Correcting Others

This article by Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsburg caught my eye. When the author’s friend became a grandfather he told everyone that he had become an einekel, Yiddish for grandchild, instead of a zeidy, Yiddish for Grandpa. No one corrected him, including the writer, until the grandfather had told possibly hundreds of people. He then asked the writer to spread the word about the importance of correcting people.

This made me feel good because I often find myself correcting others. As I wrote here, I started young and the trait seems to run in the family.

In college, my English professor was once talking about poetry. He said that sometimes seemingly unimportant elements of a passage are emphasized, and gave the example of the Bible. “In the Bible,” he said, “insignificant words are put in italics.” I explained to him that some biblical translations italicize words that don’t appear in the original Hebrew like “is” and “the.” (This site gives examples from the King James translation of Psalms. Apparently some fundamentalist Christians take issue with the additions.) I realized my comment might embarrass him, but felt it was more important not to leave the other students with the misinformation. I did make the correction directly and respectfully, as recommended in the article, and I hope he forgave me.

Occasionally I correct my fellow bloggers, most often by email. If you have been a recipient of my constructive criticism, consider it a compliment. I only go to the trouble if I think the blogger would care, since I have enough editing and fact-checking to do for my own writing — I continue to find errors in my older posts.

Like most people I don’t enjoy being corrected, but I still prefer to find out about my mistakes in order to improve myself and so as not to (continue) look(ing) ignorant.


  1. I certainly perfer correction to have everyone see me saying something wrong!

  2. mother in israel says

    Anon, the problem is when you are not sure whether someone wants certain parts to be left uncovered. . .

  3. You are so right, especially when correcting the person can save them later embarassment and even it it means an uncomfortable moment for you. I once told the sales guy in a kids shoes store that his fly was unzipped. I whispered it softly, we were both uncomfortable for a moment, but he was so thankful.

  4. Lion in Zion says


  5. Lion in Zion says


  6. mother in israel says

    Thank you, I caught the first one. Do you mean that the second is a run-on sentence? I cut out one comma, but will leave the rest. If you mean something else please be more explicit.
    Anyone else?

  7. mother in israel says

    Maybe I can pretend I made the mistakes on purpose?

  8. Lion in Zion says

    “had became”

  9. Lion in Zion says


  10. LOZ, dude, what’s up with your comments? The commas are driving me crazy!
    I agree, I think correcting is the best way to go, as gently as possible.
    I try to be as accepting as possible when people correct me. I doesn’t always work.

  11. I also certainly prefer to be corrected quietly and quickly than to continue making the same mistake.

  12. I always tended to correct people. Now I get paid for it!

  13. Thanks!

  14. mother in israel says

    TC–Me too.
    I-D–I don’t work in a school but I am a teacher at heart.
    ON–You’re welcome?
    ZR–Absolutely, deciding whether to correct is a question of sensitivity and judgment.

  15. If it is something he doesn’t know he is doing wrong and he will listen to you when you correct him then ok. But if he is doing something wrong intentionally and you know that he won’t listen, why should you correct him?

  16. I don’t mind being corrected, especially when I make Hebrew mistakes- there’s a good chance I’ll remember the right way to say something if someone corrects me because the act of being corrected makes it stick in my memory (sorry that sentence was so wordy!)
    When I first moved to Israel I went into a photo shop and said that I had some “negativim liftoach.” The girl gently told me that it was “lefateach.” She apologized if she was rude in correcting me, but I thanked her. I always remembered the right word after that!

  17. I figure most people get enough “correcting.” They don’t need to hear it from me. And even in therapy, we have to be pretty far along before I would even think about it.

  18. That was a thanks because I appreciate being corrected.

  19. mother in israel says

    RR–when I moved here Israelis were more blunt about correcting. They saw it as their duty to new olim. Now they are more sensitive, or else they are jealous of my English!
    TD–therapy is a different story.
    ON–you’re welcome again.
    Mark–since so much of my English now involves reading/writing, I have been embarrassed more than once by mispronouncing an English word.

  20. That’s why I almost always use a language that I know (English, Hebrew) rather than one that I might only know a few words/phrases (Yiddish, Italian, Spanish) or even a bunch of functional parts (German). An English speaker should use English rather than Yiddish.
    But even in English, after using it for nearly 50 years, I still make mistakes. About 3 weeks ago, I learned that I had been mispronouncing “lichen” all my life! I also mispronounced many words (antique, awry, etc) as a kid because, as a voracious reader, I learned so many of them from reading rather than hearing.