I Learn About Dogberryisms

I was just reading a comment on something I said recently when I thought of a subject for a post. I didn’t manage to write anything yesterday because I left it late and then had so much to say I couldn’t do it coherently.

Helen mentioned proofreading, and it set something off in my head.

Once, I was asked to proofread some documents. They were dull, repetitive, badly organised and owed more than a little to Mrs Malaprop. I resisted the temptation to rewrite everything, because that would be rude. I resisted the temptation for humour at the expense of the writer, because they were obviously doing their best.

In short, I was polite. I corrected the spelling mistakes and typos and I substituted the correct word. I can’t remember the exact word but it was a common mistake, something in the order of purposely purposefully. No big deal.  Then I sent the correction off and got on with my proper work.

A week or so later the agenda for the Management Committee meeting came out and included an item on “proofreading”. If they’d called it “vitriolic personal attack on Simon” it would have been more accurate.

Anyway, we got to Item 3 “Proofreading”, and the committee member concerned took a deep breath before launching her attack.

Random Robin

Several weeks previously the farm had tested bushcraft/mindfulness workshop put on by someone who was doing a psychology course. It was not, for a number of reasons, my sort of thing and as it was on my day off, I didn’t go.

However, I was told, I should have gone because that would have taught me the proper way to bring up the issue of corrections and I would have avoided hurting the feelings of the writer. I should, she told me, have mentioned something good about the work she did, given her the corrections and then gone on to say something nice about her work again.

This, of course, assumed that she had ever done two pieces of decent work. I am not convinced, from what I saw, that this was the case.

You may recognise the technique. In polite circles it’s known as the “praise sandwich“, the “feedback sandwich”, the “sandwich technique” or the “constructive criticism sandwich”. It’s an insincere and predictable technique, which often fails to get the message across and has never, as far as I can remember, been considered a good technique, except by people who write books on how to manage. And yes, there is another term for it.

I smiled, apologised for my lack of  manners and management sophistication and prepared for Item 4.

That was when the floodgates opened. I was, it seems, rude, arrogant and totally lacking in empathy. Unlike me, she didn’t have a degree or a good education and she was doing her best. Blah, blah, blah…

The Ecocentre – scene of the vitriolic personal attack

It seemed like a long time, though it was probably only a few minutes. I switched off and let it run its course. The irony, of course, is that I don’t have a degree. However, you don’t need a degree when you have a dictionary and know what order the letters are in.

I believe that best practice in management is to praise people when you can, and when they need correcting giv e it to them straight. If you give praise where it is due there should be no need to dress the criticism up.

So, how does this relate to anything? or is it just an Ancient Blogger rattling on to fill space?

Well, it relates to criticising blogs. I was very tempted to comment negatively on a blog post this week because somebody was commenting on the Harry and Meghan interview. Unfortunately they seemed to believe everything said about it by (a) Meghan and (b) a number of American journalists. The post and the journalists relied mainly on opinion, and when facts were available in two cases they didn’t use them.

However, do I have the right to go onto another blog and criticise it? Is it really important? Harry and Meghan are, in truth, not important. They think they are, but that is a different matter.  When I find a blog I don’t like or a blogger who irritates me I try to avoid them rather than argue.

This brings up my three questions. One is just a repeat of the one above – do we have a right to go on someone’s blog and disagree or criticise?

Two, if that blog is deliberately provocative, does this alter the answer?

Photo by Kirsten Bu00fchne on Pexels.com

Three, if we don’t argue, are we validating their points? By not engaging in a debate about the veracity of everything said by Harry and Meghan, am I actually helping them to establish their version of the facts as truth?

And for those of you who don’t follow the links – a Dogberryism is the same as a malapropism. This is something I learned today, which illustrates the difference between having a degree and having an education.

23 thoughts on “I Learn About Dogberryisms

  1. The Snail of Happiness

    I spend my whole working life editing other people’s work – it can be a very delicate balance sometimes, and some authors are more sensitive than others. If I get someone who is really touchy, I try to explain to them how much more they would prefer the pain of my corrections compared to the whole world seeing them. It usually works, but not always. I once edited a book that was extremely badly written and the author refused to take on board my comments; in the end she went ahead with it unchanged and I insisted that my name was not associated with the book.
    As for critisising another blog – it is difficult. My blog includes a note that says you are welcome to disagree and enter into a dialogue, but not to be rude. It’s my blog and so I delete (the very rare) comments that I consider to breach my terms. Having said that I rarely comment negatively on other blogs. I have, in the past, stopped following blogs because I realise the person writing expresses bigoted views that I really don’t want to read, but it is rare (I can recall two occasions in the past nine years). And when it comes to the royals, I just avoid reading about them on blogs or anywhere else!

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      All good points. I always take the view that editors have more experience than me and let them get on with it. Once or twice I have been unhappy but the rest of the time it has ended up with the work being better.

  2. derrickjknight

    Have I missed something? I thought the task of a poof redder was to correct errors – not be a critic (positive or negative). Had you been a manager or an assessor the slating of you may have been valid.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      It was triggered by a number of things, including a desire to show her new knowledge of the sandwich technique. Ironic though, isn’t it, that the man who writes one of the most typo-riddled blogs on WP was asked to be proofreader?

  3. paolsoren

    I usually ignore a post that is badly written or full of rubbish. I usually try to say something positive I guess because I spent too many years writing school reports. Over the years I worked out a system and got the students to write their own. That might sound too simple but the method worked well. If you’re interested it is at https://wp.me/p8PuzR-3N3 . It work with students – it would never work with adults, adults can be a bit too precious.

  4. tootlepedal

    You have raised a good question. If someone expresses an opinion about other people or public affairs in a blog post, they should be prepared for alternative views to be expressed. I have occasionally respectfully indicated that I may have disagreed with something that you yourself have written and you have equally respectfully indicated where I have obviously gone wrong in my thinking. I feel that this is more invigorating than the cut and thrust of total agreement.

    Personally, I would just stop reading any blog which thought that Harry and Meghan were suitable subjects for discussion.

    Please feel free to correct any punctuation errors in this comment. I have comma blindness.

  5. Helen

    I’ve often pondered these questions myself. They beg two further questions in my mind: how well do the blogger and I know each other (ie will they be inclined to take my ‘criticism’ in the way it is intended?) and is it something that I deem to be worth pointing out.

    We all publish minor spelling errors and it would come across as unfriendly to home in on a typo, rather than the content of the piece. On the other hand, I do value someone pointing out an alternative point of view (as long as they are civil to me, my followers and respectful of humanity in general).

    I once had a follower who told me my photo was of a certain place in Leeds. He was wrong: the photo was outside my window at work and as I am not senile I knew full well he must therefore be mistaken.

    Unfortunately, he took offence at my refusing to accept his narrative.

    So, actually, a third guiding question is: if I make a comment which appears to be critical, can I accept that I might be the one that is wrong?

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      I’m always amazed (and disappointed) by the number of typos I find when going through old posts. 🙂

      Good questions. I suppose another reason for not arguing is that I know in most cases I won’t change my position on things. 🙂

      1. Helen

        Actually, I beg to differ in as far as if you realise someone has experience you don’t you are able to accommodate this. That said, it’s easier to have a sensible discussion when there are facts in the mix, even if the facts are more subjective. Which brings us back to the Sussexes: the Royal Family can’t prove she’s wrong and her statements are plausible, even if she has misremembered due to say being ill. It really would have been much better if the issues had been raised outside the media, where they could have been handled without public nosiness.

  6. Bitchy After 60

    My line for this is if you don’t want my honest opinion (or in this case honest corrections and criticisms) don’t ask. I will keep those type things to myself unless asked. You were asked to proof not to compliment. Learning to take constructive criticism is important because it makes us better. So many people get over defensive and take it personally. Being able to grow from it is a sign of maturity. I know this because it took me about 40 years to mature.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      Yes, if I’d commented on the writing style I could understand the problem a bit more, but merely correcting typos and the use of one word isn’t a big deal.

  7. charliecountryboy

    Interesting questions, generally I don’t comment upon political or such things. I agree though, if you don’t, technically your agreeing with them. I did actually comment on one Harry/Meghan one, might be same one. I find the comments on your proofreading strange. But then there are a lot of strange people out there. I thought the vast majority worked in educational management though 😂

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      The ones that are too strange for education management seem to gravitate to Care Farms.

      I think that not commenting on politics is a good idea – gives us more time for important things, like Sooty.

  8. Laurie Graves

    No degree, either, but I am dotty about dictionaries. On a more serious note…you brought up an issue that I frequently grapple with, especially online. That is, when to speak up and when to keep quiet. A friend of mine gave me some good advice: Would keeping quiet affect your integrity? If no, don’t say anything. If yes, speak up. I try very hard to follow my friend’s advice, and I am mostly successful.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      A good point. I have quite a wide zone of indecision where I don’t like what is being said, but don’t feel it’s worthwhile to comment. Fortunately I don’t go on many blogs which bring my integrity into question.


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