If there’s one type of story that makes waves in the literary world, it’s one about someone who has done J.K. Rowling wrong. The beloved author of the Harry Potter series is like Beyoncé: everybody just bows down in her presence.
Or should I say, almost everybody. There have been a few misguided souls who have attempted sticking it to Rowling, like that writer who was just jealous her spotlight was being ‘stolen.’
This week it was James Cook, contributing editor of The Daily Dot, an online publication. When Rowling asked her Twitter followers to “re-tweet” her support for Scotland’s rugby team in exchange for Pottermore content, Cook took the opportunity to tell her, “It’s ‘retweet’.”
Cue the outrage of Dumbledore’s Army! Due that unnecessary comment, Cook was harassed by many fans and felt obligated to offer a half-assed apology on The Daily Dot. Because it was categorized under “LOL” and featured condescending comments like, “For some unknown reason, Harry Potter is still a very big deal in France,” it’s obvious that Cook enjoyed his temporary infamy and seemed smug that he could gain his 15 minutes over a hyphen.
It’s jerks like Cook who give grammarians a bad name. I joke about being a ‘Grammar Nazi,’ but I would never in a million years correct a stranger over something as insignificant as hyphen usage. We all knew what Rowling meant, and if we’re getting technical here, either form can be correct.
Who cares if it’s e-mail or email? Cybersecurity or cyber-security? Sure, there are rules when the prefix affects meaning (release versus re-lease, for example), but I’m not about to get my panties in a twist over a personal punctuation preference.
Would Cook have been justified if Rowling used ‘your’ when she meant ‘you’re?’ I guess, but when his victim is a famous billionaire, then he better decide whether the backlash is worth the effort.
So while I’ve never attempted to take on someone of that scale, I have corrected people’s grammar on social media. Most notably, several years ago I told an acquaintance on Facebook that she was ‘lactose intolerant,’ not ‘lactose and tolerant,’ like she stated. Turns out her friends were just as clueless and commented their surprise. After what probably felt like humiliation to her, she promptly unfriended me.
Was I wrong to correct her? My tone was definitely lighthearted rather than vicious, but one could certainly argue that it wasn’t my place. It’s pretty clear that she wasn’t a close friend due to her response, so maybe I should have let it slide. But honestly, if you’re going to start deleting online relationships over silly mistakes like that, then maybe you should develop a thicker skin.
I’m not perfect, and my loved ones revel when they can catch me making grammatical mistakes during a conversation. Do I get butt-hurt? Nope, I brush it off and learn from it. Trust me, I bet that girl never labeled herself as ‘lactose and tolerant’ ever again, but if nobody pointed it out to her, she–and her friends–would sound like idiots for the rest of their lives.
But let me get your opinion: at what point does correcting someone’s grammar go from educational to annoying? Have you ever been the corrector or the corrected, and what happened? Do you stay silent in front of superiors or is nobody off-limits?
Share your stories in the comments!