it sounding like they are taking all the credit for the change and are asking for advice on how to do so.

            1. OP #4*

              Yeah, this is absolutely the case. I wasn’t jumping in to give criticism (it actually took my manager a couple of reiterations of the question because I didn’t want to be too harsh and I didn’t have anything particularly on my mind), but it was just something that had niggled a little in the past. And Allison and the comment section’s advice has been really helpful! I think the key, as Dana mentioned above, is grateful rather than impressed.

  6. namelesscommentator*

    #3: What other access to water is there? It might also be a good opportunity for you to remind the secretary of the filter/water fountain that is meant for non-remote staff. If there’s nothing beyond the bathroom tap – I’d take this opportunity to find an alternative for drinking water (which the company should pay for).

    1. persimmon*

      Just wondering, why is a drinking fountain better than the bathroom tap? Isn’t it the same water generally?

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        Not sure if this has any scientific/germ evidence, but there’s something gross about the backsplash that can be on bathroom sinks/taps from people washing their hands after using the bathroom. I’m sure drinking fountains are super gross too, so I think it’s just psychological, but it just feels icky from a public bathroom.

      2. namelesscommentator*

        I would be highly uncomfortable with having to enter a restroom to refill my water bottle — the germs on the door handle, touching the sink, etc… I’ve also been told there are basically fecal particles always in the air … which, may or may not be true … but hearing it was a huge turn-off. Basically – for the same reasons I wouldn’t eat or expect a woman to breastfeed in a restroom – I wouldn’t ask people to drink water from one.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ll just note that when Mythbusters put toothbrushes everywhere for a couple of weeks, then measured bacteria, the ones stored under a cover in the kitchen were far, far grodier than the dozens arranged around the bathroom.

      3. Tin Cormorant*

        I generally make the assumption that a water fountain is filtered (and possibly chilled) because it is intended to be drinkable, whereas the tap water may not be depending on the water quality in your area.

        After growing up in places where the tap water wasn’t great, I wouldn’t be swallowing any of that without assurances that it’s safe. And even if it’s safe to drink, it might not taste very good without being filtered.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, there’s a lot of aerosolized fecal matter and urine in (public) bathrooms—even well-cleaned ones. And in some areas, the water in bathrooms is different from the water in drinking fountains (water used for washing doesn’t have to be potable). You don’t want to refill from the bathroom tap.

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          Regarding potable water vs. non-potable water distribution; most employers and buildings, in the U.S. anyway, do not have separate pipes for delivering non-potable water. There are regulations in many states that require potable water for everything, even watering the landscaping. So it’s not a major concern for people who get water from the water treatment and distribution services in their communities. Now if you are at an agricultural site, or a site that gets water from a different source than a water plant, then non-potable water may be used, but still something that you’d be informed about. Airlines use non-potable water in their restrooms and there is notice on the sinks that indicate that the water is not for drinking.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s remarkably common to have non-potable wash water in rural communities, public parks, and some public buildings, particularly communities where treatment is expensive (and as you likely know, the MCLs for wash water and drinking water aren’t the same). Along with non-SDWA compliant systems, those rural water systems—including those with too few connections to fall under the SDWA—comprise a significant minority of water providers (estimates range from 25-35% of PWSs). I know most systems are unified and compliant with safe drinking water standards, but it’s not universal, even in the U.S.

            My primary point, though, is aersolized contaminants, which are everywhere in public restrooms, even if not in the pipes.

            1. fposte*

              That may be true, but it doesn’t seem to matter; water fountains tend to test as germier. Link in followup, and it includes an enterprising young teenager who swabbed his school :-).

      5. Elemeno P.*

        I don’t know about the LW, but I live in Florida and our tap tastes like swamp. You get used to it (I drink from the tap at home), but it’s much more pleasant to drink filtered, chilled water.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, Orlando is the one place where I’ll pay for bottled water as just regular drinking fluid, because the sulfur smell is incredibly off-putting.

      6. Nan*

        I don’t drink the bathroom water at home, so why would I in an icky public bathroom? I use it at home to brush my teeth, but that’s it. And, yes, it comes from the same place my kitchen water comes from, but somehow it’s “different.”

      7. C.*

        Adding to the general hygiene thing, but also it’s hard to fit a lot of larger glasses or water bottles under bathroom taps, especially ones that are motion-activated.

      8. a different Vicki*

        I drink from the bathroom tap at home, but the sinks in some public restrooms have water at only one temperature, warm. (Others have only cold, which is annoying for washing my hands, but that’s a different issue.)

      9. Elizabeth H.*

        Yes. Not wanting to refill a water bottle in the bathroom (excluding less typical circumstances, like areas where tap water is NOT potable – most tap water in the US is standards compliant and drinkable) is based on preference and feelings rather than health. I’d assume that the letter writer and the other members of her office are drinking tap water at work.

    2. KR*

      I totally agree that the company should pay for the water for staff, or make it available. We have Sparketts come out and drop off bottled water for our workers who go out in the field (located in extremely dry desert) and five gallon jugs that go on a water dispenser. We rent it from the company for about five dollars a month and our whole bill is much less than fifty dollars a month, water and miscellaneous other goodies included.

      1. I Herd the Cats*

        This. Since all these folks are individually paying for supplies used by the company, it seems reasonable to try to get a company budget line item for refreshments — which Gigi can then order and have DELIVERED to the office, so nobody’s having to pay or schlep them. Also we use a delivery service for those five-gallon water bottles (they provide the free dispenser) so you’re not using individual plastic bottles.

        1. anycat*

          and its so much better for the planet to get everyone reusable bottles (sorry i work for a resource recovery company its in my blood)

    3. CC*

      Good point! If there is a water cooler or even drinking fountain, the OP might even say something like how Gigi can refill a water bottle there.

      Also, the OP (or ideally the business really) should be buying the water bottles at Costco or Sam’s if at all possible. Even without Gigi it’s so much easier imo to buy a giant container for a month or two than worry about picking it up every other week.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Over here we have something called a cash and carry – basically if you have a business you can get things at wholesale prices.

        1. Liane*

          This side of the pond, warehouse club stores offer a (higher priced) business membership for this. And most regular retailers can honor tax exempt purchases, such as by a business, non-profit, church, etc.

          1. Natalie*

            A business’s consumable supplies, like bottles of water for the office, are generally taxable. It would only be tax exempt if they were reselling those bottles and charging sales tax at that point.

    4. Colette*

      Well, I don’t think the OP is obliged to redo the building plumbing because she likes to buy bottled water for a specific purpose.

      But if the only issue is the cost of the bottles, charge the secretary $2 each time she takes one.

      1. Liane*

        Another better question–how do we, or OP, know that the director, or whoever showed her around the office, didn’t say, “In the breakroom, we keep water, and whatever for the staff,” omitting the ” remote”?

        I actually worked, first remote, then onsite, for a company, where the drinks and snacks were for everyone, albeit company paid for them.

        1. Colette*

          She has received an email telling her that’s not the case, though, so even if she received bad information when she started, there’s no excuse for it continuing.

          1. JHunz*

            I’m not sure she has. The “mostly” qualifier the OP referenced – if it was in the email – might lead her to think that as long as she’s only taking a bottled water and not eating any of the snacks she’s not the one it was meant for. It’s entirely possible she’s just not self-aware about this and the fact that the email was sent to all 4 people could possibly have made it seem like it wasn’t targeted at her. This is why being direct is important.

      2. Happy Lurker*

        My personal food and drink supplies began disappearing a couple years ago. I now only bring in exactly what I need for that day. My water stays in my car, and my bottles stay in my zippered bag under my desk.
        I would bet the secretary/admin doesn’t understand why the water is for other workers, but not her. From her point of view they are both employees. Take away the access to the water.
        A decent company would actually supply these things. Since the OP is paying out of pocket, they need to protect their asset.

        1. Jesca*

          This is what I was thinking as well. At some places, you are expected to provide your own things. Gigi needs to just bring her own things.

        2. VermiciousKnit*

          This is true, but ime, almost all public agencies have drinking fountains (part of the building code for structures accessible to the public, which most public agencies are) so there’s chilled drinkable water available.

    5. Specialk9*

      Yeah, most companies I’ve seen do those giant jugs of water for hot and cold, at a minimum. Big companies I’ve worked at had fancy filtered and UV-cleaned hot/cold water dispensers in each break room. It’s a good question to ask about access to clean water. (Though, reading the EPA bottled water reports taught me that tap water is much more highly regulated than bottled.)

    6. WellRed*

      Yes, in the US at least, I believe the company must provide water. Also, having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that bottles of water are a huge treat.

          1. J*

            Right. We have clients come in and have a pretty well stocked fridge with bottled water, sodas, etc for them. But everyone else knows to bring their own and use the water fountains we have.

      1. Bea*

        I can’t imagine they don’t have a tap. That’s providing water. Lots of places put filters on them or bring in water coolers but they’re not required by any means.

        We have a small kitchenette. I can’t imagine going into someone’s office to get a beverage unless directly offered, ick. These aren’t in a communal space!

  7. Tealeaves*

    #3: Can we rephrase it to introduce a little guilt so Gigi knows she’s been caught doing something wrong already? And to reemphasize that the cost is out of OP’s own pocket.
    “Hey Gigi, sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I buy these water bottles with my own money for our remote staff to make them more comfortable when they’re here. I won’t ask you to pay me back for the ones you already took, but from now on please stop. Thanks!”

      1. Tau*

        Yep. And I don’t think it’ll have the intended effect:

        If it’s a genuine misunderstanding and Gigi thought the bottles were supplied by the office for everyone’s use, it’s likely to make Gigi defensive and dig in.

        If Gigi is a shameless water-thief who knows exactly what she’s doing wrong, you bet she’ll try to play it off as option #1 and leap on any chance to deflect. Implying she owes you money gives her ample opportunity.

        1. Tealeaves*

          Hmm I just felt that if she didn’t get the hint after the email, maybe the message was coming off a little too soft. She felt like an intentional water thief to me since she’s sneakily grabbing the water and didn’t stop even after the email. Even if the water was paid for by the company and not OP, it’s not ok to steal things. But you’re right that it would damage the relationship in the future.

          1. Mookie*

            I understand what you’re getting at, but it’s highlighting the wrong thing (that the LW is paying for something, rather than that Gigi is requisitioning things meant for other people when alternatives probably already exist and the issue was highlighted through an office e-mail) and in a way that is unnecessarily adversarial and with a mostly empty threat. The LW has no intention of doing something like that, so it would introduce, as Tau says, a new, unnecessary, and emotionally-charged* element to get distracted by. It also suggests that the LW is doing Gigi a favor by not requiring her to do something the LW has no business requiring; employees don’t have to compensate for using little resources like that, especially ones that are non-essential and were voluntarily donated.

            *it’s not theft

            1. Colette*

              I actually disagree. It is theft, just as it would be if she ate the OP’s lunch. The OP purchased water for a specific purpose, and Gigi is taking the OP’s personal property. It doesn’t belong to the business just because it is located there.

            2. Observer*

              The thing is that the OP is paying for this out of her own pocket. Employees most definitely DO have an obligation to reimburse for taking someone else’s personal property. I just don’t think it’s useful tack. If it’s enough money that the OP actually does need Gigi to pay it back (and how much is “enough” is totally in the purview of the OP), then she should just ask for it without any passive aggressive shtick.

            3. Tealeaves*

              You’re right. The message should focus on “It’s not meant for you, don’t take it.” Not “I pay for the water, don’t take it.” This behaviour might resume if a different manager pays for the water in future(loopholes!).

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            She didn’t get the hint after the email, because the invariable lesson taken from a group email is that Whatever Is Described must apply to someone else and not oneself. It is the worst possible way to address a problem with one person.

        2. Specialk9*

          There could be lots of things other than theft. She could not have access to clean water other than tap (and some local water tastes foul).
          She could be feeling resentful that the (much better paid) remote staff is treated much better than the (worse paid) in-house staff and feeling it’s not fair. She could think it’s allowed. She could have missed a group-wide memo (I often do – my company sends tons).

          Have an actual conversation, using actual words, first.

          1. Jessica*

            Who cares how she feels? It’s not her bottled water and she’s been told to stop drinking it. She can buy a reusable water bottle, fill it at home, and bring it in. Or she can pay for her own bottled water.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              If Gigi needs clean water she can buy her own. The store across the street from my inner city branch, sells bottled water at a reasonable price. And that’s the store that has all the candy behind the plexiglass counter.

      2. Not a Morning Person*

        I’m confused as to why this would be aggressive. Tone of voice matters, of course. And this is in no way passive; it is direct. Gigi has already been informed via the email. A direct request is the most appropriate next step.

    1. Observer*

      Why emphasize the guilt? What exactly is going to be accomplished?

      The OP needs to keep working with her. How is this going to make things easier.

      1. Bookworm*

        I think it might be reasonable for OP to clarify that they’re purchasing the water from their own salary….but I agree that the request for money to be paid back is over the top.

  8. JamieS*

    OP #1 – is the mispronunciation a work issue or a personal pet peeve? If it’s just a pet peeve I’m going to go against the grain a bit and say you should let it go with your direct report as well so long as it’s clear what was meant. I’d especially let the weary and wary thing go but I’m admittedly biased there since I just found out 5 seconds ago those words aren’t pronounced the same.

    Otherwise, even with Alison’s script, it can come across as obnoxious and like you’re just looking for things to complain about which is presumably not the managerial reputation you want to have.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      Second this. Unless the issues are in writing for presentation purposes (i.e. to management or clients, not just in emails to you), it can come off super micro-manage-ey (yes, not a word, I know :) ).

      I’m a grammar and word nut too but those examples just seemed to obscure to comment on – especially in spoken conversation.

      1. MommyMD*

        And unless it’s really something that is vital to understanding, I’d let it go. It’s not nice to correct people, potentially embarrassing them or hurting their feelings. Not if it’s meaningless in the long run.

      2. Specialk9*

        Yeah, it’s a condescending smarty pants move, and endears you to no-one. Learn from my hard won lessons – It’s how you lose friends.

        But the beautiful thing about life, at least for me, was that it taught me that I’m not as smart as I thought, and that there are many kind of intelligences… And the people who mispronounce words have often shown themselves to be brilliant in other areas that I lack, like EQ. Life has been a gorgeous teacher of humility, and admiration for others.

      3. chi type*

        “I’m a grammar and word nut too but those examples just seemed to obscure to comment on – especially in spoken conversation.”

        “too obscure” not “to obscure”

        Joke! Joke! I’m totally joking. :P

    2. If It Doesn’t Make Sense, It Isn’t True*

      Regarding OP #1–The “weary” vs. “wary” thing made me sit up and take noice here. Many years ago, I moved from one area of the country to another where regional accents/dialects could not have been more different. I was corrected a number of times by my boss for using the wrong words when I was actually using them correctly, but my boss and others had a difficult time understanding my accent. For a while I was dubbed “Miss Malaprop”, which was very frustrating as I felt they were making fun of my way of speaking. But believe me, I had a tough time with their way of speaking as well. There were times I thought they were using certain words incorrectly, when in fact I just couldn’t hear thru their accent or was unfamiliar with their use of a word that was standard for them but outside of what would be considered its normal definition. I don’t get the impression that regional accent is the issue that the OP is dealing with here, but my comment is more of a cautionary story that accents or dialects can contribute to some confusion related to proper use of words.

      1. Specialk9*

        Wow. Did you tell them how gauche they are, and then spell it so they weren’t confused by your accent?

      2. Manager-at-Large*

        accents can be a problem.
        In IT and analytics, there is a concept called data mining – examining large data bases to discover new information. I have a colleague whose accent makes the word determine sound like data mine and I nearly always have to do a mental double take to follow his thoughts.

      3. Fact & Fiction*

        Regional dialects are very much a thing. I, from Missouri, nearly got into a fight with my ex-boyfriend, from Massachusetts, when I told him to “put that up.” Where I’m from, this is an accepted way to say “put that away.” I thought he was being deliberately obtuse and he thought I was making no sense until we sorted things out.

        My mind was also blown by learning that some regions use “waiting on line” instead of “waiting in line.”

        My husband learned “unthaw” instead of “thaw” from a beloved family member and I twitch. Every. Single. Time. He uses it. Gave up on that battle ages ago though I still tease him from time to time because this instance is clearly incorrect – unthaw would be to refreeze and he does actually mean thaw.

        Pick your battles, OP. I just wouldn’t with these examples for the many reasons already given.

    3. Agnodike*

      Agree! The question “Does this pet peeve of mine rise to the level where it’s reasonable for me to ask other people to change their behaviour?” doesn’t get asked enough. Precision of language is important to me, so I try to make sure my language is precise. But if it isn’t important to someone else, does my annoyance at the difference between their priorities and mine mean I get to tell them it should be? What are the gains of asking it, and to whom? What are the costs?

      This one is particularly interesting, because although there’s a theoretical gain to the other person (they’re doing things in a more “objectively correct” way), it often doesn’t translate to a practical gain; many people don’t care (or know!) that it’s supposed to be “wary” and not “weary.” You can go your whole life saying “supposably” and never experience any significant setbacks as a result. So really if I correct people, often what I’m doing is asking them to alleviate my mild irritation, which usually seems to me like something I could manage on my own.

      Like, I irrationally hate the valediction “Best,” at the end of an email, but I’m not going to insist that people corresponding with me use the excruciatingly correct “Yours truly,” (for business correspondence) or “Sincerely yours,” (for personal). I just assume they meant “[You’re the] Best,” and move on with my life.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “Does this pet peeve of mine rise to the level where it’s reasonable for me to ask other people to change their behaviour?”

        And another AAM throw pillow is born.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*


          OP, if precision of language is important to you, then the best you can do is to make sure your own language is precise. In the same way that if vegetarianism or not owning a car (heh) was important to you, the polite thing to do would be to be a vegetarian and not own a car, without trying to get other people to change their behaviour to match yours.

          As others have noted, correcting people’s grammar is unlikely to be well received, and unlikely to produce any real change. And I would also add that it’s not worth the space it takes up in your *own* brain. Wouldn’t it be much easier for you to not have to worry about this kind of thing? Most of us have limited time and attention, and I know for me it’s absolutely worth letting go of worrying about other people’s harmless behaviour.

      2. Esme Squalor*

        “Best” is generally considered an abbreviated version of “best regards” or “best wishes.” I don’t think it’s any less correct than any other email signoff.

      3. LBK*

        I really like your second paragraph. I think people who don’t care enough to make sure they’re using the right words/pronouncing them correctly of their own accord are going to bother taking your feedback into consideration.

    4. Sue Wilson*

      Interesting because “weary” and “wary” are different enough words, but used in similar enough contexts that those would actually be confusing to me, and so that’s what I would correct. There are miles of difference between “I’m weary of doing this” and “I’m wary of doing this” although both make sense and that can mean a lot in a business context.

      1. Julius Pepperwood*

        I wonder if this is a conflation of ‘leery’ and ‘wary.’ Sounds like something I would say when my brain changes gears between two words and something strange emerges from my mouth.

      2. JamieS*

        Yeah, the definitions are totally different. I just thought they were pronounced exactly the same. Now I need to figure out which I’ve apparently been saying wrong.

        1. Turkletina*

          In most American dialects I’m familiar with, weary is pronounced like “weir” or “we’re”; wary is pronounced like “ware” or “where”.

          1. Lexicat*

            And to illustrate the point about different accents: we’re is pronounced the same as where and ware around here, not like weir.

      3. VermiciousKnit*

        Agreed. If someone said they were weary of doing something we haven’t even started yet, I’d be all kinds of confused. I know I’m in the minority on here, but sometimes word choice/precision matters.

    5. Arjay*

      Yes, I see a few different issues here that may merit different responses.
      -Exuberant/exorbitant and similar errors may need a gentle, private correction.
      -Library/liberry is a mispronunciation, but one that probably isn’t worth trying to correct unless the person has their MLIS.
      -Weary/wary is possibly just an issue with a regional accent. I have a friend who lived in the midwest for a number of years and her pronunciation of “bear” sounds an awful lot like “beer.” There’s really nothing to correct here.

      1. Arjay*

        Not to mention the common problem of readers never having heard many words out loud before. My personal confession is that I thought cicada was pronounced “SISS-uh-da” instead of “sih-KAY-da”. I was grateful for a friendly correction, but my first instinct is still for Siss-uh-da.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

          I definitely have the “never heard it pronounced” problem. As a kid I read constantly and I picked up many words that I can use correctly but sometimes pronounce comically wrong. I also tend to assume that any non – English looking word I come across should be pronounced as if it were Spanish (and Mexican – American Spanish at that). Add to all that the fact that I’m now in the UK and I get all kinds of odd looks and corrections. Mostly I find it funny though.

          1. Specialk9*

            “I also tend to assume that any non – English looking word I come across should be pronounced as if it were Spanish (and Mexican – American Spanish at that).l


            A girl in my Latin class had the most bizarre, tortured accent in Latin. We finally realized that she spoke Polish at home, and so was defaulting to foreign language mode, which for her meant Polish. Brains are fascinating.

  9. Fake Eleanor*

    OP #1: Correcting people if you don’t have standing or an invitation to do so is rude. You’d be breaking a rule of etiquette more egregiously than they’re breaking any rules of grammar. I’m sure this isn’t universal, but it would negatively affect my impression of your professionalism.
    I know there are people who appreciate being corrected. They’re free to extend the invitation to do so.
    It’s also worth noting that, in conversation, everyone misspeaks sometimes. Yes, even you. Me, too. Unless it’s honestly confusing you — in which case, you should ask for clarification, rather than offering a correction — let it go.

    1. Observer*

      This especially true when you are dealing with a superior. Correcting your superior’s word choices, even in private is a truly career limiting move.

  10. Bachstelze*

    #1 What kind of person says “exuberant” when they mean “exorbitant”? I’ve never met anyone like that, and if I did I’d be more puzzled than anything else at the resulting nonsensical sentence…

    1. MK*

      Actually, in practically all cases the sentence wouldn’t be made nonsense by one misused word; people get the meaning from context.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was going to write exactly this.

        I once spoke about a serious topic and, out of exhaustion, used an embarrassingly incorrect word (think penal vs. penile). Everyone knew what I meant from the context, and they gently asked me if I had meant to use the wrong word because if anyone else heard me out of context, it would have been embarrassing.

        But people almost always understand what a person intends to say from the context, even if they’re using incorrect diction. And if it’s genuinely confusing, the right approach is a gentle question in which you attempt to clarify the speaker’s meaning. But it’s not to identify each time a word is misused.

        1. Nursey Nurse*

          Once when we ran out of writing implements, I sent an email asking our administrative assistant to please order more penis for our department. She wrote back that they were having a hard time finding male nurses. To this day i’m not sure whether she was serious.

          1. Batshua*

            One time I organized a large amount documents for my boss. I *almost* said I “copulated” them.

            I think I was trying to say “compile” and “collate”, and sorta mashed them together?

            I don’t know what I ended up actually saying, but thank goodness it wasn’t THAT.

        2. Specialk9*

          Many of us have word retrieval skill errors, and it had nothing to do with intellect. In this case, believe it is linked to an auditory processing issue, since exub- and exorb- look different written but sound similar.

          For me, it’s largely word retrieval errors for appliances. I have to say “that machine that washes dishes – dish washer!” almost every time. That same brain glitch means that – while I had a good enough vocabulary to tutor my older sister on graduate school vocab when I was in 5th grade – I often grab the wrong word, especially when tired.

          I wouldn’t make the mistake of assuming malapropism means someone is dumb. That would be a dumb error on your part.

          Another important heads up is that verbal processing speed is *also* not intelligence. Mine is freakishly fast and several siblings’ processing speed is slower than the norm. But they’re quite a good bit smarter than me, though it’s easy to get confused. We have this cultural idea that people who process slowly are stupid, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

          1. the gold digger*

            I wouldn’t make the mistake of assuming malapropism means someone is dumb.

            Nope. My boss malaprops all the time. He is not a native English speaker – yet got a BS in engineering in English. He is very, very smart.

            He also has an excellent sense of humor, so I can tease him. When he says he doesn’t have enough FF miles to take his wife and his kids, one in college and the other in grad school, to Hawaii, and I ask why he has to take his kids at all, he answers that his kids are freeloafers. I am actually changing how I use the word from now on. “Freeloafers” is so much better!

          2. Fact & Fiction*

            Oh wow wow…I get internally embarrassed because I often think the word umbrella when I mean to think the word elevator. I do NOT know why I retrieve the wrong word sometimes, but as someone who has always prized her reading and writing skills, that has frustrated me.

            My vague childhood memories want to blame it on some children’s show – like Miss U and her umbrella – but that’s probably not the reason. Ha!

          3. chi type*

            I work in a public building with an elevator and an escalator. I cannot for the life of me get the right one when directing people!

        3. Jesca*

          Yes. Even when we teach children to read, we have them use context clues to figure out unfamiliar words. Our brains fill in the gaps given enough context, even for those of us with less experience with reading and grammar!

      2. Pommette!*

        Not only do people get the meaning from context: people are only able to actually tell that someone has mispronounced or misused a word in situations where the context makes the meaning perfectly clear. It’s a catch-22. If the meaning is clear enough for you to issue a correction (rather than ask for a clarification because you are confused), then the meaning is clear enough for a correction to be unnecessary.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Maybe they are non-native speakers? If that’s the case, I’m not sure if it makes it more mean or more reasonable to comment their language… (Personally I’m not familiar with either of those words and also I don’t think I know the pronunciation difference between weary and wary… English spelling is so random!)

      1. Turtle Candle*

        I work frequently with nonnative speakers and the only real difference for me is that they’re more likely to actively ask for correction (in which case I do). Or, well, if it’s something that might be humiliating to them later, like an unintended double entendre. Otherwise I follow the same “only if it’s presentation practice or a public facing document” rule as a native speaker.

        1. blackcat*


          For a long time, I worked with a non native English speaker who was meticulous about using the correct word for everything. If, in a casual conversation, she heard a word she didn’t know, she’d ask you to explain it and she’d write it down. I think her English vocabulary was larger than mine.

            1. blackcat*

              Well, she’d write it down as a reminder to go and look it up later. She didn’t 100% trust us to give a full and accurate explanation.

            2. Fact & Fiction*

              Well, it’s the best way for some people. Others learn better in different ways. I do happen to be a verbal learner who learns best by writing or envisioning things spelled out. But I know some people work differently.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        when I’m speaking a second language, I’ll often ask people if I’m using the correct term. And I appreciate when they correct me if I’m truly causing confusion or, as is unfortunately more common for me, using a word that is technically correct but has a vulgar slang meaning in local dialect.

        But again, I invite the feedback. If a non-native speaker is understandable and does not want feedback, I don’t correct their word choice unless it falls into the exceptions I note upthread.

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh gosh yes. Spanish is the WORST for words that are perfectly innocent and proper in one country, and then in another it’s a vulgar term for genitalia or something obscene.

    3. JamieS*

      On that one I’m going to guess that in the person’s head they’re saying ‘exorbitant’ but it’s coming out ‘exuberant’ and vice versa. That or there’s one person (I refuse to believe there’d be more than one) in OP’s office who legitimately thinks exuberant means what exorbitant actually means and vice versa.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        That happens to me all the time – the right word is in my head, but the wrong one comes out. Sometimes I catch and fix it, sometimes I don’t. I’ve seen theories that it’s got similar causes to stuttering, it’s just a different manifestation of the brain tripping over a word.

        1. Batshua*

          I hate that so much! I think mine is secondary to a medication I’ve been taking a long while: I describe it like going to a high shelf and reaching for the right word, but accidentally grabbing the word next to it instead. I’ve confused “garbage” and “laundry” as well as “neuropathy” and “neuralgia”. So, so frustrating! I find that slowing down my speech and trying to be very deliberate makes it happen less.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              My grandmother had a stroke and she does this now. Sometimes you have to play a guessing game until you can figure out what she’s trying to say, although in her mind she knows the right word. Also weirdly she can no longer read, but she can write and can often write the word you tell her to write but if she tries to write things on her own it comes out very garbled. I find it very strange and fascinating although it’s frustrating as hell for her.

            2. SusanIvanova*

              Yeah, my mom had a stroke and she was complaining to me that she was misusing words and it had never happened before – and all along I’d thought that sort of thing just happened to everyone!

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes! I do this all the time. I also tend to accidentally take two words that mean approximately the same thing and meld them together. I know what I’m trying to say, but that’s not what comes out.

          1. Jesca*

            Haha I do this too! I also sometimes get so stuck on pronunciation, that no matter how hard I try, I cannot say the word! Damn you, colloquialism – and I mean the actually word. I swear to god some words are meant to just be written and never said out loud!

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes! There are certain words I just never say because they’re never going to come out right.

          2. Catherine from Canada*

            Ha! My husband used to work for a consumer magazine.
            Stiplify (Stipulate and specify) made it all the way to printing once.

          3. Batshua*

            Somewhere in the comments there’s also the story of how I almost said “copulated” in reference to what I did to some files.

        3. Lindsay J*

          I do this all the time in speech.

          And the worst thing is that I tend to grab a word that is in the same category, but semantically different, (So I mean Thanksgiving but say Christmas, mean left but say right) which does lead to confusion.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I do that, too! It drives my sister crazy because there are some words I always switch, and after I’ve done it long enough, she starts to do it too.

      2. Mookie*

        Yep. A lot of people who can’t visualize spelling with great accuracy or who have never encountered a word in writing before mis-remember or mix up certain similar lexical units and morphemes (in the above case, the affixes are the same, the roots are different), even when the resulting pronunciations obviously differ. Sometimes they can’t even hear the difference unless someone else repeats both pairs back to them. It’s an interesting phenomenon, being functionally hearing-impaired and/or tone-deaf, but only to yourself.

        1. Jesca*

          Also, people who are hard of hearing, particularly ones who grew up that way, say incorrect words all the time.

    4. CityMouse*

      “Treasury” and “tertiary” are weird words to mix up too. I suspect this is not a knowledge thing but either a misspeaking or LW might be mistaking a strong regional accent for another word.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think it’s possible that they’re not mixing up the words; they’re just pronouncing the one in a way that suggests the other, often by the common habit of misplacing an R.

        But really, OP, don’t. I’m an editor with a PhD in English. You know what matters to me more that correct pronunciation? That people are willing to talk to me.

        1. Specialk9*

          And OP, you may be new here and not know, but fposte — the professional word-corrector with a PhD in English — is invariably kind and respectful in their comments to others. If they can do it, you can too.

        2. Jesca*

          I agree. Because, I can think of like one time in my entire life where I actually found myself in a position to use the word “tertiary” in any type of context. I mean it is certainly rare enough in context and in speech to not be part of a common lexicon, I would think, right?

        3. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, I’m wondering if maybe OP expects “ter-shee-air-ee” and they do it more like “tersh-a-ree,” and it’s hitting OP’s ear like “treasury.”

    5. Ganache*

      I heard a teacher on tv a few weeks ago say ‘we should record this for prosperity’. A teacher. Who teaches children. I was agog.

      1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

        These things often happen because of phonological similarity. In your brain, a word like “offer” is stored in your mental lexicon near “otter” or “offal”, so these errors are quite commonplace and normal. The brain picks a word that sounds like what you want but has different semantic content. It’s a normal process. Other times people do consistently use the wrong word, but as long as you can discern the meaning from the context in the rest of the utterance, and it’s not an emergency situation, it’s really ok to let these things go.

        1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

          Let me clarify that to mean that it’s ok to let it go if it’s not causing problems. It seems a systematic thing for the person in the LW’s letter, and I get why it’s a problem, but I agree with Alison’s advice.

        2. Construction Safety*

          Acocdrnig to an elgnsih unviesitry sutdy the oredr of letetrs in a wrod dosen’t mttaer, the olny thnig thta’s iopmrantt is that the frsit and lsat ltteer of eevry word is in the crcreot ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and one is stlil able to raed the txet wiohtut dclftfuiiy.

        1. AnotherJill*

          I taught successfully for many years and my brain routinely tells me to say “relevation” instead of “revelation”.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            I blame Bugs Bunny for being unable to correctly pronounce “strategy” without really thinking about it. (In the Looney Tunes canon, it’s most often pronounced “stragety,” and I’ve watched many an hour of Looney Tunes!)

            1. SusanIvanova*

              I blame Mark Twain for “mis-chee-vi-ous” instead of “mis-chif-ous”. Aunt Polly describes Tom Sawyer that way, and Twain even emphasized it to draw attention to her mispronunciation – but all that did was make a strong impression on generations of kids who first encountered it there.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “explanation point,” much to my annoyance

      2. Fact & Fiction*

        My brain totally read this as the word it should be so I had to reread to understand what was wrong. Oh!

  11. Chatterby*

    #3 Is there any way you can convince your company to start paying for the coffee and water?
    Those are a very, very common job ‘perk,’ to the point where a lot of employees view them as a given.
    Maybe you could convince them to get a water filtration station or subscribe to a water cooler service, which would keep Gigi from taking your water stash.
    Gigi is new, so it’s possible she believes the bottled water and coffee are company-provided or being expensed, rather than coming out of your pocket completely.
    There’s also the inherent unfairness that only the remote staff get these extras, while the people there everyday get nothing. Which would lead me to suggest
    1) Getting rid of all snacks/coffees/waters
    2) Keeping the extras for the remote staff, but getting something just the office people can enjoy, such as an ice maker, or the above mentioned water stations
    3) Picking a day when the in-house staff get something. Like, every Friday or whatever.
    4) Switching so Gigi’s boss is the one to bring water bottles and he can deal with this. He may feel that paying $3 for a flat of water a week is worth it for a good assistant.
    5) Keeping the water in a locked cupboard or closet.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      It’s not unfair. The remote staff are on travel and do not have access to all the snacks/water that a local employee would have.
      For example, I can keep coffee and snacks in my desk but it would be more difficult to store them in my computer bag while on travel.

    2. Observer*

      So, the OP has to sop providing something for her staff that helps them and her with an issue that’s not relevant to the in office secretary or she needs to start providing this for everyone else in the office? Out of her own pocket?

      Fair is NOT same.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, exactly.

        I don’t like the water that comes out of the tap at my office. I bought one of those Pur filters and keep it in my office. I don’t know what Gigi’s budget situation is like, but it’s possible she could do something like that, too, if she’s doing it because she doesn’t like the tap water.

  12. MK*

    OP1, if precision of language is so important to you, that’s your issue. For the majority of people the important thing is that it fullfils it’s function as a communication tool and the occasional misused word, especially in speaking, doesn’t create a problem with that. And do not try to justify correcting people by telling yourself it’s for their careers’ shake; unless use of language is a part of their work, this is not going to affect their reputation as professionals. It might affect yours, if you aquire a reputation from rudely trying to monitor other people speaking.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      This comment seems tailor-made to bait the proofreaders in the commentariat. I’m honestly not sure if that’s intentional — but if so, you have my grudging respect for the sheer orneriness of it.

      1. Myrin*

        MK isn’t a native English speaker, something the proofreaders in the commentariat would probably take into account even if they were on the hunt for a “gotcha”.

      2. MK*

        Actually, it’s just one more lost battle in my ongoing war with autocorrect. Plus I don’t proofread my comments.

      3. Jane Snow*

        I am a former full-time copyeditor, and my current job is about 15-20% copyediting, and I completely agree with MK’s comment, and the typos don’t really bother me. Despite the nature of my work, I have strong feelings about a descriptivist rather than prescriptivist approach to language, and a focus on function over form. Also, I’ve often seen purism used to shame people for regional dialects or language quirks associated with working-class folks or PoC. (E.g., pronouncing “asked” as “axed,” a pronunciation that actually dates back to Shakespeare’s time.)

      1. Ganache*

        Yes. And it absolutely can and often does affect the way a person is perceived. Although I take into account other factors too, my opinion of someone’s intelligence and/or attention to detail does go down when I see/hear regular spelling errors or the use of a completely incorrect word. I have seen managers write ‘for all in tents and purposes’, ‘I was very weary about the proposed change’ (what, it made you tired?) and other such clangers. And I can’t be the only one.

        It riles me when I see managers and professionals write their emails in the same manner a teenager would dash off a text too.

          1. blackcat*

            As I child, I was very confused by “intensive porpoises.” How can a marine mammal be “intensive”?

        1. Annie Moose*

          Intelligence and pronunciation (and, frankly, spelling) have practically nothing to do with one another. Being smart doesn’t mean your tongue magically works differently from anyone else’s, or that you’re naturally more inclined to be good at memorizing spellings.

          Certainly misspellings and such can be a sign of disorganization or lack of attention to detail, and there’s careers where these things would matter quite a lot (public speaking, editing, etc.), but it’s not about intelligence. It really, really isn’t.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Also, it’s not unusual for people who tend to learn words by hearing them to misspell them, and for people who tend to learn words by reading them to mispronounce them. It’s a difference in learning style, and not an indicator that they are stupid. Or dearly hoping some random people will weigh in with corrections, real or imagined.

            If you can tell what they mean, and it’s not going to critically impact anyone’s work, you can Let It Go. As someone put it upthread, the etiquette violation of pointing out the error trumps the minor issue of hearing a word mispronounced.

        2. paul*

          It can absolutely impact how people are perceived, particularly in extreme cases. But I’m kind of skeptical that nearly everyone in OP1s vicinity is an extreme case that regularly garbles communication. Which makes me default to suspecting OP is being particularly picky about this, well beyond situations that would typically raise eyebrows.

    2. Myrin*

      I’m surprised to hear you say that “unless use of language is a part of their work, this is not going to affect their reputation as professionals”. If one of my coworkers (or superiors) regularly misused words or seemed to be using words they clearly don’t know the meaning of, it’s absolutely going to influence how I view them. (The important part here is “regularly”, of course – everyone misspeaks every once in a while and it shouldn’t be a big deal in otherwise clear communication.) Safe for specific circumstances (like what Alison mentioned in her post), that still doesn’t mean OP should correct the usage but I really wouldn’t say with such certainty that people will be unaffected by their own constant misuse of certain words.

      1. TimTamGirl*

        Yeah, I care a great deal about ‘precision of language’; but I also have enough common sense to realise that not everybody cares to the same degree that I do, or has the same background that I do. I have no problem with people making occasional mistakes – I do as well, of effing course I do – but when an individual routinely gets things wrong, it does indicate to me that language is not that person’s strongpoint and could affect the kind of work I would assign or the double-checking I would do of that work.

        My pet peeve is people who try to use Complicated Language And Structure to show how smart they are, and then get it badly wrong and/or obscure their meaning. This happens *so much* in professional writing in English, and it makes me howl like a wounded animal. And again, this would affect my perception of someone’s writing abilities, especially if I saw it more than once. But I don’t think that’s unfair, or just my ‘issue’.

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          *joins you in howling* I’m teaching an intro class right now, and I am just very glad that I’m in a position to give correction-advice, because “defiantly” is not “definitely.” I’ve taken to Inigo Montoya-ing that ish.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My biggest grammatical pet peeve is people who use “Jake and I” incorrectly. Because sometimes it *is* correct to say “me and Jake” but people don’t pay attention to the nuance of the sentence. I see/hear it in professional writing all the time (books, TV shows, movies) and it drives me bonkers.

          1. Next Thursday Next*

            This, so very much. I read where someone wrote, “Jack and I’s anniversary.”

            My eye just twitched.

          2. Laura*

            Friends and I have a joke that if you took a shot every time a Real Housewife says “X and I” incorrectly, you’d be rat-arsed drunk halfway through each episode.

          3. the gold digger*

            It makes me nuts, too, but then I try to remind myself that there is no moral right or wrong with grammar – it is an arbitrary system that we have agreed to to make it easy to communicate. And then I really try to remind myself of my husband’s father, Sly, who was an English professor, and used language as a way to decide who was a worthy human being and who was not. He thought people who spoke incorrectly were inferior. I don’t want to be like him. The rules of language are arbitrary and not knowing them just means a person has not had access to the systems where one learns the rules.

            1. Sue No-Name*

              I do think that there are people who have had as much access as needed to learn the rules, and just aren’t interested in being strict about them. Not that such people need to be ferreted out and criticized, just that compassion toward people who aren’t following your preferred arbitrary rules need not be extended exclusively on the basis of access/privilege/etc.

          4. Not a Morning Person*

            Agreed! It hurts my ears so much and unfortunately, I’ve picked up using the incorrect version on occasion and I cringe at myself!

          5. Turkletina*

            Blergh. Yesterday, I tried to write an email asking whether it would be “possible for me and Jake to be in the same room”. I am 100% sure that “me and Jake” is correct and “Jake and I” is not, but gosh does it sound wrong.

            1. Specialk9*

              Sorry, I believe it’s actually “Jake and me”. There are two tricks I was taught for this.

              Frst, for the order of names, you politely let everyone else go before you, like holding a door for people. So “Jake, Tina, Leonid, and I/me” but never “me and Jake” because it’s like elbowing through a door in front of a granny.

              Second, for whether to use me or I, just for a second mentally erase all the other people and choose that pronoun, then add everyone across back in (before you). So “he gave the cake to Jake, Tina, and… I? me?” (So erase Jake and Tina:) “he gave the cake to me”. (Now add them back in:) “he gave the cake to Jake, Tina, and me.”


        3. Observer*

          I think that there is a significant difference between a mispronouncing some words, or confusion on the correct usage of some words, which really is generally not a big issue, and your pet peeve. For one thing, it sounds like more serious errors and it’s a direct result of being obnoxious, really. If you are going to show off, get it right at least!

      2. MK*

        I don’t get a sense from the letter that all the OP’s co-workers do it constantly, just that it happens often enough for it to grate on her. In a not-small team, it could happen daily, with the individuals still only making occasional mistakes.

      3. Health Insurance Nerd*

        I agree. If you have a job that requires regular verbal communication, use of language is part of your work!

      4. Susanne*

        “I’m surprised to hear you say that “unless use of language is a part of their work, this is not going to affect their reputation as professionals”. If one of my coworkers (or superiors) regularly misused words or seemed to be using words they clearly don’t know the meaning of, it’s absolutely going to influence how I view them.”


      5. Jesca*

        I just have one statement to this: Then do not work for or with ESL individuals. I am precise for formal language. I pride myself on that. I also pride myself on my ability to see how arbitrary language structure is, and how complicated the English language is.

        Also, if you are going to “let it go” for an ESL speaker, then let it go for others as well. Not everyone focused on that. When judging becomes a part of your importance of precision of language, than it is actually an issue. It is your issue. It sucks how common this is, and it is the reality of so many to have to check their speech just to appease the arbitrary thoughts of managers who put so much emphasis on sentence structure.

      6. SallytooShort*

        Do you make it a rule that you only work with native speakers then? Because that would be illegal.

        And even for native speakers if you were raised in a poor household or didn’t have the benefit of good schools even excelling later in life and going to college or grad school doesn’t make up for the fact that people started from behind.

        Love of precision language is a classic veil for discriminatory behavior against race, country of origin, and economic status.

    3. Wordsmith OP*

      Completely agree with you that it’s inappropriate to correct people in a way that’s obnoxious, however precision of language IS a big part of my and my colleagues’ jobs.

  13. Zungu*

    Oh man, at my old org a very senior person who clearly thought very highly of his education kept confusing “Pollyanna” and “Cassandra” in describing himself and it took great restraint not to say anything, but I was an intern….glad to hear I was right to keep quiet.

    1. Observer*

      Oh my! I think it would be hard to hide my reaction on that – but it wouldn’t be verbal (I hope!)

      That’s MUCH worse than anything that the OP mentions, though.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        They’re literary references: a Pollyanna is a perpetual optimist (often to a ridiculous degree) and a Cassandra is someone who is cursed with seeing the (usually disastrous) future but never having their predictions believed.

      2. Zungu*

        In Aeschylus/Greek myth generally, Cassandra was doomed to speak accurate, grim prophecies that no one believed.

        I don’t know the origin of “Pollyanna”, but it means someone who keeps repeating overly optimistic forecasts regardless of what’s actually going on.

        1. PABJ*

          Pollyanna is the name of the main character in a book and movie with her name as the title who is portrayed as a relentless optimist.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            Which is why I find it endlessly amusing that its merchandising tie-in is the single most vicious board game I have ever played.

        2. Bagpuss*

          ‘Pollyanna’ was a children’s book (in fact there were about 15 of them, but the sequels aren’t as well known) about an excessively optimistic orphan who spreads sweetness and light wherever she goes. I seem to recall that she gets hit by a car and paralysed at one point in the novel, just to give her something o be properly optimistic about!

          I’ve always thought she must have been incredibly irritating, but perhaps that just exposes my Grinch-like nature ;)

      3. Cambridge Comma*

        He would have been saying that he had a ‘Cassandra’ attitude (like the Greek myth) rather than a ‘Pollyanna’ attitude (like the children’s book).

    2. Mookie*

      I love this so much. My dad is constantly talking about the Springsteen Effect or Schroeder’s Cat (it’s a piano, damn you!), and he thinks asinine and anally-retentive describe people who act like general-purpose assholes.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      *scribbles notes for short story in which Pollyanna and Cassandra get their jobs mixed up; hijinks ensue*

    4. SarcasticFringehead*

      Sometimes I confuse Job and Lot, and was briefly extremely confused reading about the charitable organization “Job’s Daughters.”

  14. RedinSC*

    LW2 I had a former colleague who was negative like this. She was negative at work, she got laid off (like half the company, this was in 2002 in the Silicon Valley). I stayed in touch with her but every time I talked with her or met up with her all she could do was focus on her terrible treatment there and how evil they were, etc.
    I realized that this was not healthy for me, no one wants to hear all that, but even more it was not healthy for her. It was like I was the catalyst for her memories and the hate would just spill out. I just faded from her life. I really hope she’s happier now. But my advice for you is to just fade from this coworker’s life.
    Good luck.

    1. Leo*

      Thank you very much for your advice. I very much appreciate it though it is tough. I need to focus on this being her problem, like you say, it is definitely not healthy for her, and understand what I represent to her. Messaging services really don’t help with fading, I guess. I wouldn’t still be speaking to her without them.

    2. Jesca*

      I had this happen too. It was even worse, because she still worked there! She hated our boss for a whole slew of really dumb reasons (she was projecting her personal problems onto him a lot). I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was a constant slew of negativity over something I especially did not agree with at all. I had to back away. She found a new audience, and then finally left in a blaze of dramatic glory. The new audience then left in a fit of solidarity (she wasn’t even in our department!). But see, this is how toxic this crap is! The best thing to do is to ease away from it.

      1. Leo*

        I think this sounds very similar to what I’m having. it’s really her personal problem and shouldn’t be affecting my own perception. It’s worrying how toxic it can be – I’m lucky to have another excellent co-worker who helps me to balance and think clearly. But yes – I feel the “can’t take it any more” now.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I had a similarly toxic co-worker and I would finish work for the day feeling pretty good and then get sucked into a conversation with her and go home feeling absolutely awful. I finally just stopped engaging with her and my life improved tremendously. As far as I know she’s still at the same place but I blocked her on social media so she couldn’t get me down further.

      OP, I hope you are able to disengage. Don’t worry about being rude, your former co-worker is the one being rude by complaining to you about the terrible job she had that you still have! And I see nothing wrong with Allison’s advice about letting management know she doesn’t plan to return. They should already suspect this anyway and if they know it, hopefully they can get you some assistance and help you get back to your normal workload.

      1. Leo*

        I only worry about being rude as clearly she isn’t in a good frame of mind, and I don’t want to affect that. But I can’t be supportive to my own detriment now. I’m going to try very hard – thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it.

  15. Story Nurse*

    OP #4, you may also want to consider dropping a casual note to your grandboss, or stopping her by the water cooler, to say “The new guy is working out great”. The first few months are a vulnerable time for any new hire, and if this one is so terrific, you should make sure his boss knows you want to keep him!

    1. sb*

      At my company I’d send a quick email to the boss’s boss. Grandboss will appreciate seeing a side of their new hire that they might not have seen yet and can pass it along as appropriate.

      And be as specific as you can–this will be most helpful to Grandboss which will benefit your boss and make you look good.

  16. Rookie Manager*

    OP1, I think you need to judge this on a case by case situation. I worked with someone who tslked about ‘cohesive control’ instead of ‘coercive control’ frequently. We were working with victims of donestic abuse and their supporters, it was important to get it right and my colleague was grateful for the correction.

    One of my reports was telling me about ‘burka yoga’ that takes place in a hot room. I had to corect that one as I felt she could upset someone if she repeated the phrase elsewhere (she was excited about this new experience and telling everyone)! However if it’s a one off I normally let it go, we all mispeak at times.

    What I absolutely cannot let go is deliberate usage of incorrect words which belittle or undermine others. My reports are now starring to self correct when they refer to adult, professional women as ‘girls’…

    1. Edina Monsoon*

      Oh yes, I worked somewhere where people referred to anything bad as ‘gay’ so I kept pulling them up on it, I told them it could have really offended clients, but really I couldn’t believe grown adults were walking around saying ‘that’s so gay’ instead of ‘that doesn’t work’ and it still took a long time for them to stop!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I had a run-in with my sister about this some decades ago. I’m gay! I was not closeted! When she started insulting things by calling them “gay”, I told her it wasn’t okay. She tried to justify it and I wasn’t having any. I don’t know if I changed her mind but I certainly never heard that crappy usage out of her mouth again.

    2. KHB*

      I think your first two paragraphs make an important distinction. We all have times when we reach for a word and grab the wrong one. They’re not usually worth calling out unless you’re genuinely confused about what is meant.

      But if somebody’s repeating the wrong word often enough that it’s clear that they think “exuberant” really means “excessive in cost,” that’s a slightly different situation, and I think a lot of people would appreciate being politely corrected. Whether that means you should be the one to correct them, and how exactly you should go about it, still depends a lot on context though.

    3. Feotakahari*

      I’ve had multiple bosses who said “filter out X” when they meant “filter to remove everything except X.” I had to clarify that one just to make sure of what I was doing.

      1. Someone else*

        Speaking of filtering, I had a colleague who was discussing reporting on a certain subset of fiscal years, who kept saying “all years through 2005”, which everyone on my team thought meant beginning of time until 2005. Turned out the person meant 2005-present. Made me have flashbacks to Latin and thinking of knowing when to use ab or ad.

  17. MommyMD*

    Negative coworkers are the worst. She is way out of line. Can you block her from phone and text? Negavity is contagious and you don’t want her to drag you down or try to create any problems for you at work. Good luck.

    1. Leo*

      I can, but it’s made a little difficult as there are a group of a few of us (we all used to work together on this team, I’m the only one still in the role). I value the friendship and conversation of the others, and don’t want to cause a scene. Thank you for your advice!

  18. Big City Woman*

    For #3 – why not keep the water in a locking cabinet, to which only you and your colleagues have the key? When your remote staff come in, unlock it to give them water, and keep it locked at all other times.

      1. KR*

        Some people don’t like having unnecessary tough conversations? I think the point of a comment section is to offer a variety of different options and the OP gets to choose which one they like best!

  19. Drew*

    OP1, I’m a professional editor and I try very hard not to correct people, even coworkers, unless they’re writing public-facing copy. (At which point, it’s part of my job, not just my being persnickety.) Some people are capable of accepting well-intentioned correction as it was given, but others see it as nitpicky, unnecessary criticism and it will color your interactions with them going forward.

    I’m speaking as someone who has been on the receiving end of public, condescending criticism in a situation where I didn’t have the capital to push back. It sucked and it made me far less kindly disposed to the person for a long time. (My ego compels me to add that I checked and discovered that I was right and the person giving the criticism was wrong…but, again, that wasn’t a hill I planned to die on. It just meant I avoided using that word around that person in the future.)

    If you have a direct report who is making a consistent mistake in venues where it is likely to harm their image (for instance, in reports to senior management, when you know senior management cares about grammatical and spelling mistakes), I think you can point them out as part of coaching them. Certainly, point out consistent problems if what they’re presenting is for external use, not just internal. Otherwise, I would let it go. Lots of people take language criticisms personally and your well-meant remarks could sour the working relationship.

  20. I've been there*

    OP #1) I don’t think there’s a good way to be the correction police. So what I do is just repeat the correction in my head about 10 times to get it out of my system. I have a colleague who uses “should have went” and I always want that to sound wrong to me, so I repeat “should have gone” over and over in my head even while he’s still talking, and I feel much better.

  21. I heart Paul Buchman*

    I am eternally grateful to the co-worker who told me the word was ‘obstreperous’ not ‘obstropolous’ as I had always thought. This was news to my whole family as my grandmother used the latter frequently. However, this was a one off correction, done privately and there was a positive rapport between us.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      Somehow obstropolous makes me think of a city populated solely by obstetricians.

  22. Q*

    OP #1: Some of that stuff seems like it might be an accent problem (especially the weary/wary you say is so common). Unless it’s written down, I would really let it go.

    1. CityMouse*

      I had the exact same thought. Some of the words are really really strange to mix up (I mentioned “treasury and tertiary” above). If these coworkers and LW have different accents, LW might consider whether she might be misinterpreting them.

    2. MeridaAnn*

      I’ve seen the weary/wary mixup in writing way too often, mainly on social media, so I don’t think that one’s an accent issue – people really are mixing those two words up a lot.

      I have a list I keep on my phone of a couple dozen commonly mixed-up words (site/sight/cite, breath/breathe, aloud/allowed, etc.). When I see a new one a few times (worse/worst is my most recent addition), I add it to my list as my way of correcting it to myself without actually saying anything, since correcting someone else’s Facebook post isn’t really the way to go.

      Now when I see a mixup, I just sigh silently to myself and think, “Yep, that’s already on my list,” or “If I see that one again, it’s going on the list.” It gives me a way to address the mistake inwardly to myself and then move on without publicly correcting anyone.

        1. Wordsmith OP*

          Unfortunately not in my case for the “weary”/”wary” distinction, multiple people in my office do this verbally. It’s part of my job to correct certain written documents, and I’m all over the edits in those cases!

          1. Q*

            Oh, yikes.

            Yeah, if it’s written, and you have any standing to edit it, I would edit it every time. And frankly, at that point, pointing out recurring errors seems helpful–they’re creating more work than necessary.

            But I’m not sure if it sounds like you work in an environment where they care about improving process like that.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I’ve decided that “weary” for “wary” is a mashup of wary and leery, both relatively uncommon words. That makes sense, right?

      1. Snarky*

        I know the difference between weary/wary and wouldn’t mix them up as written words, but I do pronounce them the same. I also tend to pronounce beer/bear/bare and marry/mary/merry as the same, but this is very much the norm for where I live. It’s also not been an issue (at least one that I can remember) since context generally makes it obvious. Sure, I can draw up a sentence where it could go either way but if I’m talking to someone, I’m probably going to know if they’re tired (weary) of doing something or if they’re afraid (wary) to do something. Worse case scenario, I’ll just ask for clarification. So, accents and regional dialects can play a role in it even in cases where the words are the type that people will frequently get wrong in written communication.

        In general, I’m very strongly opposed to correcting dialects and accents unless it’s truly hampering communication. I see it as a big part of who we are and where we’ve come from in life and I see that as wholly different than using an incorrect word.

      2. JulieBulie*

        Is waver/waiver on your list yet?

        It’s gonna be on the list that I start today. I am not a “corrector” as such, but I do proofread/copy edit as a bodily function, so I often notice these things even when they’re not important and I don’t care about them. Maybe keeping a list (which will likely be identical to yours and everyone else’s) will make the experience less monotonous.

        As for my own wrong-word errors, my biggest weakness is with words that begin with the same syllable (phonetically, not alphabetically). Like “join the service” when I mean “join the circus.”

    3. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      That’s such a charitable interpretation. I once knew a cop who kept saying “mistermeanor” instead of “misdemeanor” and it drove me up a tree.

      1. Q*

        I’m really picky when it comes to writing (If I have to read “For instants” one more time…), but verbally? Eh. I pronounce things wrong all the time because I picked them up from reading.

        And being corrected for an accent you can’t help is awful.

  23. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I would really try to focus on your own word useage, which is within your control, and let everyone else’s go unless it’s life or death or within your purview eg you’re writing a house style guide.

    Also, try to think about what else is important. Using the right language is important to you. Is it more important than annoying or humiliating someone else? Is it more important than not disrupting a meeting? And so on.

    I used to care more about this than I do. I’ve noticed that it only annoys me now when I’m tired and frustrated. I reached BEC stage with a stall in the train station that sells a flapjack I love as they kept asking “fruit or chocolate” and I knew I should grit my teeth and say “fruit please”, but I kept wanting to say “I’d like a flapjack, like I said – this is a flapjack, the thing with the chocolate is NOT A FLAPJACK.” It annoyed me SO much. But I realised it was always the end of the day when I was tired and out of mental bandwidth, and that it wasn’t worth the level of aggravation it seemed to be causing me.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      They’re under signs saying Flapjack and Shortbread. Please trust me, it’s become really very clear that this particular salesperson doesn’t actually know what a flapjack is.

      1. CityMouse*

        You would be surprised how simple orders can be confusing. I worked at a pizza place in high school and there was one day we ended up in a kerfuffle with a customer because we had different definitions of “cheesy bread” (we made cheesy breadsticks, what they wanted was a cheese pizza with no sauce).

      2. Agnodike*

        Well now I feel like *I* don’t know what a flapjack is, because where I live it’s a pancake, which is still a pancake whether you put fruit or chocolate or anything else on it.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I don’t know what on earth you’re calling a pancake. Over here a pancake is a flat fried thing made out of an egg batter. A flapjack is a baked item made with oats.

          And don’t me started on the idea that a biscuit is something you eat with gravy!

          1. sb*

            Pancake = same for both, but in the US flapjack is a (less-common, possibly regional) synonym for pancake, and we don’t have the oat thing at all.

        2. LK03*

          Hee — I see Ramona’s already on it, but when I’ve had a “flapjack” in the UK I would have called it a “soft homemade granola bar” in the US. They’re really good.

    2. BadPlanning*

      I guess this is a regional thing about when it means pancake and when it’s a different food. If wikipedia can be believed.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      It’s not a topping, it’s the whole thing.

      You’ll be super confused if you try to order a flapjack in England.

    4. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yes, the rule whose attribution escapes me at the moment:

      -does this need to be said?
      -does this need to be said now?
      -does this need to be said now, by me?

  24. Mookie*

    Plus, I think it can negatively impact a person’s professional persona, however subtly. Examples, from colleagues senior, peer-level, and junior to me, include: “treasury” instead of “tertiary,” “exuberant” instead of “exorbitant,” and “weary” instead of “wary” (this is a common one)

    It sounds, LW1, like you have somewhat altruistic motives here (you want to “help them,” although you also want them to change so you can internally cringe less during meetings), but I think people senior to you are probably managing their professional personas just fine, conventional pronunciation mistakes and all. You describe this phenomenon as widespread, but there is quite literally no way you can introduce this topic on a regular basis with individual ‘offenders’ without harming yourself in the process. Openly playing prescriptivist police in this environment would be deeply off-putting and you are not in a position to request special face-time with higher-ups to inform them they’re not talking pretty one day. I disagree with Alison that this is something you need to do on an ongoing basis with your direct report, but she’s the expert and in certain sectors, verbal polish is more-or-less a job requirement.

    1. Mookie*

      Also and too, I say this as a life-long stickler of a different sort, and practicing that compulsion out loud never brought about any change or me any joy, just unease amongst people I’d offended and alienated. It didn’t matter that I did it in a boisterous, hearty, friendly way, and that it was accepted with quiet grace; I was an arrogant little shit, and if anybody needed any help or assistance at the time, t’were fecking me.

    2. JulieBulie*

      Also, unless you assume that everyone else is ignorant and oblivious, it must have occurred to you that others have been noticing these errors as well. Some of those people may be better positioned than you are to advise senior colleagues on proper diction. For all you know, they may already be doing so. (Discreetly.)

  25. MommaCat*

    OP 1, if I correct a word or pronunciation, I always leave some wiggle room to save face (and give me cover if I’m wrong). Mostly I correct my husband, but we both try to use words we’ve seen written but have never heard (and he’ll help me out on occasion, as well). “Detrius? I think it’s pronounced de-TRI-tus?” (Just watch, I’m wrong on how to pronounce “detritus.” ^_^) Obviously you’ll have to be sparing with correcting these things at work; if it’s something you think would really embarrass the speaker, pull them aside later to let them know in private.

    1. Murphy*

      My husband has recently been saying “on my behalf” when I think he means “for my part.” I actually haven’t corrected him yet. I feel weird about it.

      1. KHB*

        My parents once encountered an airport worker in Norway who, instead of “it’s up to you” (as in, “you can wait in this line or that line – it’s up to you”), said “up yours.” She was corrected before too long and blushed as red as a beet. Some idioms just don’t translate well.

  26. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 Next time your manager asks you about this person, say you don’t know. Because they should not be going through you! They should be getting in touch directly. As of now, stop conveying any information about this person.

    1. Leo*

      Yep. Thank you. I will. I don’t think our manager’s behaviour is right here, but it’s just so tricky given that it is impacting our day to day so much.

  27. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I personally prefer to be corrected if I am using a wrong word but I know a lot of people don’t as they feel embarrassed etc. It’s also awkward to correct someone. I usually don’t correct people unless it’s someone I know well enough to know they’d want me to and I never correct people in front of others. An obvious exception is of someone actually asks. Eg. If someone went ‘is that the right word?’ or ‘is that how you say it?’ then I’d answer if I knew. (This actually comes up at my job as we process admin for a hospital so lots of medical terms). Also it’s important if you DO correct someone to do so kindly and matter of factly, and not eg. With a tone that implies you think they’re stupid for getting it wrong.

    By the way I was saying exorcise instead of excise for ages (even though I was getting it right when writing it). I also know someone who says ‘pendantic’ instead of pedantic. I have never corrected her as I believe it would not go down well.

    1. Ganache*

      I had a tutor who would consistently say ‘high-archy’ for ‘hierarchy’, drove me round the twist!

      The absolute worst though is when someone tries to correct your language when they’re the one who gets it wrong and misunderstands. I was marked down in an essay for saying ‘to effect change’ with a note to learn the difference between effect and affect. Like, I know you can also affect change but I definitely meant effect.

      1. KHB*

        I hate it when people decide for themselves that what you clearly said must not have been what you meant. I had an indignant reader write to me the other day about something I’d written about the effects of nuclear power plants. He concluded that I must have actually meant nuclear weapons testing, and he patronizingly explained that “these are different technologies.” Dude, I’m well aware of the difference, and I said “power plants” because I actually meant power plants.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Having flashbacks to the time a new junior staffer ‘corrected’ the job title of one of my sources from ‘experience designer’ to ‘experienced designer’ as they thought I’d used the wrong tense. Caught that one just in time.

      2. Ruth (UK)*

        Ah yes I also hate this. Incidentally, I did my degree in English Language… And I’ve only ever once pulled this out while correcting someone and this was the situation. . .

        An colleague at a previous job, ’emily’ asked me if something she had written was ok grammatically. I said it was. Another colleague, ‘jim’ said no, it wasn’t. I said it was and why. He said in a patronising tone, ‘trust me, I did A level English’ and I said back ‘no trust ME – I did my degree in English’

        (For American readers, A level is the last year of highschool (year 13). It used to be optional but is now compulsory to do post-16 education. However, the subjects you take (typically 3) are completely optional so not everyone would do English. In fact not everyone would even do an academic qualification or do A levels specifically but I won’t get into that)

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        I’m still annoyed about the time I used “execute” in the sense of “to do something” in a high school paper and the teacher marked me down because she thought I was using the wrong word.

    2. a1*

      Yes. I prefer to be corrected too. I’d hate to have the wrong idea of what a word meant and keep using it. I don’t know why being corrected would be embarrassing, but I know a lot of people hate it so I must be in the minority. Being corrected doesn’t mean one thinks you’re stupid or lesser of anything, it just means “hey, that word doesn’t mean what you think it means”.

  28. SCtoDC*

    OP1- We all have a set amount of political capital at work. This is not where I would spend mine. Yes, it’s annoying but it’s not causing any real harm unless the wrong word is used in an outward facing capacity (published document, presentation to client, etc.). I don’t think there is a way to correct people on this particular topic without coming across poorly.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #3 – It seems like a larger issue is that OP is purchasing snacks and water for employees out of her own pocket. Perhaps that could be a secondary conversation between OP and her higher-ups, so the company picks up the tab for these extras (although, I think potable water isn’t an “extra”).

    The conversation with Gigi can be short and to the point, and need not be uncomfortable. “Hey, Gigi, please stop taking the bottled water from the fridge. That’s for the remote employees.” If she pushes back, then explain you pay for it yourself – not the company. She may not be sympathetic to this, though, if you’re a higher earner than she is, which is why I don’t think I’d lead with that.

      1. Bea*

        Or boil it down to “do not come into my office when I’m not here.” She’s not the letter writer’s assistant. I’m still flinching at going into someone’s office like that and casually snagging an item. I wouldn’t even want to do that with office supplies.

  30. Oryx*

    OP #1, this is a situation where context is key. Do you understand what they are trying to convey regardless of the incorrect word? Do other people understand? Then let it go.

    If their use of the word causes confusion, then ask them to clarify which would open an opportunity for correction. That said, don’t feign confusion in an effort to gain that opportunity.

  31. CityMouse*

    The one thing I think is important to note with situations like LW1 (not necessarily LW1 herself) us to be cognizant of the socioeconomic backgrounds of speakers and how that can contribute to pronunciation issues.

    Specifically, my husband is the first person in his family to go to college and was zoned for bad public schools. My spouse will occasionally correctly use, but mispronounce words (yesterday, “aghast”). Why? Because he learned most of those words from reading and didn’t have anyone to correct him. He has an engineering PhD now, but did not catch up on English as much.

    He says that with people who grew up with more privileged education, it sometimes feels like we are all speaking a different code (not just words but also cultural references). Sometimes I do not think we are aware of how much language can reflect privilege.

    Just be careful not to engage in gatekeeping. If you choose to correct be aware of how you do it and whether such comments are consistently delivered to the same people. You do not want to create a negative impression of yourself or negative environment for others.

    1. WeevilWobble*

      It’s gotten better for me overtime but I definitely had a reading vocabulary for the same exact reasons.

      The thing is even when you know sometimes you accidentally go back. I originally thought a bass guitar was pronounced like the fish. I learned the correct pronunciation years and years ago but every once in awhile I’ll revert without thinking.

    2. Courtney*

      This is a great point. I definitely used to be a snob about grammar and correct wording, and I’m so glad that some of my college professors have shaken up my views on it. OP 1, there’s some interesting stuff to read out there that challenges the idea of prescriptive grammar always being better than descriptive (because hey, some things that are prescriptive grammar or real words/accurate pronounciation today used to be considered wrong!), and also calls into question why people generally consider certain language changes more acceptable than others. For example, “y’all” is often considered to just be a regional variation while African American vernacular is often viewed as sounding more uneducated. You can quickly get into some deep, ugly issues if you really take the time to consider your language biases. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m really glad I did it.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I’m not at all the first person in my family to go to college and just learned last night that I didn’t know how to pronounce “lumbago.” Because who ever says that out loud??? But it does show up in books I read.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I think I first encountered “lumbago” in the Little House books, which also mention “ague” several times. I always thought it rhymed with “plague”!

        1. Red Reader*

          … it … doesn’t?

          Okay, so how do you pronounce “lumbago” and “ague”? (Because I see lumbago in medical records like ten times a day, but have literally never heard it spoken aloud, and now I have no idea what to think.)

          1. Bagpuss*

            I’m pretty sure ague is pronounced (more or less) as ay-gue – emphasis on the first syllable (unless o course there is an English / American English difference!)

            I don’t think I’ve ever heard ‘lumbago’ out loud but I would pronounce it lum-bay-go.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        From Jeopardy? I didn’t even know it was a word, I just guessed they were looking from some combination of lumbar and go when I tried to answer ahead of the contestants and got it right.

      3. JulieBulie*

        I first heard “lumbago” spoken by Robin in a Batman episode. (I don’t remember which one.) (Google says it’s “Instant Freeze.”

  32. C Average*

    Ah, LW #1, you have my sympathies.

    I, too, have a red pen in my brain, and there is no kill switch for the #%*! thing.

    Years ago, in college, I had a part-time job at the copy center, and when people—mostly professors—brought in copy jobs with typos, I’d always say something. In my mind, I was providing excellent service: who WOULDN’T want the opportunity to correct that misspelling in the title before paying for 500 copies? It was a mercy to everyone when my much older boss took me aside and said, basically, “Hey, what you’re doing makes people uncomfortable and annoyed, and it’s not your job.”

    (I had gained a sufficient reputation as an insufferable pedant that a few people started hiring me to proofread their publications!)

    Anyway, yeah, no, don’t be the insufferable pedant in your office.

    Also, regarding pronunciation, I recall reading a quote somewhere along the lines of “don’t ever assume someone is less intelligent because they mispronounce a word. It most likely just means they’ve only encountered that word through reading, not in spoken conversation.” I like that sentiment a lot.

  33. Health Insurance Nerd*

    OP#1- when my now teenaged son was little, he told me one night that the meal I made was “exceptional”. I thanked him profusely, at which point he informed me that by “exceptional” he meant that the meal was merely ok. I explained that was not what exceptional meant, and explained that he didn’t care, that is what the word meant to him. To this day it is a constant joke in our house, and we all (much to my son’s chagrin) use “exceptional” in place of “ok”.

    Sometimes even when you correct people, they just don’t care.

    1. the gold digger*

      My (non-native speaker) boss told me I was “verbose.”

      I paused, then said, “That’s not really a compliment, you know.”

      He didn’t know. He thought it was a good thing.

    2. Clever Name*

      Heh. My now 11-year old does that. I think it’s a defense mechanism, as he’s a perfectionist and doesn’t like being corrected. (I never correct him in front of other people) I tell him it’s fine if he doesn’t care, but language has a purpose, and it’s to communicate with others, so while YOU may know what you mean, others might not.

  34. Jwal*

    OP1 I feel your pain! I hear the phrase “could care less” on a daily basis, and there’s one particular train announcer that keeps apologising for the “unconvenience* caused”. It’s just mentally jarring. But I don’t think that there’s anything that can be done, so unless I’m specifically asked to proofread something then I don’t say anything.

    But take comfort to know that other people are probably noticing too!

    *I googled this just in case, and apparently it’s an archaic form of ‘inconvenience’. So now I try to think to myself that maybe she’s saying it on purpose. Only makes it marginally better…

  35. Construction Safety*

    #1 Ha! Many years ago a news reader on one of THE major news-only networks used “desegregated” instead of “desecrated” twice in the same news item.

  36. what's my name again?*

    I wonder if Gigi’s problem is one of being viewed as “just” the secretary. “Sheesh, I can’t even get a lousy bottle of water, they stash it in there for the more important people.”
    I’ve worked in places like that, in which lower people on the totem pole received little to nothing compared to the higher ups. Maybe that’s what it seems like to her.
    Of course, she’s wrong to take items purchased by someone else and not intended for her. But maybe that’s her mindset.

    1. Murphy*

      I wonder if she doesn’t know that it’s being purchased out of pocket (which may or may not affect her decision to steal it).

      1. Miss Elaine e*


        The more I think of it, it occurs to me that I’ve never encountered a situation like this, in which nonjob-specific items were off-limits to some staff but not others. (I get it, the OP bought it personally for remote staff). Perhaps Gigi either doesn’t realize the “bought with personal funds” part of it and only sees the “I’m left out” part. That could be irritating and result in a “lowly underling’s” flouting of rules.

        1. True Story*

          We have bottled water that’s only provided to staff when they’re “in” a client meeting. They also bring in snacks or sweets to those meetings as well. Staff can have some if they like during the meeting (and leftovers might be shared with the staff at large, but usually there aren’t any), but it’s generally kept in a separate part of the fridge along with cokes and other items reserved for clients.

          Also, I’m constantly surprised at how many people think a company is obligated to supply bottle water (large jug or individual) for employees. Maybe it’s because I’ve only worked at marketing firms with <50 people and access to a kitchen or break room (with a fridge, toaster, microwave, and sink).

  37. Observer*

    #1 Allison removed my comment, as it she felt I was being to harsh. I’m going to try to restate less harshly.

    Firstly, keep in mind that, as others have noted, you really cannot do this without it affecting your standing and reputation. It’s not just rude – it’s going to come off as very weird, and not terribly professional.

    Secondly, although I can understand wincing when someone uses a word incorrectly, I think you are putting way too much emphasis on on what are, when you come down to it, minor errors. Everyone makes mistakes, and occasionally uses the wrong word. You’re not immune to this. If you start nit-picking people, odds are that they are going to start doing that to you. And, they may not limit it to the words you choose on the one hand, and on the other any word mistake YOU make are going to be a much bigger deal. It’s often not even conscious, but it definitely happens.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think whether or not it’s a minor error depends largely on the circumstances.

      How often do we see people making fun of the president’s incorrect word choices? Some positions and situations it really does matter if you speak incorrectly.

      1. fposte*

        Jimmy Carter the nuclear engineer said “nucular.” It’s not the speaking that’s really the issue; it’s the knowledge behind it.

        There’s also a really interesting book by Geoffrey Nunberg called “Going Nucular” that talks about how some pronunciations that are viewed by some as errors are more like choosing cultural sides.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          One of my linguistics professors led a discussion of this. It started by talking about accents/dialects that insert a ‘k’ sound between a vowel and a sibilant (whether by rearranging it from elsewhere in the word a la ‘aksed’ for ‘asked,’ or adding it from nowhere like ‘ekspresso’ for ‘espresso’), and a lot of us were like “oh ugh yeah I hate when people say ‘ekspresso, it’s so wrong.’ She then sort of walked us through the fact that non-rhotic (or ‘r-dropping’) accents/dialects are modifying the words just as much and just as consistently, but we don’t go ‘oh ugh people from Boston or England sound so uneducated.’ And pretty much the only conclusion that we could come to was that we’re okay with dropping or adding sounds if it’s done in an accent or dialect that we think of as prestigious–indeed, we may think it sounds ‘more correct’ than how we speak!–but we get eyerolly or cringey when it’s a dialect we think of as ‘not classy’–that is to say, it’s often not about correctness at all but about perceived prestige or class. It was pretty eye opening.

          1. LizB*

            I was a huge word-corrector/self-described “grammar police”… until I took a few linguistics courses in college, and learned about dialects and prestige and the idea that a word or phrase can be a misfit for the situation (e.g. textspeak in a formal writing assignment), but that doesn’t make it permanently wrong or terrible. I now find it way more interesting to look at the different ways people actually use language than to think about how my personal dialect dictates it should be used. I credit those linguistics courses for making me a much less annoying person to be around. (Although I’ll talk your ear off about conlangs and internet grammar if you let me get started, so I guess I’ve potentially become annoying in other ways.)

            1. Annie Moose*

              This could be my life story! Conlangs and linguistics classes in college saved me from a life of obnoxious prescriptivism (although now I drive my family crazy by complaining about them complaining about stuff instead :P).

          2. Bagpuss*

            Years ago, I went to a fascinating lecture about language and in particular, regional dialects. One for the points the speak made was that most dialects have their own, internally correct grammar and construction, it’s just that because most of us are familiar with a different dialect of the same language, we hear it as ‘wrong’.
            One of his points was that dialects tend to be very consistent , it’s just that speakers are consistently following a slightly different set of rules than the ones we have been taught to see as correct. (he went on to talk about how mapping dialects (in England and Great Britain particularly) gives a lot of information about population movements, and in some cases has incredibly close correlation with DNA evidence about (for instance) Viking and Norman occupations.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yes! My favorite example of this is the habitual “be” in African American Vernacular English. A lot of people mistakenly think that AAVE speakers “mistakenly” replace “is” with “be” across the board, in sentences like “He be working,” but actually the is vs. be distinction is a different tense, consistently used. The example my professor gave was “Joe is eating cookies” means that Joe is currently eating cookies, but “Cookie Monster be eating cookies” means that Cookie Monster regularly or habitually eats cookies. It’s not a mistake; it’s a degree of precision that can only be achieved in Standard American English by adding qualifiers.

          3. Turkletina*

            I want to go to this place where people with Boston accents aren’t perceived to be uneducated (here, at least, there’s a really pervasive dumb-sports-fan stereotype). I have a PhD and get made fun of for my r’s all the time!

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Major university in Southern California, in this case. It was considered “classy, almost like an English person.”

      2. Observer*

        In most cases, when that happens, the people who are making fun have already made their decision. The nucular mispronunciation is a perfect example. The people who made fun of Bush for saying that didn’t make fun of Carter, and the reverse. They both said it. But the people who decided that Carter is nothing but a red-neck peanut farmer took this as proof, but ignored Bush. And the people who hated Bush used it to “prove” that he’s an idiot, despite the fact that Carter made the same mistake.

        1. Sue Wilson*

          Well that AND a history of certain types of fumbles makes people more likely to point out new ones. There were reasons to believe that Carter would have the intellect to know about nuclear power regardless of his pronunciation, there were plenty of reasons to believe that Bush’s pronunciation was more evidence of his way of thinking.

          1. Observer*

            Whatever it is, the issue wasn’t the language – the issue was the perception of the person, rightly or wrongly.

  38. Susanne*

    #1, I want to push back on the idea that you can’t correct people for misused words (obviously in a gentle, constructive fashion, not publicly, and so forth). If we were talking with coworkers about a situation in the workplace and someone said “Bob’s smelly fish in the microwave is creating a hostile workplace,” we wouldn’t think twice about matter-of-factly pointing out “that’s actually not the definition of a hostile workplace; in this context, hostile actually means abc, not xyz.” Or if a coworker used the word spout to refer to the part of the teapot that is actually the handle, we’d matter-of-factly correct that. Or if a coworker said that he was excited to see Hamilton because Hamilton was his favorite US president.

    I think the key is that you’re just matter-of-factly correcting something that of course a reasonable person would want to have corrected — a hostile workplace actually refers to abc, this part of the teapot is called the handle, Hamilton wasn’t actually ever a US president, exorbitant actually means xxx and not yyy. Alison has long been a proponent of this sort of matter-of-fact, cheerful way about talking about things, using a tonality that signals “of course you’d want to know this” as opposed to “I think you’re an idiot for thinking this,” and I think it might apply here.

    1. Observer*

      I think that the key is that most people really do NOT care about the errors that the OP is describing. Truth is that most people wouldn’t care about the errors you are describing either in most cases. So it’s just not correct to say that “of course a reasonable person would want to have corrected.”

      1. Sue No-Name*

        I think this is unfortunately something where the obvious answer is not the same obvious answer to all people. Which is fine, but also means that sometimes person A will offend person B unintentionally by assuming B would want the correction, as A would if they had made the same mistake. People are human, and humans make mistakes in word use and in anticipating others’ wants, so we can’t act as though there’s a knowable, perfect way to respond at all times.

  39. Lynca*

    OP#3: I agree that you need to tell Gigi that she should not go into your office and take water. It’s for meetings, etc. not everyday use and you paid for that.

    But then I would look at the larger issue of whether there is a good drinking water source in the Office. If there is, she needs to be pointed to that. If there’s not this may be a symptom of a larger issue that the Office needs to address.

    1. Observer*

      I think that that’s a valid point. The next question is, is this something the OP can do, or does it need to get bumped up?

    2. Bea*

      Since it sounds like a growing office, having one associate hiring on an assistant for themselves, not even a general office wide secretary, I bet it’s sometime to that effect. The associates are used to fronting the bill for their team snacks but now it’s growing to a bigger setup. So now may be the time to retool given others will probably also hire assistants down the road.

  40. k8*

    I recently had a discussion about “flush out” vs “flesh out” with basically my entire team. it was driving me crazy– it felt like every five minutes, another person was talking about “flushing out” a project. I approached it more as like “here is a funny thing some of you are saying” and we laughed about it, but I’m sure I STILL came off like a fussy know-it-all. it’s hard to do something like correct someone’s language without coming across as pedantic.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I was once complimented for saying “flesh out” instead of “flush out”! It was weirdly insulting, though that was probably the delivery and the particular guy who complimented me (he spent most of his days looking for faults in his subordinates, and I felt like I had gotten some kind of pass for the day).

      Your approach sounds like something I might do. I agree, it’s tough, but you have to approach it from a place of kindness and help (which it sounds like you did) rather than horror and wincing.

      1. ss*

        Reminds me of a coworker who always talked about “fluffing up” whatever document we were working on at the time. I knew she meant to expand and fill it in more, but my mind would jumped to the term in the ‘adult industry’ job of a “fluffer” and I’d had to hold in my (inappropriate) giggling.

    2. SallytooShort*

      I have had people correct me on this one when I was using flush out correctly, though. Like “Yes, I do want to flush out the obstacles to this project. I don’t want to add meat to those obstacles.”

      1. k8*

        lol that would really tick me off! people can get weirdly dogmatic about this stuff– it’s like they were told a word or phrase was wrong in a certain context and internalized it as “this word/phrase is always wrong no matter what.” In my case, we *were* talking about adding meat– but obviously you weren’t!

        1. SallytooShort*

          Oh, it was totally clear from your context that you were using it correctly! It just reminded me of this time.

  41. Ellis*

    water bottle LW, please don’t end your ‘script’ for Gigi with “Thanks!” unless it’s your aim at work to be perceived as incredibly passive aggressive

  42. Wordsmith OP*

    OP #1 here. Thanks so much for everyone’s comments and comiseration! I always try and tell myself that this is a particular pet peeve of mine, and that lots of other people don’t notice so I should just let it go. I completely agree with Alison’s point that it simply isn’t my place to correct them in most cases, and the commenters’ point that it can sap a general sense of goodwill. However, I’m going to delicately address it privately with my direct report if it comes up again, she’s very intelligent and competent otherwise and I want to coach her to be the best professional she can be.

    1. Argh!*

      Is your direct report’s reputation actually being affected by word choices? If it’s just you who finds it annoying, is it worth bringing up? I can see fussing over written work that will be published to the web or other places where the company’s reputation could be impacted, but in conversation there’s a wide range of usage patterns in the U.S. Those of us who had picky parents have to get used to it.

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        I would actually interpret this type of correction as a kindness. I’m letting you know that something you are doing or saying may come across negatively to others who find those things really important. So for future use/reference, be aware. Then, let it go. And particularly if the person is a direct report, it’s the job of the manager to point these kinds of things out. I’m getting the impression that many people have had those kinds of corrections done in a condescending or rude manner. It is possible to correct people kindly. Do it in private. Tell them that you want them to be aware of something that you think they’d want to know. Tell them that there are people who think this thing is important and may use it as a way to judge or differentiate. Tell them that you want them to have the information to make their own judgment about whether to use what you tell them. If you can, tell a story about being corrected yourself for something that you found uncomfortable to learn, but were grateful to know, even with the embarrassment factor. Then tell them that you hope they know that you think that regardless of whether they decide to change what they are doing, you appreciate them listening and that, again, it’s up to them to decide how important the thing is to them. And again, let it go after that.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

          I agree. I’ve certainly had a few errors corrected but it only upsets me if it’s clearly meant to be condescending or is done in a way that amounts to public humiliation. In the context of a wider review of my work or other coaching it would be fine.

  43. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    I didn’t get a chance to read all the comments yet, and maybe this has been mentioned. Why doesn’t the company just make the decision to terminate employment for the person on leave? I know FMLA allows the employee to be on leave for a certain amount of time, but in my understanding, it’s not forever; there’s a set timeframe. Seems like they should just decide that if the employee doesn’t return by X date, the position will be opened up for hiring. But I’m not an HR person, so maybe I’m missing something.

    1. Leo*

      To be honest with you, I don’t exactly know. I’ve purposefully avoided the HR side of things, except to ask questions on updates on when she should be returning. She has always had a date set to return, then she doesn’t return and another date is set. I am not based in the US, though, and work for a company with incredible benefits.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’m in US. From a manager’s perspective, there would be a limit as to how long I’d allow an employee to remain on leave and still keep her job. Obviously employment laws have to be followed, but if the time limits outlined within the laws have passed, I’d be moving to terminate and open up the position. I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) have a department short-staffed long term and employees having to take on the extra work.

        Perhaps they keep letting her do this because she’s an exceptional employee? Or for some other reason? I don’t know. I think even if I had a rock star employee, at some point I’d have to cut the cord.

        Good luck!

        1. Erin*

          Yeah, they have provisions for that in my company handbook. I can’t recall the exact wording, but it is something to the effect of, we aren’t going to keep your job on hold forever. I feel like this company probably isn’t handling this situation well.

          OP, maybe she doesn’t realize how much this is directly affecting her. I’d tell your manager about how she doesn’t intend to return, but give her a heads up as a kindness that you’re doing that and why. You might be burning that bridge/losing a quasi friend, but you probably don’t want or need negative people like that in your life anyway.

          1. Erin*

            Sorry, I just saw your note that you’re not in the US. Perhaps this sort of thing is handled quite differently and I’m incorrect that your company isn’t handling it well. Still though, it’s significantly affecting you whether she or your higher ups realize it, and you’re in the right to do something about that.

            1. Leo*

              I’m not sure of the detail of how it’s working between her and the company. But to be honest I don’t mind how it gets resolved on that front. I’d rather just not have to deal with the constant negative energy. You are right, I don’t need it around.

      2. Infinity Anon*

        She keeps setting dates to come back while telling you she never will? That is not right. You should tell her that if she is not coming back she should tell the company so that they can hire a replacement and tell her how not having the position filled is impacting you. You can also tell her that you are glad she is away from an environment that obviously made her unhappy, but that you can no longer be the person she vents to because you are still there and it is making your job more difficult. Sometimes mutual venting can be therapeutic and she may think that you either don’t mind or appreciate the validation that X, Y and Z suck. Hearing that that is not the case should make her at least tone it down if not stop completely.

        1. Leo*

          Maybe the mutual venting part has been part of the problem historically. As a team we went through a lot together and were always tight, and vented and vented. But so much has changed now, especially since she’s not been here, her complaints are barely valid. I’ve tried asking her whether she has a decision about coming back, asking about her plans, but it seems she will not let go of this job, at least not yet. So must do something about it from my end rather than wait for it to be resolved.

    2. Karen K*

      We had someone like this in one of our departments. I can tell you, the sympathy for someone’s difficult situation, even among the most sympathetic of coworkers, will eventually dissipate in the face of increased workloads and constant complaining. But, until she finally told them she wasn’t coming back, they could not post or fill her position.

      I agree with someone up-thread. The next time one of your superiors or HR asks about her, tell them they need to talk to her personally. Also, I don’t know what you you do for work, OP #2, but would temporary help be a possibility? In our case, this was not an option, as the work required degrees and extensive training.

      1. Leo*

        As I understand there are many conversations going on between her and the company. It’s moreso they are interested in hearing it from my side. Temporary help has been complex – we have tried a couple already but our jobs are quite specialised. Thanks for saying that the sympathy dissipates. I find it so hard not being able to be supportive, but I have honestly run out of patience.

  44. Argh!*

    Re #1: STOP IT!!!!!

    “I don’t want to come across as obnoxious and rude if I speak up”
    It is obnoxious and rude to correct people, especially in front of others! You’re not their mommy or their English teacher. At the very least, it’s distracting.

    Also, you risk being accused of a diversity related offense if you keep it up.

    1. Lindsay J*

      This seems a little harsh. We’re supposed to be kind to the people who write in here.

      I also don’t think being accused of a “diversity related offense” is in the realm of possibility here, nor is the potential helpful to bring up. It’s true that people do tend to be more harsh when judging the speech of people of different races, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses, but there is no indication that this is the case here. And even if it were, unconscious bias is present in pretty much everyone, and most people are not accused of “diversity related offenses” unless their behavior is truly egregious.

      1. Argh!*

        Actually, yes, you can be accused of a diversity related offense. LW1 didn’t specify whether the other people are of a disadvantaged class, so I thought I’d bring it up. If you pick on a word choice that’s considered normal usage in a disadvantaged social group, that’s inherently prejudicial. Even if the intent isn’t bullying, the recipient of the criticism may take it that way.

        Either way, picking on someone’s word choices is about as welcome as picking on food choices. In the absence of evidence that the person wants to know why they’re not being promoted or being given writing assignments, it’s just not worth the ill will to criticize someone’s usage.

    2. Hrovitnir*

      There’s nothing to “keep up”; they were asking if it would be acceptable to say anything. Before doing so. And you can only be accused of a diversity-related offense if the only/majority of people you comment on are minorities. There is no reason to assume that is the case here.

      (You didn’t phrase this as “you could be accused of a diversity-related offense if the people you want to comment on are predominantly in a disadvantaged group (and also you might really want to examine where you’re coming from if so.)” A blank statement like “you risk being accused of a diversity related offense if you keep it up” inherently assumes there is already a pattern.)

  45. Dust Bunny*

    We had an intern who would routinely take bottled water intended for guests. We got one departmental email, then she was warned privately. I walked in on her taking another bottle a few weeks later and just said bluntly, “[Intern], you know that those are for guests. There is a water cooler in [adjacent room] for us.” Some people need to be caught in the act and embarrassed a little bit before they’ll stop. I was not technically above her except that I’m a permanent employee and she wasn’t. But she’d been told enough times already and shouldn’t have needed another warning.

    1. OverboilingTeapot*

      Good for you! I remember being an intern or temp and thinking “I’m paid a pittance, I should be entitled to all the perks I can get my hands on.” But I fought that impulse.

  46. Buffy Summers*

    For #1, I totally understand the urge to correct language. I work as a Finance Director and there are several people who work with me that say physical year instead of fiscal year. It drives me bonkers, but I don’t correct. Fortunately my direct report gets it right. :)

  47. Erin*

    #1 – This seems like an odd thing to focus on. Unless they’re making a serious mistake in front of coworkers or clients that will embarrass them, I’d let it go. If it really bugs you that much allow yourself a little internal eye roll, but then mentally move on.

    #3 – Does Gigi know that you pay for that out of your own pocket? Does your director? I know this isn’t the question you asked, but should you get reimbursed for this…? In any case. Since Gigi’s behavior didn’t change with that email she obviously needs someone to spell it out for her.

  48. La Revancha*

    #1 I would consider letting this go entirely. Even for a direct report you will sound rude and offend someone. Also, your direct report is likely to take it personally and/or think that you are being ridiculous for calling them out. If you did that to me, I would feel bitter towards you and constantly worry about using the correct words in your presence. My boss says clients names incorrectly (names of businesses), for example, the correct name of a company could be Quaker Botts and he will say Quaker Box. Drives me nuts and he always sees how its spelled, not sure why he pronounces it that way. Coworkers and employees do annoying things and have quirks. Best to learn to deal.

  49. Kat Em*

    As a card-carrying member of the Grammar Police, I totally get being driven batty by misuse of language when it’s not just a dialect or slang but a straightforward mistake. So I definitely correct people.

    Silently, in my head.

    I DO let folks know that I’m available to proofread documents and review any presentations, and they take me up on this. (I’m unimportant enough that this isn’t an egregious use of my time.) And I refer SO many folks to Toastmasters, where it’s totally legit for their fellow club members to make note of stuff like this and help them change.

    Aside from that, I’m more likely to just quietly model the correct usage in response. (“Yeah, I’m also wary of the new changes.”) It’s the method I learned for correcting the English of preschool children who are still learning the rules of language through trial and error, but also works pretty well on observant adults. If you’ve got a reputation for knowing what you’re talking about when it comes to language, people will often just follow your lead.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Yeah, I have a sign in my cubical that says “I’m silently correcting your grammar.” It’s mostly funny because I’m the department editor, but it’s also true– I do not correct other people’s grammar and usage unless they’ve specifically asked me to, i.e., I’m editing or proofing a document or presentation. Except in my head, where I can’t help it.

      If I’m proofing something, though? Oh yeah, it’s getting changed. I take credit that I was able to correct “asses” to “assess” in a report we were submitting the federal government (and which will be posted publicly). It’s a very good thing they asked me to proof it (at the last minute, so I’m sure there’s other things I didn’t catch).

      1. Observer*


        Yes, proofreading is a whole other issue. If people get offended when you find errors when you are proof reading, that’s their issue, because THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF PROOFREADING.

        Also, if someone catches an embarrassing error and corrects it privately, they DO deserve a big thank you.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        Isn’t it “cubicle” in this context? ;-)

        I usually avoid correcting spelling etc in comments because I inevitably make a mistake while doing so. Muphry’s law, isn’t it?

  50. Renee*

    I really don’t understand why op3 has such problem with Gigi taking a bottle of water that she wrote in about it but yet hasn’t asked Gigi not to do it. Also, maybe I’m overly generous, but a bottle of water costs like 20 cents, so I wouldn’t care. It’s not like there’s a hundred people taking a bottle/day. It seems a bit harsh to begrudge someone a 20 cent bottle of water or to imply that Gigi is a thief of some kind. I don’t get it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Because she’s doing it everyday. sometimes twice a day. The water is there for their remote employees. OP is paying for it out of pocket, so I think it’s reasonable to limit it to the people for which it’s intended. If OP doesn’t want to continue paying for it, then she could ask the company to pay for it.

    2. Colette*

      Because the OP is paying for it financially, as well as with the effort of getting it there, and Gigi is stealing it (i.e. taking something that does not belong to her and has not been offered to her.)

      1. Renee*

        From the post, I couldn’t tell who shared the office with the op, because she said that Gigi tiptoes into “our office.” I kinda took it to mean that it was a large shared office, and perhaps the water was in a shared location or refrigerator. In my workplace, the norm is that anything that is left out or in a communal space (refrigerator, counter, etc) that isn’t labeled is up for grabs. Maybe Gigi’s previous workplace was like mine. I just think that since she hasn’t been personally told otherwise it’s pretty harsh to term her a thief. Nobody has forced the op to buy the water. If it’s such a big deal, just stop buying the water, or put a label on it saying it is only for off site employees (or put your own name on it). Also, if I ever carried change it totally would not bother me at all to give a coworker 20 or 40 cents a day. If it bothered me, I wouldn’t carry change and offer it to everyone but the person I decided didn’t deserve it. It just seems like a lot of worry for nothing.

        1. Observer*

          Well, you don’t get to decide how other people spend their money. And that is the most basic issue here. The OP is spending her money, and she gets to decide who she gives the water to.

          This is especially important since the OP makes it clear that the cost IS a burden to her. Maybe the water is more expensive than you think, and maybe she just can’t afford the extra couple of dollars a week. It doesn’t matter – SHE is the one who gets to decide when a cost is more than she can handle, not someone else.

          It’s also worth noting, that there is nothing about “deserving” water or not in the OP’s letter. It’s still not your call to make, but it would be useful to start from what the OP is actually saying.

          1. Renee*

            My point is if it is SO important to her, she should explain clearly to Gigi. The leap from Gigi taked bottled water from (what I am assuming is) a communal fridge that is supposed to be “mostly” for remote employees to Gigi is a thief seems to be pretty big. I am always for telling people what you expect, specifically rather than vaguely and passive aaggressively dealing with things that bother you. Also, I really doubt Gigi is literally tiptoeing. Again, if it is such a big deal to have one person drinking a bottle of water every day or so, but yet you offer it to 60 other people whenever they come in, either tell her specifically or don’t bring it in at all. Nobody has required the supervisor to spend her own money to provide anything for anybody, and it is her choice to do so. She is perfectly within her rights to deny the secretary a bottled water; it seems a really petty thing to do.

            1. Observer*

              Again, you are reading things that are explicitly not in the letter, and you are also making judgements that are not yours to make.

              To be clear, the OP has indicated that it’s not a bottle every few days, but more than one bottle a day -and that Gigi is using as much water as all of the other staff combined. That’s hardly “petty”.

    3. Bea*

      When does it stop when it comes to “well it’s only a few cents here and a dime there!”. Those are the OPs coins and they add up when her water budget goes from $3 every other week to $3 every week.

      Sum it up like this. Do you want to pay for my bottled water every day, it’s only 0.20! Of course not, you don’t know me. The OP doesn’t have any reason to care enough to give Gigi 20-40c a day either.

      1. Renee*

        I would pay 20 cents a day for water for you, even though I don’t know you. I honestly don’t understand why it’s such a big deal.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        Or when OP has a meeting with 10 people and there’s only 6 bottled waters on hand.

        Tiptoeing into the office indicates to me that Gigi knows she shouldn’t be doing this. Gigi can buy her bottled water at the 7-Eleven or the deli in the lobby.

    4. LBK*

      I’m kinda with you on this, especially since I’m not 100% sure it would occur to me that water bottles being brought into the office a) were being paid for out of my manager’s pocket, b) were not for general office consumption and c) were a significant financial hardship if being consumed faster than expected.

      If it’s been made clear to her that the above is the situation and she’s still doing it then I agree it’s wrong. But it is a little weird to me that this is being treated as a blatantly egregious act (of theft, no less!). If everyone else is drinking the water, what’s her indicator that it’s not meant for everyone to drink? Just as a side note, I’m a little curious if the OP and the other managers ever drink the water as well.

      1. Yorick*

        An email has gone out saying these things are for the remote staff, so Gigi should know by now even if she didn’t know before

      2. LBK*

        Also, since I’m sure someone will point out that there was an email sent out:

        I brought it to the attention of our director, who sent an email to the four of us reminding everyone that the set-up is mostly for our 60ish staff who work outside of the main office.

        This is obviously not verbatim wording but it does sound kinda vague. If it’s “mostly” for the people outside the main office, she may not think that a bottle a day is a big deal as long as she’s not loading up her car with a 12-pack every night. I mean, that’s normal levels of daily water consumption, at least for me.

        1. Renee*

          Also, the water is for the 60 people that don’t work there, but off limits for the one receptionist that does? I think that is weird.

          1. a1*

            Sure it does. If you’re travelling it’s harder to pack water and snacks. If you work there and live near the office you can easily keep water and snacks at your desk or somewhere.

            1. LBK*

              If the secretary can bring a water bottle to the office in her bag, so can everyone else. The OP also doesn’t frame it like these are things they can’t get, rather just that it’s a hospitality thing to offer people food or a drink (which I have to say, I also find it super weird that this has apparently been successful at getting people to open up – how cold and dry are these sessions usually?).

              1. Colette*

                There are good reasons to provide extras for people who are traveling, since they are out of their normal routine and thus more likely to forget things like water bottles. Depending on how they get there, they may also be dealing with airport security, which adds additional complexity to bringing water.

                But the OP isn’t obligated to provide water for visitors – but I also don’t think that she’s obligated to provide water for the staff who work there just because she has chosen to provide water for visitors.

              2. Yorick*

                If you’re driving hours to get there, you can’t pack water in your bag and it be cool and refreshing during your meeting. If you live down the street, you can.

    5. Yorick*

      Even if the company paid for it, it isn’t for Gigi, so she shouldn’t be taking it and she is wasting someone’s money by taking it anyway.

      1. Observer*

        It’s not true where I live either. But that’s not even the point. The OP is clear that it’s a financial burden and it’s really no one’s place to tell them otherwise.

  51. Falling Diphthong*

    Re #1, some years back Andrew Sullivan (I think) had a post about someone coming out on their LiveJournal, and in comments his friends quickly derailed to a discussion of his font choice and background color. It was charming because the overall message was “Okay, you’re gay, that’s fine–so fine that I’m going to ask why you didn’t choose a better font.” The focus on form over content conveyed that the thing that could have been A Big Deal and Changes Everything was going to be treated as minor, like remembering that he didn’t like white wine.

    That sort of behavior–brushing past the content to focus on a minor detail of delivery–is off-putting in most other contexts, for exactly the same reason.

  52. Formerly Stressed Out*

    Oh OP #2 I feel you…

    I had a similar situation, though in my scenario I had left a toxic work environment and found a great job with more flexibility and less stress. I was getting at least 3 texts a day from two former coworkers after I left, all complaining about how much they hated their jobs, hated their team, etc.

    These were people who had joined the company straight out of school and who I had taken under my wing to teach professional norms. At first I was happy to be supportive and offer advice as I had when I worked there, but after a while it was just so DRAINING. I wanted to be happy in my new job and enjoy my new stress-free environment, but I also felt like a bad person for cutting off support to them. In the end I went to coffee with them individually and explained that while I was happy to keep in touch and continue to help them professionally, the negativity and being dragged back into old work drama was making it difficult for me to move on.

    They both reacted well in person, but only one has kept in touch and has since moved on to a new job where she is also much happier. The other former coworker I haven’t heard from at all since I cut off my complaint line, but from what I know he still works there and is still unhappy.

    In short, I’d say just be direct. When you get caught up in a cycle of negativity it can be difficult to recognize how you’re coming across to other people. I’d let her know that you’re trying to make a change in your own outlook by being more positive. If there was a prior base of friendship, offer to keep in touch but let her know work talk is off limits and enforce that rule. You may risk that you’ll never hear from her again, but I’d take that as a sign of where you fit into her life, rather than as a reflection on you setting reasonable emotional boundaries.

    1. Leo*

      Thank you for your comment and your story. I am pleased to hear you got out of a bad environment.

      I think you are right about the cycle of negativity. I don’t think she is thinking much beyond her own feelings and how this is impacting me, so maybe it could be an easy fix by saying, “I am finding it difficult to hear constant negative feedback about my job, and need to not speak about this any more”. But I’m not sure. It’s been such a long time and I’m worried about how she still can’t detach.

  53. stitchinthyme*

    Re #3 – What is it about having food or drinks around the office that makes some people act so weird? The fact that the secretary is “tiptoeing” in, presumably when she thinks no one’s paying attention, to take the water is a pretty good indication that she knows damn well it’s not meant for her. I agree that for the sake of office harmony, you have to give her the benefit of the doubt and pretend she just didn’t know, but geez, people. If it’s in someone’s office (or in a personal lunch bag in a communal fridge), it’s not for general consumption. How hard is that to understand?

  54. Cassie*

    #1 People who correct the grammar of others are seen as socially tone-deaf, self-important, and annoying. I know because it took me several years of being told so to stop doing it!

  55. Shellesbelles*

    OP #1 – Please follow Alison’s advice and let this go. You’re going to come across as rude and out of touch.

    Group setting example: I have a much older coworker who took up 30 minutes of a 1 hour meeting to explain why the word “gif” was pronounced “jiff” and how you’re a “rube” (direct quote) if you say it with a hard “g” sound. The meeting was on social media/digital marketing strategy with younger coworkers (myself included) who all say “gif” with a hard “g.” I could get into all of the reasons why people pronounce this word with a hard “g” and how language evolves and becomes democratic over time, but that really wasn’t the point of this meeting. The point was to discuss overall digital marketing strategy and it got completely sidelined by her attempt to correct her coworkers. The consequences of this: people were pretty put-off and distant. There were lots of eye-rolls and no one wanted to work with her on digital materials. By having a meeting, we were trying to engage in conversation and collaborate, but her interjection and attitude shut down the conversation entirely.

    In short? Just…no.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve heard this discussed by mature people with hard science PhDs, and the consensus is:
      • I can draw you a flow chart and explain why the derivation indicates it’s a soft g
      • I personally pronounce it with a hard g; Jif is obviously a peanut butter and/or weird and pretentious and/or just Wrong

        1. Turkletina*

          Except that what’s “correct” is the pronunciation that (a) people actually use and (b) is understood by the people they’re talking to.

        2. Shellesbelles*

          But see, the point was that a meeting about strategy wasn’t served by a 30 minute diatribe about how “gif” is meant to be pronounced. It didn’t matter and alienated her from her coworkers. The creator of it may have said that it’s pronounced “jiff,” but someone mentioning using them in social media posting by using a hard “g” pronunciation would still be understood. Also, the OED accepts both pronunciations, most likely because the hard “g” one is more commonly used (language evolves and changes all the time – sometimes not in ways we like, but that’s just the way it is). I understand the impulse to correct someone, but context and perspective are everything. In this situation, it was a definite no-no.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, what’s wronger than “guiff” or “jif” is taking 30 minutes in a meeting to fulminate about pronunciation.

    2. Not a Morning Person*

      And this is not the only way to offer correction. It is a great example of a bad way to offer correction.

  56. moosetracks*

    For Gigi the water bottle thief, I’d replace “in a rare situation” with “in an emergency,” personally. It’s okay to take one if someone is having a health crisis, otherwise, no.

  57. Old Jules*

    #1 Sometimes, I find my male co-worker using it as a tactic to minimize what I say. As in when they take what I said and rephrased it. Probably not what you intended but I get annoyed when he does it. English is my second language but I grew up with it, as in my parents are English speaking and I read extensively (from the classics to the modern literature).

  58. Clever Name*

    #2 Mental illness has a strange way of hyper-focusing one’s brain inward such that one comes off as really selfish to the outside world. I used to share an office with a woman who struggled with depression (she was open about it), and it was so draining and it was affecting my own mental health. I couldn’t deal with issues at home as effectively because I was so emotionally exhausted by her. I was finally able to move offices and asked HR that I not share an office with her again. It was really hard to say, “I can’t share an office with Sally because it negatively affects my mental health”, but HR was understanding and it hasn’t been a problem. I think you’ve gotten some really good advice upthread, and I’m not sure I have anything to add other than I’ve been there and it does suck.

  59. Bets*

    I have a colleague who waits until they hear someone say something wrong and then jumps at the chance to correct them in front of as many people as possible who says “exspecially” and “expresso” themselves.

    That’s fun.

  60. K, Esq.*

    OP 3 – do you mind bringing water every week? If not, ask Gigi to chip in on the cost. A flat of water at Costco is $3.17/case of 24 including tax. Drinking 5/week for 50 weeks would cost $33.

    1. Colette*

      I’d say the OP should charge what Gigi would pay in a convenience store (or more), since she is doing the work. So $2, not the actual cost. If Gigi wants to pay the actual cost, she can do the work.

  61. Winger*

    To #1 – I have recently had a bit of a revelation about this. I am a professional writer, and I’ve been trying to hire an assistant – the first time I have actually gone through a formal hiring process as a manager. I’ve been astounded at some of the poorly written cover letters and samples we’ve received, and I am not willing to lower my standards, because this is a writing job.

    But recently I’ve helped a variety of friends with their resumes and cover letters, and I realized – not everybody cares that your writing is perfect and you never misuse words or create confusing grammatical misconstructions. Unless you are a writer or communications professional, it just doesn’t matter. As long as you can write a memo or an email and you are intelligible to your coworkers and clients, you don’t actually need MFA-level writing ability. Some people do need it! Most don’t. Sometimes good enough is just good enough.

    This made me think even more – we are writing proposals to various constituencies. There’s a really, really good chance the people reading our proposals are not super interested in my grammar, or how elegantly I construct paragraphs. I’m not going to let go of my own writing standards, but I need to be more realistic about them. This was a hard conclusion for me to arrive at, but I think it’s a valuable one.

  62. alana*

    I’m the billionth person to say: don’t correct the pronunciation unless it’s in a situation where it’s really, really crucial, and even then, try to find the most helpful and relevant way to do it. (“Can we rehearse the presentation you’re giving to clients/the board meeting” and then you correct the words they’re mispronouncing then, for example.)

    But a silly thing I found actually works for things that bug me but I can’t avoid or control is a bingo card. Something about writing out all the ways a person is likely to annoy me and then detaching from the emotion to cross them off (mentally, obviously — I don’t sit there playing Annoyance Bingo) helps put them in perspective.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      I can see Annoyance Bingo being a very popular novelty item.

  63. Bookworm*

    #5: Yes, please do. I was once in a similar situation (one of final 3, was not selected but the hiring org said it was because we all had different strengths/weaknesses and it was just a toss-up rather than a clear choice for them). I was sad but it made me a bit happier knowing that I wasn’t deficient in any way. It is highly likely the candidates will be flattered and at worst they’ll just turn you down or say they found something else.

    I’ve been rejected for jobs only to find the posting go up again and I typically didn’t re-apply (they already rejected me once!) or asked to go interview for other jobs only to find they just needed an applicant pool. But if you really did like them and think they were a good fit for your team those candidates might be really happy to find that another (maybe better for them?) opportunity has popped up.

  64. N Twello*

    Re Issue #1:
    Once years ago a housemate of mine (also a colleague) asked if I would listen to a dry run of a presentation he was going to give at work. I did, and it was great, but for one thing: he used the phrase “in lieu of” and he pronounced “lieu” as “lie-EE-oo”. I told him it was great, but that he had mispronounced that word. His response was to get angry, not believe me, and stomp off. And this was a really nice guy, good friend, and someone who had asked for feedback.

    Moral of the story: be very, very careful about correcting people. They will often not appreciate it!

  65. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    Re #1 – I’ve learned to just ignore it as long as I still understand what’s meant. However I run into one problem all the time though where people *think* two words are synonyms and they are not. In my case those words are “interpreter” and “translator” — I need to refer to both, separately, and it drives me completely batty that many (most!) people think these are interchangeable terms. It gets especially hairy with budgeting issues as interpretation comes out of a different budget from translation, and when people mislabel them, it matters! I tend to spend a lot of time asking clarifying questions and correcting people–I sincerely hope they don’t think i’m being needlessly rude or pedantic. There’s a business need for my pickiness with words!

    1. Observer*

      This is a perfect example of one of the few types of situations where pickiness makes sense. I’d say that in a situation like your it’s even MORE important not to get up on errors or “errors” that really don’t matter. You need to make sure that when you do bring up an error, IT MATTERS and it needs to be fixed.

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