Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So it begins...

My Darling Geek got my website (www.booksbykimberly.com) up and running, so I’m really out there, on the web, claiming to be an author. Honestly, I didn’t have much to put up on the site, so I copied over all those Grammar Gremlins articles from the Playground archives.

I’m glad I did. According to DG, I’m getting a lot of hits from folks looking for grammar help. I’m not proud; I’ll take my visitors however they get there.

Of course, with so little traffic, I can’t expect email from folks not blood kin or BFF from the site (thanks, y’all), but that doesn’t stop me from checking the inbox regularly, eagerly waiting for someone I don’t know to email me.

Last Thursday, I finally got one! I was so excited. Until I opened it, at least. It certainly wasn’t fan mail of any sort.

One of the visitors to my site looking for grammar help had issue with a few of my comma suggestions and had emailed me to let me know.

Now, y’all know I’ve ranted before about the proliferation of garbage masquerading as information on the internet, so I understand the need to email the authors of such pages to question their “expertise.” But I normally try to do it as a friendly “but what about this…” or “according to Dr. Expert Author of Every Book on the Subject…” or even “maybe this wasn’t what you meant to say…”

Nope. Not this email. I was WRONG. Not mistaken. Not possibly off-kilter. WRONG. And I was “spreading misinformation.”

Yes, my hackles went up. But so did my adrenaline levels. Did I really screw up somehow? Did the file get corrupted somehow during the upload and say something different now? I checked the site, but the articles seemed fine. I pulled out my grammar books to look for exceptions to the rules I’d forgotten to mention. Nothing. I even did some web searches to see if the rules had changed in the months since I wrote the articles. Nope.

I know the general rule is not to reply to such emails. After all, when you engage, you enrage, and we all know what happens when you try to argue on the internet. But I couldn’t help it. I wrote the person back.

I tried very hard not to be snarky or pompous, and I put on my very best professional “voice” as I tried to explain how I thought the writer must have misread the article and invited her to provide me with examples to support her interpretation of comma usage. Then I spent the next few days wondering if I should have hit Delete instead of Send.

She wrote me back.

But this time, the email was totally different. She apologized for her earlier email, thanked me for being a good sport about it, and provided the source of her confusion. (Note to self: remember to write LEGIBLY when correcting student papers.)

I’m glad I responded, and I’m glad I didn’t get my back up or write snarky rebuttals. Hopefully, this will be good practice for the emails I’m bound to get in the future when folks take issue with something in one of my books.

But I’m still looking forward to getting the email…

Have you ever sent email to the author of a web page who has something totally and completely wrong on their site? How did they respond? Have you been on the other side and been the receiver of an email like that? How did you handle it?

17 comments:

Playground Monitor said...

Yeah, I'm up late tonight forcing myself to write something. Anything. Per La Nora, I can fix crap but I can't fix a blank page.

To answer your question, a big author blogged once about how she hated passive voice and gave a number of examples. "Can you spot the passive voice?" she asked.

Chicken that I am, I commented anonymously and said "I could if there was passive voice in those examples." *sigh* She confused weak verbs with passive voice. She either ignored the comment or never checked back because there was no reponse.

If I've received negative email, I've totally blocked it out and can't remember it.

I think you handled that situation very well. And so did the person who emailed you to begin with. Bravo to you both. I've seen some pretty darn fugly flame wars on the internet when egos get out of hand

PM

Jen said...

Looking forward to checking out your site, PC...when these revisions are done. Me? I would've probably just ignored the email. ;)

MaryF said...

Honestly, I try not email anyone with a criticism (unless specifically asked to do so---and no one has asked...LOL).

PC; I think you handled it outstandingly. I would've fallen prey to at least one snarky comment.

PM; good luck on writing; I'm writing but its not pretty...*sigh*

birdzilla said...

My previous supervisor was horrendous regarding your situation. His main goal in life was to simply discover the tiniest of discrepancies (more than half the time he was wrong). But would he admit his faults... well I can not truly express my feeling on that here.

On a most likely unrelated issue, I despise when certain people seem to bring a plague of terror against the esteemed farm animal. A simple phone call generally brings down a wrath of death. A visit to the homestead, I feared, would bring the entire farm down in flames.

Anonymous said...

No, I would never do that.
robertsonreads

Rhonda Nelson said...

I've only gotten one negative email and never responded because I wasn't going to argue the point with her. I need all my energy for the important things happening in my life. :-)

It was great seeing everyone this weekend!

Angel said...

I've never emailed someone about a problem on their site (though it is seriously tempting with authors who have typos...)

If I do have to confront someone by email (which I try not to do), I'm very careful about how I word it. Anything written doesn't carry inflection, and I want everything to have a professional tone about it, so I spend quite a bit of time with word choice and such. I think constructive criticism with lots of concrete examples is best.

PC, on the other hand, writes flawless complaint letters. I called on her expertise recently when I felt compelled to complain to the chapter president and contest coordinator of a very poorly executed contest recently. I felt like the result was professionally disapproving in tone, with lots of examples (not rumors) to back it up. Thanks, PC, for helping me complain with style and integrity. ;)

Angel

Sherry W. said...

No, I've never sent a questioning email. I haven't received any because at this time I don't have anything out there for them to question. *sigh* But if I ever do....I know someone to call for the answer. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I would never send a complaint email to an author or a website owner. It'd have to be pretty egregious, and commas just aren't that serious to me. *g*

I accidentally sent an email to someone in which I complained about her. PC was the intended recipient of the email, but I sent it to the wrong person. It was minor, and I did apologize, but I was a bit embarrassed to have made the mistake. (No, not to any writer friends! Totally unrelated to writing.)

I ranted about apostrophes once on my blog. Someone I know peripherally (again, not a writer) took issue with my rant. I was not gracious, I'm afraid. :) There was a bit of a meow thing on her part, and I have no time for that. It was complicated and stupid and I probably shouldn't have said anything. But she doesn't visit my blog anymore and there's no more catfighting. :)

Smarty Pants said...

I don't think I've ever emailed anyone like that. I go out of my way to avoid confrontation, if at all possible. If provoked, sure, but I'm not going to pick a fight.

I've never received an email like this, at least not that I recall. Most people's opinions of me don't matter that much.

You handled it well. Maintaining the professional tone is hard, but sometimes its the best way. It catches the troll off guard and makes them have to respond in kind with examples and facts to back up their case. That usually knocks the wind from their sails.

Instigator said...

Nope, I'm not much of a letter writer. Whatever the problem, it would have to be major to get me to do that.

Like SP, I avoid confrontation whenever possible but threaten/degrade my kids, husband or other family and you'll have a fight on your hands.

Zilla, it isn't her fault that the creepy crawlies come out only when she's on the phone :-)

Instigator

Problem Child said...

'Zilla, I can't help it if the sound of a phone ringing brings out the coyotes.

And, hey, I'm backing you on the bees, remember?

Playground Monitor said...

So I guess this makes me the rabble-rouser of the bunch? skulks away silently

Kathy said...

Brava, PC. You handled yourself very well and with courage. I don't think I would've responded. the e-mail would have bothered the heck out of me though. I tend to dwell on things, especially when I think someone has an issue with me. Pleaser personalities... who knew?

Problem Child said...

But will PM write a letter of complaint about the seeming lack of complainers in the bunch?

(I guess we're just lucky to have polite Playfriends...)

catslady said...

My sister and I used to send each other emails quite often and I had a few ohno's when I sent it to the wrong person. Nothing much horrible was said and all but one understood. I had merely said I didn't care for how she did her contests and I got back this scathing reply even though I had apologized profusely more than once.

birdzilla said...

Thank you PC about the bees. Now that would cause quite a commotion I believe.

Regarding the evil night monsters, I lost a bird on Thursday night. Caught a raccoon the next day...problem solved until the next phone call.