Skip to content

Mistakes Are the Best Teachers

A few days ago, I joined the year 2010 (only a few years late!) and made an Instagram account. It’s called, unsurprisingly, leethelinguist.

I made my first post, and what did I notice a few minutes later? A typo! I blame it on my iPhone’s autocorrect! I’d mentioned how my day job was having a technical problem on their end, so I had more time to write posts. Of course, it autocorrected to “there end,” which is something I would instantly notice anywhere! And I did notice it right away but only after I had nervously posted the photo. Before any of my *zillions* of followers could see it and criticize me, I quickly commented on the photo that autocorrect had gotten me!

Then I spent a few minutes frantically searching about how to edit comments on Instagram, barking up the wrong tree because it wasn’t a comment added later but rather a caption — part of the post itself. I didn’t find the Instagram app very intuitive, so it took me a few minutes to fix the problem.

This reminded me that I had been intending to make a post about mistakes. We all make ’em. I was an excellent student for the most part, but one thing I always hated was seeing corrected tests and papers with the angry-looking (in my mind) red marks on mistakes I had made. Sometimes I wouldn’t even look at the corrections! That in itself was a mistake on my part.

You see, mistakes truly are the best teachers. I first started studying Spanish over two decades ago. Can you believe I still remember one of the very first Spanish mistakes I ever made? Yes, decades later!

On our first Spanish test, we had to choose the correct definite articles for a series of pictures. The definite articles in Spanish are el, la, los and las. I got all the answers right except for one: la moto (the motorcycle).

You see, we had learned that many masculine nouns in Spanish end in o. I saw the o at the end of moto and innocently thought the right article would be the masculine singular article el. Once I got my test back with the big red mark on it, I immediately remembered that moto was actually short for motocicleta! Oh, I was kicking myself! But I never forgot, did I?

There are other Spanish words like that — la foto (the photo) is short for la fotografía, for example. And of course there are various other exceptions to the general rules. The point is, though, that I will likely never make that particular mistake again!

I’ll also take more care to check my future Instagram posts before posting, but this reminds me that everything has a learning curve and everyone is susceptible to errors. I realize that my blog is partly about how I find errors in the writing of others, and I fear that some people may find me critical or pretentious because of it, but that’s really not the case!

As I say in my self-description, I’m a compulsive editor. I really can’t help it! I’m not trying to be a jerk, and I know I make mistakes as well. I do work hard to correct them as soon as possible because I want my work to be polished, professional, and an online portfolio of my writing and editing skills. If I miss an error here, please let me know! I’ll be eternally grateful and I won’t forget it.

I’ve heard many times that it’s easier to edit and proofread others’ work than one’s own, and I’m sure that’s true. I think I am pretty good at proofing my own work, but as today proved, I’m not perfect, either! Nevertheless, I endeavor to notice and correct any errors as soon as possible, and I’d certainly check and recheck something that isn’t as easily fixed as a caption on Instagram.