thought police
Source: Wellcome Collection

I never thought I would end up condemning the use of autocorrect functions when producing written communications. They were always just there, morphing and modifying as word processing platforms and texting software evolved and became available for general use. However, recently I have felt that these functions are starting to intrude and indeed trespass over my right to choose my own message.

I am entirely comfortable with a red underscore to indicate that a word has been misspelled, or a blue line to indicate a possible grammatical error. These are inobtrusive methods of flagging things that might need correcting, and the author can easily investigate and make determinations over their original choice. This is useful and prompts an opportunity to learn and correct.

The automatic changing of words to something else, though, is just annoying and rude. The construction of sentences is a privileged moment for an author, as they are choosing in real time the message that they wish to convey – this can involve specific word choice (even deliberately misspelled words). Everyone plays with their word choice in order to give their sentence three dimensions; they want the reader to have an experience as the words are intra-cranially injected through their eyeballs.

Everyone works hard, not just writers, to determine the best way to communicate with their family, friends, and peers, and how we do this evolves with us over time. To be interrupted, therefore, as one is banging out a thought, is just plain annoying and it can intrude on the spontaneity of the moment. It’s an unwanted overseer or monitor, stamping on, or even stealing your words as you attempt to send them on their way to the recipient; like a gift card carrying cash that is stolen by the mail carrier. If we’re serious about our communication, we should see these interruptions as enraging and unnecessary.

I also believe that people have a right to misspell words.

There can sometimes be a large amount of trepidation and fear that one’s sentences are riddled with errors. This is understandable, because our schooling involved a lot of hammer and anvil diktats from teachers on the evils of poor spelling and grammar. So much so, some of us, if we’re honest, feel a degree of shame over not just how we verbally express our thoughts, but over this part of ourselves.

For shame that we have this shame!

Of course there are language skills and rules to learn, but we shouldn’t scare people off by over-policing the language that they do use. Presumptuously changing a person’s words frustrates and confuses. Let them send the words they want to send; the errors should become evident.

The height of this audacity is the suggestion of how you might wish to reply to an e-mail. To suggest responses excises the recipient from thinking about how they wish respond. If I’m aware that no thought has gone into a response, I’m convinced that my original message was not well received, and it will discourage further communication.

And, with the full intention of sounding stuffy, don’t presume you know how I will respond to my own e-mails. I will use my full judgment and choice to tell you to go fuck yourselves.