I have seen a lot of comments on news stories, Facebook posts and blogs where someone has written something like this: "You illiterate i*10# ... blah blah blah ..."
These critics obviously feel that they are on a holy quest to prove themselves smarter and better than the author. By ridiculing the author and showing off their own knowledge of grammar, they try to undermine everything the author is trying to say.
Calling upon wrong or unrelated premises/arguments to disprove the validity of a subject is wrong.
If I say, "Ocean is blue because sky is blue", and then someone responds with 'No, that is wrong because I go to the shop every day', how is that an argument?!
If a troll says, "You have forgotten the 'The' in front of ocean ... you illiterate f***! You do not know anything", will that change the fact that oceans are blue because of the color of the sky?
In information science, there is a maximum noise contamination of a communication channel after which information cannot be retrieved. The same goes for natural language; there is always a maximum noise level after which a message or the context of the message becomes irretrievable.
For instance, let us examine the original message from above:
"Oceans on the planet Earth are blue because the sky is blue."
Now, let's examine a few examples in which the original message has been corrupted even more:
"Oceans are blue because sky is blue"
Planet Earth is omitted, but, for most readers, because we live on one planet only, the reader's environment (living context) gives additional information which is lost in the communication channel. Therefore, the modified sentence remains valid.
"Ocen ar blu cos sky blu"
The message has been significantly changed, but the meaning is maintained because our brain is capable of filling in the gaps.
"Sky blu make okean blu"
Even with a changed word order, missing and different letters and completely different words, the intended meaning is still transmitted.
All the above is true, but to avoid being misleading, I have to give a counterargument.
Natural human language is very complex. The same sentence can mean different things in the context of two different readers, and even small punctuation changes can significantly impact meaning.
Let me give you two examples:
A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
Watch out - man eating apes!
Watch out - man-eating apes!
If noise has corrupted a communication channel, gaps will be filled according to the reader's context. Sometimes the gap-filling is correct; and other times wrong. Even without noise, sentences formed in 'natural' language can be ambiguous.
How can we resolve these noise and ambiguity issues?
It's simple. Ask the writer.
Sometimes, however, writers are deliberately ambiguous to provoke their readers or to put them in a certain state of mind.
And, when language has been changed or lost, if the context has changed or the author is dead, old text can easily be misinterpreted. This happens because "gaps" (missing context) are replaced incorrectly with the new context (environment, stage of civilization, and so on).
As I said earlier, with natural language, there is always a maximum noise level, and after that level is passed, the message or context of the message becomes irretrievable. However, many of the posts we read in current blogs are far from that threshold.
Now if that is true, and it is, then why hostility!?
If we identify a mistake when reading the article, wouldn't be much better to offer help?
Why not simply say: "Hey, mate, you have made a grammatical mistake. I have a degree in English. Please amend those ...", or "Mate, your grammar is not good. Please pay an editor to fix your text so you can transmit your ideas clearly", or "Please can you explain your idea a bit more, as we do not have the context for what you are trying to say", or "I do not agree with what you say, but please make the text grammatically correct so we can all be 100% confident that we understand your message correctly"?
Why insult or anger the writer?
Why make the writer hate you?
If punching people were a good way to teach people and spread understanding, it would have been introduced at the universities by now!
"Understanding is the beginning of change..."
When we help someone as an act of pure courtesy - and I hope my readers can distinguish between being an accomplice in a crime and being a proofreader - we can befriend someone, even if we do not agree with their point of view. And it is always easier to change your friend's mind than your enemy's.
Even if we think the writer behind the article is terrible, insulting and fighting with him or her achieves nothing.
At this point, I usually get slammed with arguments about what would have happened if we had not fought against the Nazis in WWII.
If we had talked more with those people before war broke out, if we had helped those people instead of abandoning them during the troubles and economic crises, which happened long before a seed of invasion has been planted in their minds, maybe war could have been avoided.
We are talking here about the realm of words, concepts and ideas. When those are materialized into physical events and actions, rules change accordingly.
I agree that some people are hopelessly atrocious and incapable of change. More often than not, though, they are simply scared and lonely, imprisoned in their own heads. Even if they are as sinister as we think and are the worst people in the world, we are not justified in behaving the same way or even worse. Maybe, just maybe, the thoughts they express and the stories they share, good or bad, are just their cries for help.
"Teach by encouraging instead of by scowling"