Spelling, grammar and other mistakes


(Terryl) #1

I might be too over the top sometimes, but…my biggest pet hate is when I find spelling/ grammar/ punctuation mistakes when reading articles or blog posts by other test professionals. It drives me insane!

Far too often, I have found articles/ blogs full of mistakes. Misuse of punctuation or grammar. Spelling. Sentences that just don’t make sense. I find it really hard to take them serious.

Is it so hard to proof? Or better still, get a colleague to proof?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m too particular, but are we not experts in quality??
My suggestions on this are:

  • Proof your own work (If time is limited…make sure you schedule time, quality should never be optional!)
  • Ask a colleague to proof your work (Sometimes, there is no time…ask for help. No one ever got mad at the person who asked for help.)
  • Use an online tool (I use a tool called Grammarly. It’s not perfect, but it points out the obvious and gives alternative suggestions.)
    User built-in tools (Write up in Word. It will tell you where you are going awry.)
  • Ask Google (Never leave something in an article you are not sure about! Ask Google…it hasn’t let me down yet!)
  • Take a course (Not everyone is an expert in grammar and punctuation…make yourself one. I am by no means an expert on this stuff, but I like to teach myself new things so that I can inform others when I see a mistake.)

This is not an exhaustive list, but these things alone will help when trying to educate others on our profession in the form of article and blog posts. In my opinion, we are not just testers, we are quality gatekeepers and if it looks like we can’t get our message across in these forms because of mistakes…how can we expect others to respect our profession and take us seriously?

Disclaimer
These are only my thoughts and are not meant to offend anyone. I decided to write this to offer an insight into how I feeling and what I’m thinking when reading articles and blog posts on all things testing.


(john ) #2

Now let me see. Mr Devil’s advocate…
Does the sentence “Spelling.” make that much sense when taken alone?
The mixed use of upper case and lower case characters after a ( ?

But I guess I now fall into bullet point 2 :slight_smile:


(Terryl) #3

Like I said…I’m also no expert. :slight_smile:


(john ) #4

Who is, in this mad world :slight_smile:


(David Shute) #5

I try to be forgiving as a good portion of the testing community has English as their second or third language. When the meaning is clear and the writing is less than ideal the meaning is more important.


(George) #6

There are some good points here. And appearances do matter. They create impressions which influence how we see the work of others.
More generally our communication must be clear. I’m not just talking about articles and blog posts. When release notes, work-arounds, test cases or their results, are not clear, time is wasted. All of this can be more challenging when team members have different native languages. When I go places where English isn’t prevalent, I must appear foolish. Oh well, we do what we can.


(Kate) #7

One thing I learned when working with outsourced team members who learned English as a second (or later) language was to avoid any kind of colloquial language - which is much more difficult than it would seem.

Many of those I worked with were fine with formal English, despite some quirks with when to use articles, especially definite articles. They had problems understanding any level of colloquial English much less slang or dialect.

It taught me to write my professional communications in formal English as much as possible. Blog posts and other less formal communications can get very colloquial or slangy depending on the audience I’m aiming for - the primary goal of any kind of writing is to communicate. If your audience doesn’t understand, you failed.


(Terryl) #8

Yes, as do I. I just can’t help the feeling I get when reading.
Maybe I’ve set my standards way too high! :slight_smile:


(Robert) #9

I can be as pedantic as the next person when it comes to typos, grammar and punctuation; but all the points made in mitigation by other posters are good. Especially where we are working with colleagues who do not have English as their first language, the principles of communicating back constructively apply. Even where colleagues have university degrees in English, with a handful of exceptions the quality of their written work is ultimately governed by who their teacher was; I can often spot constructions that give me a good clue as to where the teacher learnt their English! Very often, these are not incorrect use or bad grammar, but rather idiosyncrasies that might look odd to native speakers.

(One country which has a good record in this direction - for language teaching, though not necessarily IT skills - is Poland. People who took English degrees at Polish universities were usually paired with tutors who had English as their first language, even to the point of differentiating between English and US forms of the language.)

There are two areas where I take something of a zero tolerance approach, though.

One is where the document is going to be seen by colleagues in other companies. We all need to project a professional image; our reputations may depend on it.

The other is where a typo appears in the application itself. Having done proofreading in the past, the rule of thumb is that the bigger the typeface or more prominent the text, the bigger the risk of a typo. I have seen apps released with typos that would have gotten me sacked in previous jobs, where the impact is seriously reputational. In those cases where I see such things under test, I will rate fixing those typos as highest impact and priority precisely because of the reputational damage they can do.

As with so many things, it’s not really a matter of whether our standards are set too high; rather, it’s how we deliver the feedback with the aim of helping others improve.


(Simon) #10

Should that be seriously? :slight_smile:


(Alan) #11

I would like to point out if you applied that standard you wouldn’t “take seriously” the works of Albert Einstein. You could be missing out on something insightful.

Some of the suggestions made on using tools for proofing have flaws. Think about neurodiversity, if you can’t spell a word or understand the grammar rules, you can’t select the right suggestion or know when to apply it when suggested.

Consider Dyslexia as an example. Recent research indicates it is possible to be dyslexic in one language and not another. Perhaps English as a language has the quality issues due to its mongrel nature; Latin, Germanic, Norse etc…

Tools often struggle to deal with phonetic spelling that is taught to Dyslexics. I find Google to be better at dealing with phonetic spelling than Grammarly and Word.


(Robert) #12

Well, the tools in Word have been a source of irritation to me for years. Its grammar checker, for instance, doesn’t recognise that some words in English have plural forms which are the same as their singular forms - staff, for example - so it insists on suggesting that (for instance) “staff are concerned” be “corrected” to “staff is concerned”.

And I once had charge of a technical manual where applying the grammar checker would have reversed some of the instructions.

In both these cases, I knew to ignore it (all the while moaning loudly to colleagues :slightly_smiling_face:). Others might not have had the confidence with the language to do that (for whatever reason).

You’re right to point out that the structure of English is responsible for some of its quality issues. Language teachers tell me that English is both an easy language to learn (because its rules are much simpler than other languages, especially within the same Indo-European group) and at the same time quite difficult (because of the number and frequency of the exceptions to those rules).


(Simon) #13

I’m trying to learn German at the moment, and three weeks in I’m struggling with the sheer weight of rules. It is certainly giving me an appreciation for some of the points you make. Personally I don’t understand how English works despite it being my native lanugage. I think I learned by rote and scraped a C in GCSE. If you ask me a technical question on the language I will fail! This makes it difficult when approaching learning a second language as there seems to be an assumption that you understand the fundamental rules and names of structures in a language (well… Babbel does anyway).

I share your pain with MS Word. Not only does it tell me I’m wrong sometimes when I believe I’m right (but see caveats above about my poor language skills), I have a language guru on my team and he hates the grammatical suggestions that get spewed out that he tells me are consistently wrong. I’d believe him over MS every time.


(Robert) #14

Oddly, I never understood the rules of English grammar when I was taught them at school until I was taught German grammar!

We were taught French from age 11 (with a concentration on mainly conversational use) and German from age 12 (with a more technical approach). In my first year of learning German, we were not exposed to the full force of the grammar and I got on quite well with it. But in the second year, I was off sick for the first two weeks of the school year and in that time the class covered the past tense of verbs. When I got back, instead of telling me that I’d missed something very important and so I should see the teacher for extra tutorials, I was left to struggle for the next two years. I scraped the lowest possible exam pass at the end of that time, mainly because I learnt vocabulary and in the oral exam I kept going despite getting stuff wrong!

Over the next ten years, I didn’t do anything about the language but kept coming across German terminology in following my interests. At the end of that time, I recollect that there was a car advert on the tv which spoofed the style of Audi adverts and showed two German businessmen on a road trip discussing why the driver had selected a British car. I realised that I was mentally correcting the subtitles! A few years later I started travelling to Europe and found that I understood a lot of German and could make myself understood in the language, albeit at quite a basic level. By having boots on the ground and learning from everyday usage, I found my understanding improving dramatically, especially whilst I was there. (Of course, this is quite temporary knowledge; I keep up to date by seeking out German text where I can, but if I travel to Europe, it can take a couple of days to get my German head properly on.)

The really funny thing is that having struggled so much with it at school, my German is now by far my better foreign language.

What I’m trying to say is that unless you’re actually trying to pass an exam in it, I’d concentrate first on how the language is used and only secondly on the rules of grammar. Most of the time I find that conversation and reading texts teach you the correct forms of the words you are using, and this is far easier than trying to learn, remember and apply the rules of the language on the fly. Having said that, there are two rules about sentence structure which I learned in school and which are fairly easy to apply:

  • When constructing a sentence, arrange the subjects in the order of time, manner and place (“Heute, fahre ich mit dem Zug nach Stuttgart”/“Today, I am going by train to Stuttgart”); and
  • Your verb always comes second in the sentence; if there’s more than one verb, all the others go at the end. (Which is where the joke comes from about the German translator at the UN who falls silent during a long and complex speech. When asked what the problem is, they reply “I don’t know what the speaker is saying. All the verbs are on the last page.”)

(Terryl) #15

I just want to make it clear…this rant was not supposed to single out the people whose native language is not English. Nor was it supposed to single out anyone who didn’t do very well at school on the English language, so I hope that I have not offended anyone by writing it.

Thanks for all the comments and insights. It has broadened my view on this and I will try to become less harsh when reading others’ articles/ blogs. :slight_smile:


(Simon) #16

Robert - thanks for the insights and pointers. My experience seems oddly like yours. We had to take French at high school and so did that for 5 years. I never, ever, ‘got’ it. I have retained very little, and ended up with a D at GCSE, but if you were quite academic they also offered you German from the third year, so I studied it for 3 years (it got me out of doing PE - which I hated so much I was willing to do anything to get out of it) and ended up with an E at GCSE. This, I think, was a case of having no real motivation to learn it (apart from the PE avoidance :grin:).

Years later I started travelling occasionally to Germany and Switzerland on business. I know Swiss German is different, but generally the residents can switch to high German (and then English when I start to flounder). I found that I had actually retained a bit of German (but no French) - and this has given me a leg-up at the start of my newly begun learning.

I’ll keep going and keep your advice in mind. Cheers.

Also if you haven’t already seen it Deutschland '83 was a good German language drama that C4 showed last year (or the year before?). Great drama - and once my German has progressed some more I plan on watching it again to see how I’m doing.


(Robert) #17

Simon - yes, I enjoyed Deutschland '83 (and am looking forward to the sequel). It also exposed a lot about the relationship between the two parts of Germany that was not generally known here in the UK during the Cold War years.

It also showed up something else: the difference between watching foreign tv with subtitles and dubbing. One of the reasons why so many Dutch people have very good and colloquial English is that their tv doesn’t dub imported shows but shows them with subtitles, and that’s a great help to learning the language almost without knowing it!

Terry - the great thing about blogging and other social media is that all sorts of people can now share experiences and insights so we can all learn from them. They write in their own voices and this is the great value of it; it’s direct and very genuine. But when any of us write professionally, either for publication, or in the course of our work, it’s very important that the language is both appropriate and right. It’s a skill that needs developing and honing, whether you’re writing in your mother tongue or not (and there are plenty of examples where native speakers fall down. With another hat on, I do a lot of book reviews, and it’s surprising how many professionally published books are badly edited by people who you’d think would know better). We learn by doing, and by feedback, and all our writing is a work in progress in one way or another.


(Kate) #18

There are linguistics people who will tell you the English is a creole many times over. Several different old celtic/gaelic languages mixed with old germanic and old norse to get to old English, then the Norman French overlay and the latin influx… It’s no wonder that English is the language which lurks in back alleys and beats up other languages looking for loose vocabulary and grammar to steal.


(Susan) #19

This does bother me but I have had to calm myself down 99% on the matter for reasons including some cited above. Many authors are non-native speakers, writing may not be their favorite thing to do, often techie people are not good writers… I would love for those folks to have someone stronger in English to proofread for them before publishing. I encourage people to do so and I help those who ask for me. But I am far from perfect.

I do recall being taught contradictory “rules” in school and so realize that many grammar “mistakes” are debatable. That is a rabbit hole I hate to go down. I don’t think I’m wrong to find them annoying. However, annoyance can be fanned into a great anger at times :smiley:. At least I can do that to myself. Ultimately this causes me harm and doesn’t help my fellows.

Thank you, robertday for the tip on large typeface typos being critical in applications. I often file bugs about “check out” being the correct verbiage for a button which should use the verb form rather than “checkout”. When I first got my job I found a noun that needed to be changed in a similar way on our website. I found one later in larger type on our website. I often feel so nitpicky but I agree on these things being important to reputation and would rather risk being perceived as annoying than having the error out there.

Basically I pick my battles regarding spelling/grammar mistakes and only call out the more egregious errors. I overlook a LOT. I have to for my own sanity.