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Earlier today I sent an email out to the nearly one million educators on our Edublogs list.

The subject line had an oh so embarrassing mistake.

Here it is:

Your invited! Free course on blogging with students

Of course you caught it immediately. I did too, as soon as it landed in my inbox. Unfortunately for me, by that time, there was no way to ‘unsend’. Major oops!

Making Excuses

I could suggest that this mistake was in part due to the exhaustion that any parent with a 2-month-old and a 2-year-old would understand.

Or, there’s the excuse that I was working too quickly, trying to squeeze too much in at the end of a long work day.

None of it matters, though. As you’ll see in a minute, clearly my mistake struck a nerve with many, and for that, I’m truly sorry.

Open The Flood Gates

As soon as I saw the mistake, I knew exactly what was about to happen. I have made a typo or two in a mass email before. But nothing could have prepared our team for the flood of emails, tweets, and complaints we were about to receive.

If you are going to make a grammar mistake, do your best to make sure that it isn’t in front of hundreds of thousands of English teachers!

Can I Learn From This?

I’ve been working on a post about feedback recently – mostly aimed at helping students learn about creating quality comments on classmates’ blog posts. But I hadn’t yet been able to come up with a unique or interesting angle to make the post good enough to publish. It struck me that perhaps using some of the feedback we received about this mistake might make for great examples and help spark discussion.

So, here goes. I hope to not further upset anyone that contacted us by sharing these – it really is meant all in good fun!

Which of the following types of feedback do you find the most helpful and why?

The Factual Feedback

Your “your” needs an apostrophe: you are contracts to you’re. Or you can send me an invitation that you might identify as “your invitation”. “Your invited” is just wrong

The Punitive Feedback

For the love of grammar! This is an educational blog site and you use the incorrect form of you’re in the title? “Your invited” come on! Shame. I am leaving your mailing list.

The Regretful Feedback

How I wish you could pull this email back and change it to YOU’RE invited! 

The Condescending Feedback 

Surely Edublogs is not endorsing poor spelling?

The Grammatically Incorrect Feedback

Don’t you mean you’re invited!

The Ranting Feedback

I’m afraid that if the standard of your product is ​​illustrated​​ by the quality of your/you’re grammar in the subject line, I would ​​ NOT want to use “edublogs” in my school

The ‘Starts With A Positive’ Feedback

I LOVE Edublogs, but as a teacher I can’t help but notice the Subject line of the most recent email I received is incorrectly spelled: Your should be You’re 🙂

The ‘Ends With A Positive’ Feedback

As an English teacher, I cringed. You meant, “YOU’RE invited [as in you are…]. That’s all.
Smiles.

The Public Shaming By Tweet Feedback

Ouch! @edublogs with a grammatical #epicfail in their email this evening. #edchat #sschat #tlap #LiteracyMatters

The Polite Feedback

Just an observation. As an English teacher, my superpower is noticing spelling and most grammatical errors…it’s a thankless job…but just wanted to bring to your attention that the most recent notice I received should read, “YOU’RE invited!” rather than “YOUR invited.” I appreciate you! Just a hazard of being an English teacher.

Thoughts On Feedback

Reading through the different replies we received got me thinking about the effectiveness of feedback that I’ve provided students over the years. I know that Edublogs isn’t a student, and those that emailed us aren’t our teachers, so the situation doesn’t totally apply. But I’ve been reminded by all of this that there are dozens of ways to say the same thing. And some ways may just be more productive and helpful than others.

Please leave a comment below with any thoughts you have on effective feedback. We’ll use it to help put together a more detailed resource to use with students.

In the meantime, we’ll keep working hard to provide a platform that provides a safe place for us all to share, make mistakes, and learn from each other.

And once again, I’m sincerely sorry for the grammar mistake in our email today. 🙂

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About Ronnie Burt

Manages the Edublogs, CampusPress, and WPMU DEV Hosting services. Former secondary math teacher and wannabe musician. Follow @ronnieburt on twitter!

32 Comments

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  1. I don’t know what it is about typing online (especially texting) but confusing ‘your’ with ‘you’re’ is really common. Has anyone not done that? It’s probably a brain thing. That emailing and texting can be so conversational, that we type as we would speak, and our brains send ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ even though we know perfectly well the difference. Yes, we should proofread our stuff. But these mistakes happen. Often. In the online context, when I see that kind of “error,” I don’t attribute it to lack of intelligence or laziness. I just see it as an online thing.

    My attitude is different I suppose when I am reading the New York Times or a journal article. But at the same time, I’ve noticed when reading online newspapers, the large number of stories with some kind of retraction at the end due to misspelled names or omission of facts or misattribution. There just isn’t the multiple pairs of eyes that once proofed professional communications. Remember when staff typed letters and proof-read them? Then the boss proof-read what the typed letter? Then maybe another member of staff or upper management took a look at it and gave it final approval? We’re all busy. These things happen. I’m sorry to hear that such a bruhaha ensued. But then that seems to be an online thing too. 🙂 -Kai

  2. Good grief!

    I’m sorry you had to experience an unhappy deluge as a result of your little gaffe. As a school superintendent, I’ve long said that our mistakes are always public, and the public usually loves to amplify a good mistake. I’ve long believed that character is best demonstrated under the lamp of adverse circumstances, and you’ve shown more about who you are in your response to this issue than a hundred pithy blogs.

    I applaud you–you’re my kind of educator and you just made it easier for me to face my next mistake.

    Thank you Ronnie!

    • Catherine Finger
  3. All I can say is “your” human 🙂

    • gillianjudson
  4. Ronnie,

    Way to turn a true negative into a potential positive. I appreciate the ‘teacher move,’ put into play here. This is inspirational. Any future mistakes or typos on my part will be met with a smile, a genuine apology, and hopefully a platform to speak on feedback, correction, or just educating on the proper choice. I admit that I’m a speedy typer and often make mistakes. (in the English classroom, yikes!)

    Such is the life of the instant message.

    In regards to feedback, this is something that I’ve worked on with students near the beginning of every year. Placing classroom expectations or norms in effect early in the year will take away from knee jerk retaliation responses such as, “Don’t you know anything!” Or, “How could you make that mistake?!?!?!”

    Students know that mistakes happen, and I teach to constructively judge the paper, or the idea being presented, rather than the person writing or presenting.

    I’ve been inclined to create a Y-chart to elaborate what positive feedback looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

    Hope that helps!

  5. OH my goodness!! Not such a big deal! Anyone typing could have made the same mistake AND anyone that knows U, would know that is was a quick, probably tired typo. Don’t lose any sleep over that one- just a fast proof would have fixed it. Something I always wished I had done just AFTER licking the envelope. {-:

  6. Feedback can be good or bad depends on your situation in this case it was just a minor problem with your grammar. Everyone makes mistakes some big some minor at least now you will double check your grammar before you send an email. :}
    SMILES.

  7. Feedback is always good. Feedback shows us where we are or what we have done right or wrong. I think feedback is useful when people can honestly use it and help their situation.

    • preacherman4real
  8. We are human! Mistakes happen.

  9. Thanks for the cheerful outlook. I appreciate the “no excuses” stance that you took. But I haven’t yet met the perfect anyone, …..so welcome to the rank and file! (It reminds me to read, and re-read my own posts to catch those errors, but unfortunately, I’m sure they will still slip through on occasion!)

  10. The picture you used to illustrate your mistake is super cute. I agree with you that it will be so helpful for us and students to learn how to accept and how to give criticism online and in the classroom. I just wish I knew how to do just that.
    Good Luck!
    Shari

  11. You are extremely gracious, as always, Sue. I fear I would have responded less tactfully, especially after about the 10th response I received or to a few of the more…direct ones. There is this disgusting tendency in internet world to feel free to correct, insult, or talk down to anyone and everyone, and this is just another example of the mob being unleashed. NO ONE who sent such a reply has never made a similar mistake. To the self-appointed grammar/spelling police out there, get over yourselves. No one asked for the free lesson.

  12. This is definitely a great way to address mistakes and feedback! Mistakes in grammar are often assumed that it’s the lack of competence, especially if it’s on an educational website, and people will jump at the chance to point them out. However, this is also a reminder that to err is human, and students should feel that it’s okay to make mistakes so long as they learn from them. Feedback coming from educators need to be constructive to allow for growth. The same goes to online comments/feedback. I feel that pointing out the mistake is fine as long as it is conducive to the improvement of the post, not to criticize or put others down. Students also need to be mindful of this in an online classroom setting.

  13. why that picture?

  14. One definition: Feedback- response or reaction used as a basis for improvement. Due to on-going conversations between my senior in high school and my junior in college (both required to receive feedback or critique from fellow students) about effective feedback, I have realized that I have to teach my 6th graders the meaning of this. Feedback is not meant to personally attack but to be helpful- whether for a 6th grade ELA student, 12 grade writer, junior art student, or edublog member. Thanks for the teachable moment.

    • Teresa McCarthy
  15. Our kindergarten motto is “be precise, or do it twice!” However we also understand and often remind ourselves, “this is for trying, not for crying.” School should be a place where we are allowed to fail, and learn from our mistakes. Thank goodness I am in kindergarten where children still know they are not expected to be perfect.

  16. This is GREAT! So many lessons in this one post to be shared. I appreciate your (not you’re) authenticity. I must admit, I didn’t follow a page on facebook once because I saw a post where their/they’re/there was used incorrectly. Fast forward a couple months and I am an avid listener to their (not they’re/there) podcast. It’s AWESOME! Had I only based my decision on ONE tiny mistake which I am also guilty of making, I might have missed out on the awesomeness. We’re all human after all. 🙂

    • Ellen Cordeiro
  17. The Title of the Article: A Mistake, An Apology, And A Lesson On Feedback
    I accept the apology!
    First of all, I want to say, everyone makes mistakes. We are human with emotions, unlike a robot with no emotions, even computers make mistakes. We are not that perfect, and we have to accept that because it is true. Secondly, we learn from the mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, and the point is to learn from it. I had recently read an article titled Want to get into college? Learn to fail.
    This article was written by a professor from a college. In the article he said he likes to see his students make mistakes because they can learn from the mistakes. At last, I want to say, nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, it is for you the learn how to be humble, instead of repeating it over and over again, if we learn from it, we will be better.

  18. What an awesome way to teach a lesson on empathy to an often hostile crowd. For me, the most effective feedback comes in a factual way, void of judgement. I think that while technology has done a lot to foster communication with frequency and immediacy, it has also done a lot to enable negative interaction. People say things in response to email, or on-line interactions that they would never say outwardly to an actual emoting human in front of them. In several other comments I saw readers mention that everyone makes these sorts of mistakes. Even if a person doesn’t currently make a single grammar or spelling error, they haven’t always. Everyone learns somewhere. We are a society that too often focuses on being right rather than being kind. Those are the things I try to keep in mind when offering feedback to students. Thank you for your post. It was an awesome teachable moment for people who sometimes forget that we are all learners.

    • Sara Daddario
  19. Effective feedback?
    I set a few ground rules for myself when I give feedback to students:
    Be nice. Be respectful. Give it only with good intentions. Accept it might not be helpful to them at this point, or at all. Know when to stop. And always find a positive for them to build on.
    The way I’ve overheard some fellow teachers talk to students makes me cringe a thousand times worse than a spelling mistake. My view is, if you can’t give feedback with a smile, keep your mouth shut all together.

    • Margriet Walker
  20. I saw the subject line and didn’t open the e-mail. Thank you for this post. We all make mistakes from time to time (I tried to misspell a word but autocorrect changed it to something altogether different).

  21. I was so excited about the free course, I did not notice the error (and I’m kind of a grammar nerd). And even if I had noticed, considering all you and Sue and the Edublogs team does for teachers, “Your” vs. “You’re” would be very low on my Mistakes List. Thanks, Ronnie, for the major part you play in providing a platform teachers and students to “share, make mistakes, and learn from each other.”

    With much appreciation,
    Gail

  22. He who is without grammar sins throweth the first stone. Thanks for the course offer!

  23. We could all benefit from a bit more love ….

  24. Well done on turning a negative into a positive.

    I like to reassure my students that everyone makes mistakes and that we learn from them. Some students can be slow to do anything for fear of making a mistake. Others are reluctant to try something new or be original for fear of getting feedback that what they have done is incorrect. Students with ability often find it difficult to cope with having made an error.

    You have written a very gracious post on foot of the responses you received to a common grammatical error. Well done.

  25. Oh dear… good advice for all though! 🙂

    • Donna McBrayer
  26. This story must have urban myth status already. One of my students told me this story a week ago! (It is so easy to make these sorts of mistakes; we all do and realise straight away – but all too late at the same time.)

  27. No one is perfect. If one were, one would overlook the less significant issues in order to maintain focus on the larger ones. Responding to student writing requires a similar perspective. Writing begins with thought. When the thought is inadequate in some way, so is the writing. With adequate thought, the writing can be improved with more attention to detail. Thought is always the place to start when writing or when responding to writing. Details always need to wait in line. See the bigger picture first as a writer or as a responder.

  28. Ronnie – I think feedback must be constructive under all circumstances :-). We all make mistakes. If Edublogs was full of them then I would happily invite you to check them and then wait and see if my feedback was taken on board. If not, I’d leve the list. If yes, I’d be happy to see we all need some understanding and positive encouragement. It’s just one mistake and we all make them. Not being the norm, I would just say I’m sorry to see people are quick to judge without considering what may have led to it or whether it was just one more mistake amongst thousands. I love Edublogs and I love teaching. Feedback that doesn’t help other grow is useless so I wouldn’t worry so much about those comments! You’re doing a great job! (Just keep an eye on those letters, friend :-))

    • Robert Martinez
  29. It is a shame that feedback from educators wasn’t constructive. Sarcasm, negativity, and demeaning comments are never appropriate. While I realize that your site is educational in nature, mistakes are a human characteristic. There are many educators that make mistakes in grammar – either through speed, sleep deprivation or just the use of common dialect. The best feedback for students is honest, constructive, and given in a non-threatening manner. Example: In your announcement, you issued an invitation to all educators. The correct pronoun usage should have been the contraction you’re meaning you are. Just remember to check your work before posting and try to avoid relying on spell check or grammar check on your computer.

    Best of luck in the future with your posts.

    • My late Father was an educator, he told me that “I was a mistake” just shows that good can come from wrong.

  30. That anyone should feel the need to apologise for a typo or for just getting their grammar wrong makes me sad. Complaining openly about grammar is mainly self-serving and the thin end of bullying. The only place it should really be commented on at all is in the classroom, when proof-reading or if someone asks for help/advice.
    I’m sorry that you had to go through it.

  31. What a gracious, perfect response. I’m almost glad you erred for the wonderful “teachable moment” you provided. (And honestly, when I saw the title, I thought–that person probably hit “send” too soon!) Thank you for showing us a great way to respond to a public oops. It’s a skill I want my own children to have, particularly in the instant age we’re living in. Bravo.