Kind and helpful or rude and insulting?

From time to time there are incorrect spellings of destinations, information requests and the like. E.g. Rhoades, Rothenberg, Salzberg, Interlakken, etc.
Is it considered kind and helpful to point out these errors for the sake of clarity for the poster, or is it considered rude and insulting to correct the errors of another?
We'll save the confusion between the useage of it's and its for another time :- )

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2084 posts

I accept corrective actions gladly and hope that someone would correct any mistakes I may make.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
1629 posts

Personally I just use the correct spelling in my reply. I think typos have gone up from increased use of soft keyboards on tablets / smartphones (I know i do them) as well as the frequent misconceptions such as Stanstead Airport.

Was the misspelling of usage intentional? :)

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12573 posts

Sometimes it is very important to correct the spelling especially in Europe. Some locations have very similar spellings but be hundreds of miles apart. Second, a lot of the train search engines need the exact spelling. So I will always correct the spelling. If some thinks that it rude and insulting, so be it.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

If spelling or usage change the context of the question I would correct, otherwise walk on by.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
360 posts

According to the Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition) , the word "usage" in my reply was spelled correctly, but thanks for your concern.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5494 posts

I usually only make corrections to place names because, as noted, it can be important to the question (train station names, for example). I don't mind having my errors corrected, but I try to save my paper-grading skills for my students.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
360 posts

Whoa--I am so sorry--I see that I was mistaken--I used the wrong spelling and then tried to justify my mistake by using the correct one. Mea Culpa!

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2367 posts

I usually just reply with the correct names and sometimes point out when that is relevant (using train search engines). I think in some instances some fellow Helplines go over-the-top with sarcasm and outright rudeness when informing a newbie (s)he has spelled something wrong.

Sometimes, when relevant, I point out the need to use the local language spelling to find certain info, particularly transportation, instead of English names.

Otherwise I just let it go.

Many people are posting from smartphones and other small gadgets, typos happen even unintentionally.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3661 posts

This is such a great question. As others have said, I make a point of using the correct spelling in my post but often times the OP or other posters continue to misspell the name of the place. For me, it's always in the France forum... Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, for instance... or when people say "the d'Orsay"... (it should be "the Orsay"). Seeing a French word misspelled or used incorrectly is jarring for me but I just ignore it because I don't want to come off as rude or arrogant. Except one time recently I did correct the spelling so they wouldn't have trouble researching it...

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4096 posts

I think that we should correct mistakes when we see them. Most people posting on this site are looking for help and information for their travels. If they are misspelling a city, their search for information will be hampered. Is it better to be embarrassed briefly on the helpline or to continue making these blunders in front of friends, colleagues and maybe even bosses?

The mistakes are often understandable. For example, many people spell Stirling, Scotland as Sterling. I'm sure that this is because of the British Pound which is referred to as Sterling. I'll usually point out that the right spelling is with an "i" so that they can find it properly. It's a mistake that's often made. It's a bit embarrassing to make a mistake, but hey, we all make them! We need to be able to accept a correction like this without going into a tailspin.

I will admit that I check my spelling when I'm posting a response. I think that this is something everyone should do when responding as an expert or informed source. Of course, I work for a publisher, so I have a real drive to see accuracy in all communication. :)

Pam

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8673 posts

I think one should ignore typos and spelling errors generally.. but when it comes to place names I do think one should point out correct spelling.. it makes it easier in long run for many things.. I like many generally just use correct spelling ( if I know it) in my reply and hope they note that.. but will point it out eventually if needed .
If I was going to correct the one grammar mistake that drives me insane.. it would be " me and -----" and it is so commonly used now that if I was to correct that one error I would likely have to post on that at least once a day! So I give up ! ( the only reason this one grammar mistake bothers me is because my mom drilled it into my head to "never put yourself first because its disrespectful " ) Maybe its not.. but its just how I was raised.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1671 posts

I think it can be helpful to correct spelling of a place to help the traveler and it can be done tactfully. If someone asks how long it takes to get from Amsterdam to Harlem, I would politely suggest the correct spelling to maybe help them with train information, as in Haarlem. There are people who perhaps don't have English as a first language so it is necessary to also keep that in mind. It makes me cringe when someone says "me and my friend" but I would just let that go.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1671 posts

LOL when I just read Pat's response, guess we were posting at same time and have same issues with "me" first!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5331 posts

Any idea how many times Frankfurt gets spelled Frankfort on this forum? It is ok to correct a spelling mistake, but not ok to make fun or be sarcastic about it. It makes me cringe to have someone told they will have to cross the Ohio river to get to Frankfort, etc. That just isn't very nice. When I look at old maps, it often was spelled Frankfort, but also Franckfort, Frankfordia, Frankforte, and so on.

It is important to have the place names spelled correctly though when buying train tickets, so a correction is helpful.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1186 posts

I detest the presence of the few individuals on some boards who decide that they will act as 'the language police', esp. for corrections relating to typos, misspellings and grammar.

Place names are another story. I don't point out the OP's "mistake", but use the correct form in my reply. Sometimes my 'correct' form is one that is more a common form, rather than actually correct.

Jo's point about Frankfurt also illustrates how language affects place names. If the OP's own language is French, for example, then Francfort it is to them (often spelled as Frankfort as well). As I typed this, my iPad spellchecker was happy with Frankfort... So the tech we use is also influencing how we spell stuff too.

Should we decide now that, from this day forth, Florence will be corrected to Firenze?
No, that would be silly -- except if our response is about using the Trenitalia website specifically.

So, live and let live, unless the OP will have difficulty finding info or making a booking.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7825 posts

Me and Pat have pretty much the same rule. ;-)

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
760 posts

With place names, I think it would be helpful to clarify (not correct) in one's response. So, like Jo mentioned, nothing sarcastic is required, but perhaps simply fixing in your own response or pointing out with "Did you mean...?"
What drives me nutty is the misuse of the adverb. So silly, I know, but I cringe when "good" replaces "well", and the -ly gets dumped off. However, it would be rude to correct errors like this unless you are someone's English teacher or editor.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

Joan,

Im not sure how everyone is setup, but when im typing in reply's and such, there is an spelling checker working.

also, i can usually get the gist of what a word/place was most of the times, but in the end, if the OP doesnt have it right they will find out sooner or later.

as my mom use to say..."you will learn"

happy trails.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4871 posts

The spell-checker function doesn't work well with place names. Some that are obvious mistakes to us are real places, just not the ones meant (like Frankfort in Kentucky for Frankfurt in Germany). And some places that are correctly spelled show up as errors.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
1067 posts

Susan (Sausalito), it appears to me that while their URL has no contracted preposition, the website for the Musée d'Orsay uses " d' " almost everywhere. Or were you making an ironic point??

It's worth noting (recent website updates aside) that Rick's website has sometimes had trouble rendering various foreign accent marks correctly when posted on newsboards. I've had to resort to harming the flow of my reply by adding "(accents omitted)". Of course this happens on other websites as well.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12850 posts

"Some locations have very similar spellings but be hundreds of miles apart."

Frank, that sentence doesn't seem correct. ... so be it.

OK, Frank knows me and knows that was a good-natured dig, not an insult (hopefully). But basically, I agree with Frank. You should bother to learn the correct spellings.

In the "old days", the German Rail website was quite unforgiving of misspellings. Asking for directions to "Fussen" would get you connections to a bus stop call Fussen Straße in some German town nowhere near the town with the castles. They have since added what I call an "ignorance algorithm", which looks at what you wrote and suggest a number of possible locations on a drop-down menu. If you write "Fussen", Füssen will be on the drop-down. However, it's not perfect. "-berg" and "-burg" are both legitimate endings in German, so if you write "Salzberg", it assumes you mean "Salzberg". You won't get Salzburg, Austria, but a list of locations with Salzberg in the name. Similarly, the city in Switzerland is Zürich, with an umlauted u. Since international air travelers use the spelling Zurich, if you spell it that way, it assumes you want the airport. If you want the town, you must write Zürich (or the equivalent Zuerich) or Zuerich HB for the main train station. I've seen some pretty experienced travelers on this site have difficulty finding connections to Zürich, the town, because they spelled it Zurich.

But beyond using correct spelling to get to the right place, it's impolite not to know the correct spelling. When you don't bother to get the spelling correct, it kind of indicates that you don't think that they are important. We constantly hear on this board people saying if you are going to a particular country, take time to learn simple greetings (hello, goodbye, please, thank you) in their language. Well. it's just as important to learn the proper spelling of their towns.

Consider, Düssel is a river in Germany; Düsseldorf is a village (now a city) on the Düssel river. Dussel, in German is a fool, so Dusseldorf is a city of fools.

As for real typos, I'm pretty forgiving. It's difficult to proofread something you just wrote in this little box. I usually read my postings after I post them. Then I come back the next day and reread them and still find typos.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

If a poster makes a spelling mistake in a location there is a nice way to help them and then there are the arrogant and mean responses. You can simply say.... Be sure you have the correct spelling when looking for trains, etc.... Or you might end up on the wrong site....

Correct someone's grammar??? Not unless you are my child and never in front of anyone.....

But.....for the record and while we are at it....there are lots of people who don't know the difference between loose and lose....:))).

Posted by emma
London
874 posts

I have no time for the grammar police you find on social media sites who take inordinate pleasure in pointing out a dropped apostrophe or use of "your" not "you're" . I really wonder at how they have nothing better to do. I think people should be cut some slack especially when you factor in attempting to type on tablets and smartphones with predictive text.

The one thing I will correct is when questioners drop the road, street, square etc from addresses in the UK. For example, " how do I get from Oxford to Liverpool station?" When they mean how do I get from Oxford circus to Liverpool street station? It is not being pedantic, not using the full location name can cause real confusion and cost you money when buying tickets etc. Do you mean Oxford( the university town), Oxford Street, Oxford Circus, Oxford Road or Oxford Avenue?! Do you mean Liverpool( the home of the Beatles) or Liverpool Street?

Even if you haven't got the confusion of street names named after other places or people, only using half the name sounds totally wrong to locals and is really confusing. I was recently stopped by a tourist asking for directions to "Bond" I was totally bermused until I realised he meant Bond Street but he looked at me as if I was stupid.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

@Tim Susan (Sausalito), it appears to me that while their URL has no contracted preposition, the website for the Musée d'Orsay uses " d' " almost everywhere. Or were you making an ironic point??

I think she meant that when people refer to it as "d'Orsay" rather than "Orsay" or "Musee d'Orsay" - the "d'" is necessary only with "Musee"

Please feel free o correct my French!

As a side note - in some forums it is against the guidelines to point out or correct spelling and usage.

As I said earlier and many have said here correct only if it clears up possible confusion.

Posted by James E.
USA
3058 posts

Question form Ben in Detroit: "I am going to Europe for the first time in my life. When we get to Vienna can you tell me if .......................?"

Answer from Barbara in OK City: "When we go to Wien we enjoy...................................."

Is Ben inconsiderate in calling it Vienna?

Is Barbara pretentious in calling it Wien.

Are neither particularly one thing or another?

Should I be ashamed for wanting to go to Peking?

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1719 posts

Musee d'Orsay means "museum of Orsay" just as Musee du Louvre means "museum of the Louvre." Calling it the "of Orsay" is obviously wrong if you know French, but not so obvious if you do not. To a native English speaker, it seems like one word that has an odd contraction in it.

I try not to make a big deal about that one, though. I'd have no idea what is correct in German, a language that puts little polka dots above vowels, and makes up a weird letter that looks like a "B" but I guess sounds like an "S". ;)

Posted by James E.
USA
3058 posts

Karen; What you allude to, intentionally or not, is that if it is so important that we use the French name for everything in France and if it is important that we get it correct why doesn't it matter in other languages. So interesting a concept that I started another thread.

To specifically answer the question at hand, generally I am the one that gets it wrong. But I do point out the errors if doing so will somehow improve their plans, otherwise I see no need.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

Doesn't the name Leonardo DaVinci mean Leonardo of Vinci? Yet we regularly call him DaVinci, or has that become his real last name? Or should the Da only be used when we are saying his whole name? Or should we just call him Leonardo? (real question... not being sarcastic)

I frankly don't think we have to be so proper around here... after all, aren't we among friends?

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3218 posts

@James
Is Ben inconsiderate in calling it Vienna?
Is Barbara pretentious in calling it Wien.

No to both.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1719 posts

James, I was just further explaining the Orsay/d'Orsay issue. It really doesn't bother me, because it's so easy to make mistakes in other languages. You'd snuck in there right before my post so it looks as though I'm responding to you. I do admit to getting a little dig in at Lee!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5494 posts

I'm on a first name basis with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rafaello and Elvis.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

@Zoe:)) I should have known!
Well, I refer to him as Leo in my most private moments... but what about on this forum?

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1719 posts

Zoe-Donatello was the fourth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, not Elvis.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Where else can you go and get info on Europe & TMNT? I ask you - this place is indeed special!

Posted by stan
Kansas City
693 posts

Thanks to this thread, I was motivated to learn how to make umlauts on my computer.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5494 posts

You caught me, I wasn't really thinking of the TMNTs. Laughs all around! And a great example of kind and helpful (not to mention funny).

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12850 posts

To make an umlaut on a PC:

Hold down the alt key and type on the numeric keypad,

0228 for ä,

0246 for ö,

0252 for ü.

For capital letters, subtract 32 from the numbers for the small letters 0196, 0214, 0220).

Or go to Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map and copy and paste (works for French, and other, characters, too).

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3661 posts

Christi and Karen, thanks for explaining what I meant about "d'Orsay". Karen's example of Musee du Louvre is perfect... we don't say I'm going to the "du Louvre".

To be clear though, I would never correct someone for misusing a French word or name... I know nothing about other languages and I know I type and say them wrong all the time... so I would never correct someone when it comes to French.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
7487 posts

There certainly are polite ways to correct the information. Spelling of a town name often varies between English usage, the language of that country, and the language of the neighboring countries from where you may be starting. In countries with different alphabets, like Greece or Morocco, you'll often find more than one common transliteration of the spelling into our alphabet. The start of any guidebook chapter is usually a good place to get a handle on this.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

Hi,

You can also use the following: alt (key) + 132 (numerical key pad) = ä;

alt + 129 = ü;

alt + 0223 = ß

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1719 posts

If I could suggest a few non-binding rules:

  1. Be polite and not snarky when offering a correction.
  2. Saying, "It's probably a typo, but you'll have better luck finding info by using the correct spelling of Xyz." is nicer than saying, "Get it right-it's Xyz."
  3. Ignore misspellings if they are not place names.
  4. Well, unless the misspellings are funny, then they're fair game.
  5. If the poster uses no punctuation at all, so the post is impossible to follow, or uses all caps, I think it's fair to nicely suggest they follow better standards of usage. If their goal is to communicate a question, they should try harder to be understood. It's like written mumbling, these posts with no punctuation or clear message.
  6. Realize that even polite correction will get some people in a tizzy of defensiveness.
Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5331 posts

Thank you Karen!

If I might add something to the all caps issue, there are many people who don't see very well and they often use all caps when they write. I know my mom does that, cause it is the only way she can read what she wrote.

The text speak and total lack of punctuation on some questions, drives me nuts, so I don't answer them.

Posted by monim
11 posts

In my personal opinion i think spelling is so much important. becasue misspelling can create misconception. Specially when you are mentioning about any place.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
794 posts

When it comes to correcting misspellings, I think it should come down to whether or not it really matters to the issue at hand: Example: "I'm having trouble finding the train schedule between Frankfort and XXX".........it would be necessary to point out the correct spelling of Frankfurt, but, if the question is: "I have a 6 hour layover in Frankfort. Do I have time to go into the city to sightsee?", making a pointed remark or snarky reference to Kentucky is not necessary.

And for the unfortunate few who occasionally lapse into ALL CAPITALS, I really don't think it is necessary for the self-appointed Grammar-SWAT Team to attack them with admonitions about the rudeness of YELLING. Really, were you that traumatized by several lines, all in upper case???

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

Like button... Elaine
Correcting that mistake seems more rude to me than the caps... more than likely the person does not know... a sincere PM would indicate that the responder is not just trying to make themselves look important...and extremely judgmental (which I guess I am being here:)) I think it just gives new posters the wrong idea about most of us...

Posted by Sarah
Seattle, Washington
122 posts

Here is my take on this. Because my life is in a storage unit, due to taking 11 months off for travel. I'm now only using my iPad and iPhone instead of my computer (no room). It isn't the easiest thing to work with, often times no matter how much I go back and try to correct the type-o's they seem to still be there. For example I can't tell you how many times my iPad changes Sligo, Ireland into Silgo, Ireland. This drives me crazy and I have almost had it with my iPad many times.

This forum to me should always be first a safe place for people to tell their stories and give their advise on trips and areas they have been to. If someone doesn't spell something correct, it's not the end of the world. I've seen some writers almost come across bitchy because they stop the natural flow of the conversations to correct others on spelling errors. What's really gotten me on some of these spelling corrections, is often times that's the only thing the writers post is about. That's when it gets rude to me.

Posted by Jeff
Taunusstein, Germany
294 posts

Spelling and basic grammar are a great way to show ignorance and also a way to display tasteless ignorance in correcting it. That being said I simply go on by the posts written in a Twitter format or so bereft of any form or meaning that its not worth reading, assisting or commenting. The old phrase "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything" is probably good to use here.

Posted by lauraiesue
22 posts

Does the correction help the individual at all, or is the correcting simply making yourself look better? If a spelling error can cause confusion in booking trips, etc. then yes by all means, but come on...