The Editor Dilemma

I have never spent much time trying to obtain perfect grammar, spelling, and wording. I write as I speak, for the most part. The words flow from the mind to the keyboard (in this case my bberry curve) and I leave them alone. I do go back over the post once I am done and read it and fix it a bit. But I focus mostly on the flow and readability. I’m not a perfect speller by any means. And I mess up/mix up its and it’s all the time. I went to an engineering school not a liberal arts school and it shows at times.

I’ve been offered editing services for this blog from time to time and have always refused. I like the immediacy of write/publish. I don’t want to wait for someone else to clean things up. And, honestly, I don’t want another person’s mind messing with my words. How will they know what I really want to convey?

But I also know that some of you find the mispellings, typos, and bad grammar off putting. I get comments to that effect on a regular basis. Some people can’t even take me seriously when I don’t capitalize and punctuate properly. They laugh at me and think I’m an idiot.

That’s fine with me. You can’t please everyone and you’ll go crazy trying.

But there is a solution that I’d love someone to build. If anyone could make basic edits to this post that don’t change the meaning, I’d love that. I don’t want an editor, but I am quite taken with the idea of audience powered editing. I get comments like ‘you said for when you meant from" and I cringe. It would be so much easier for the person who sees that error to just fix it. And fix the mispellings, bad grammar, and missed punctuations too while they are at it.

Its a tricky problem to solve because I would not want audience powered editing to impact the meaning of the words. I’d only want it to clean up and correct things. So any tool that attempted to do this would need to be able to determine the difference and mediate that.

Its tricky for another reason. Content management systems like blog publishing systems don’t allow anyone other than the author to mess with the content creation service. If such a tool were created, I’d have to permission the tool to have access to my content creation account. That’s a dicey proposition for sure. Security and hacking concerns are high for anything like that.

If anyone is tackling this problem, let me know. I’d love to be a beta tester of it. But short of allowing all of you to clean these posts up for me, I’m going to stick with my current approach. I hope you are OK with it.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. fredwilson

    I had problems cutting and pasting from MS Word. It brought over certaintags that messed up my posts and then I had to wade into the html to findthem and fix them. I think microsoft live writer might be a better solutionfor me. Lately I¹ve been posting from my blackberry and I¹ve been loving it

  2. NE

    Having a wiki like access to your blog to only trusted human beings ???

  3. Shyam Somanadh

    Seriously, don’t even bother. Yes, the posts could attempt the Pulitzer at every go, but this is not the New Yorker and I do not have the expectation of it being that either. As far as writing quality goes, it is not as awful as you make it out to be and it flows/reads quite okay. Also do make allowances for the fact that some of the posts are written on a mobile device.I would rather have you fretting over substance than form and don’t have much to complain on that front. Have a good 2009.

  4. karllong

    Oh gawd, I would love this, i’m dyslexic and I’ve had people question my intelligence in comments due to some letter mixup. It drives me crazy. In fact I was just talking to a friend the other day about profiles on singles sites and my good friend says she won’t contact people with grammar errors in their profile. The funny thing is people sometime even write that in their profile how they want a tall good speller and I don’t contact them :)

    1. reiboldt

      I think people that feel the need to correct everyones’ little grammatical or spelling mistakes are those types with their own problems lacking self confidence. It’s like the Little Man Syndrome for the internet. Nit-picky people drive me nuts, so don’t even bother commenting to me if that’s how you are. Frankly, I’m a busy person, but I enjoy making time for blogging/reading/commenting, and if I spend all of my time worrying about the presentation rather than the message, I won’t have time for any of it. So, if someone picks at you/me for getting some words or letters backwards, just know they are covering their own inadequacies!

      1. fredwilson

        True. But there’s a place for fixing it if its really broken

  5. Adrian Heilbut

    Rather than trying to have a system that automatically tried to to determine if the meaning had been changed (which would probably be even harder than having an automatic grammar checker that worked in the first place…), you could just require that any edits be verified as legitimate (or have been made independently) by some number of additional editors.It’s a nice little problem.

  6. Hugo E. Martin

    No problem with me, my blog readers have (additional) to cope with my dyslexia . Did you check the gooseGrade application?

  7. Yogesh Sarkar

    Why not use MS Word to compose your blog posts? It has a really good spell check feature and is able to correct majority of the grammatical errors as well. That’s why I always use it, while composing blog posts and even forum posts, because just like you, I am not really good at spelling and grammar and wouldn’t like any one else to edit my posts and take away my writing style.

  8. Andrew Badr

    It’s not possible to automatically determine whether an edit alters the meaning of a sentence. Sure, some cases are easy (like capitalization at the beginning of a sentence), but mostly they’re hard (dropped words, pronoun disambiguation). You’d either have to trust the editors or approve the individual edits.I’m usually bothered by spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s about presenting yourself well. I guess different people are attuned to different aspects of image, though — I’m not a sharp dresser.Anyways, count me as another volunteer editor.

  9. Joe Lazarus

    As a reader, I don’t mind the typos, but as a blog writer, I like the idea. I also cringe when I discover mistakes on my blog. I might pay for a trusted service that fixes the errors.Ideally, anyone could flag an error and suggest changes. Then, the system could route those proposed changes to other people or to me to review and ensure that the meaning wasn’t changed. The review process could be automated through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. For example, when a reader makes an edit, the system could pay 5 Turk people a couple pennies to review the highlighted before and after version and ask them to confirm that the content is consistent. If 4/5 Turk people agree, the change is automatically posted. Optionally, the blogger could manually approve the edits via email or SMS. The Turk costs would be baked into subscription fees for the service. Decent business model assuming there is demand.Editorial privileges could be handled through the API’s that most popular blogging tools offer, so you would only need to authorize the service, not individual editors.

    1. fredwilson

      There’s the germ of a new web service in this comment Joe

      1. Joe Lazarus

        Fred, you forgot the comma before ‘Joe’ in your comment 🙂

      2. fnazeeri

        I love it! And I think Joe is right. To solve this programmatically would be very tough.Another way to solve it (instead of using a separate audience such as that on AMT) would be to use the existing (and presumably loyal) audience of the blog. You could have a plug-in that renders like Apture that would allow readers to “suggest” typo edits. Other readers could rate up or down these edits a la Digg. The blog owner could then either set automatic thresholds (e.g. +7 and the edit is posted or -2 and it’s deleted) or have a manual editor that ranked suggested edits by audience rating and could then one-button publish or delete. It wouldn’t be an “editor” it would be a “micro editor.”Damn, I want one!

        1. sippey

          I like the Apture-like UI idea. Something that renders blog side that allows the community to suggest and thumb up / thumb down edits, and then take advantage of standard blogging APIs to post the community changes back to the source… Or allow the original author to approve changes before they’re made.

          1. fnazeeri

            I just tried which was suggested elsewhere in the comments here and it’s interesting but not useful for the reasons you point out. There’s no blog side rendering to allow the blog audience to participate and there is no integration with the standard blogging API.

          2. fredwilson

            You saved me some time. Thanks. So the search goes on. I think someone will build this

        2. fredwilson

          Someone is going to build it. I’m sure of it

    2. falicon

      I agree 100% with this concept…I don’t know if I’d go with the mechanical turk approach specifically – I think you could probably go with more of a digg approach that readers would do for free. And so then the real problem just becomes about presenting the pending edits in a clear way to those readers who want to participate in making the content better and showing only the approved edits to the rest of the ‘normal’ readers — seems like a simple toggle link on the posts would allow for one to get the editor’s view.So on the blog admin side, you could set a required approved mark (say 5 like you suggested), and on the actual blog posts there would be a simple toggle link to switch between the standard view and the editor’s view (and it can denote how many pending edits are in the queue for this post right now)…any time a reader sees a mistake or notices there are pending edits, they can just switch over to the edit view and either make the edits and/or approve pending ones…once enough people approve a given edit, it gets baked into the actual content.It could be very much like a disqus system – but for edits (and in fact, it might even be a system that could be plugged into disqus so that comments could also be edited by the general public).Anyway – I def. agree with the idea and also think it would be a great web service idea…I’m off hacking on a handful of other ideas I love, but if anyone wants to work on throwing something like this together and wants some help just let me know!

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  11. neilberkman

    It seems to me that you’re looking for a copy editor (vs. a “substantive editor”). I’ve wondered what happens to the profession of copy editing with so many newspapers on the brink of extinction. If this function has value in the newspaper world, shouldn’t there be some role for it in the world of blogs and other Internet-only publications? Perhaps a service of the type you suggest that takes advantage of the existing pool of trained copy editors rather than the general public would make sense.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a good idea. But I’d like them to work on the post after its published and not hold up the real time nature of blogging

  12. Yogesh Sarkar

    Fred I get those as well, to counter them, I first copy the text to notepad and then copy them to blog post. This is basically due to visual (WYSIWYG) editor and switching to HTML view in wordpress and then pasting the content, fixes it as well. There might be something similar in Typepad as well.As for blackberry, check if there is a spell check application available, though it might not help with grammatical errors.Ps. I don’t mind reading posts with grammatic/spelling mistakes, as long as the flow is right and it makes sense.

  13. IanWilson

    The concept of “correct grammar” is flawed to begin with, it assumes there is some definitive, set in stone, set of rules but grammar is ever changing and messy. Language is used to convey ideas and be engaging / entertaining and you certainly score on those two points from my perspective.You rarely have obvious errors so dont worry, I come to listen to Fred’s (I hate apostrophes but just became self conscious) thought stream.Still there will always be times when you write something that is an obvious mistake that we spot and for that perhaps a wiki type system where any user can highlight a mistake, type in a suggested edit and the community vote on the edit? Above a set number of votes the edit is automatically used. Maybe Disqus could look at extending this so posts go through Disqus (for added value) as well as comments?

  14. CJ

    I read your writing for the ideas and the content, not the spelling or the grammar. Don’t change a thing and most of all, don’t let the thought or worry of bad spelling or grammar muddy the creative process and create a disconnect between what you intend to say and what gets written.Best,Malcolm Lloyd

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks malcolm

  15. Tony Bain

    After writing blogs for 8 years and 5 books, and being really terrible at grammar, this is something I have thought about before. I think there are a few different reasons why people get hung up on grammar. Firstly, yes I think there is a very small group of people that actually have such a strong affiliation with English grammar that an ‘ out of place is really unsettling for them. Secondly, I think some people for which English is a second language have been talk English better than Westerners and the idiosyncrasies have been drummed in a lot harder (certainly than my generation) and what is right and wrong is much more black and white. Following on from that I think some people point out grammar to make themselves feel better, they picked up something you didn’t so they feel good about themselves because of that. Finally, I think a small number of people decide in advance they are going to be critical of a post before they read it, scan it end to end and if they can’t be critical of the content of the post they are critical of they be critical of whatever than can, spelling, grammar, color scheme, font etc. These people don’t like you and still won’t like you even when your grammar is perfect.So I think it is good to always strive for perfection, but for me the interesting blogs are more the raw brain dumps so I hope you are careful not to serve up a sanitized Frederick rather than Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      Don’t worry. Sanitized is not in my future!

      1. Tony Bain

        Ha! Actually I have a sense of deja-vu on this post, did you do a similar one a year or two back?

        1. fredwilson

          Maybe. Its certainly possible

  16. Geoff

    Your posts read fine – all the better for being created by an engineer rather than a grammarian.

  17. Rob Long

    Honestly, I don’t really notice them. And I once taught English.Blogging isn’t supposed to be formal, I think. It’s public, sure, but it’s also spontaneous and instant — a rush of words meant to convey an idea or a notion or an emotional response. Why mess with it?When you sit down to write an op-ed for the NYTimes or the WSJ, then by all means get your “its” and “it’s” sorted out, but for blogging to your community, hell, just type. Or thumb. Or whatever. Maybe this is the difference between paying for content and getting it free: tell your readers if they want it perfect, for a small premium — call it the “Fred Wilson Premium Platinum Select Package Gold” or something — they’ll get typo-free and grammatically pristine copy.I think we tend to imagine an era — like the letters between Jefferson and Adams — when people were sticklers for this sort of thing. But spelling — and even grammar — rules weren’t codified until the mid-nineteenth century. Spelling errors weren’t seen as indications that the writer wasn’t smart. Jefferson couldn’t spell. Washington couldn’t either.And the iPhone can’t either. It often corrects my typos into hilariously inappropriate words.So my vote: let the words fly. It ain’t broke.Sorry: it isn’t broke.

    1. fredwilson

      Jefferson couldn’t spell?You learn something new everyday

      1. Rob Long

        That’s one of my clearest memories of my college seminar in American philosophers. Jefferson was a rather careless writer — except when it really mattered (ie. the Declaration of Independence) and he was also, apparently, kind of a jerk. Brilliant, of course. But also insufferable. Which is why those Jefferson/Adams letters are so interesting and moving: here were these two brilliant, titanic men (both jerks, both insufferable know-it-alls) who had an epic falling- out, gingerly making up with each other as they both got closer to death, which is the only thing either one of them thought might be bigger and powerful than themselves. Pretty cool. Where are the giants like that now?

        1. fredwilson

          I’m hoping Obama is in the same territory as adams, jefferson, washington, lincoln, and FDR. But only time will tellClinton is a brilliant know it all jerk. And, I think, he did a good job as president. But not founding father territory

          1. Rob Long

            Well, that’s a tall order!I sometimes wonder if there’s a correlation between the kind of person who starts a successful company — the “classic” entrepreneur — and the Founding Fathers. You know the type: smart, totally convinced of their vision, arrogant (but a useful arrogance), fearless, tireless…..sort of exactly the kind of people who won’t take no for an answer, who really think they can start something big, like a company, or a country.And then when you look at how some of the FFs actually ran the country — Madison was a terrible president; Jefferson wasn’t much better (he was great at M&A — the Louisiana Purchase — but not great at the business side with his insane tariffs and insistence that the US was destined to be an agrarian country) — it’s sort of interesting to see how they might just be different skills.And Lincoln. A perfect turnaround CEO. Probably our greatest president. You can easily see him sitting around Philadelphia with the Founders, debating. You can easily see him writing any of the Federalist Papers. And when it came to operations? He got us through the worst years of our existence, and we emerged barely 20 years later as a superpower in all but name.Obama certainly has a lot of examples to model himself on.

  18. fredwilson

    You’re hired as a bouncer to this club were building here!!!

    1. Nate Westheimer

      I just wish kidmurcury had recorded a video comment…”leave Fred alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      1. kidmercury

        good call innonate. now that fred has hired me as bouncer, i will certainly make video comments. will even play guitar and write songs hating on people who beef with fred. that is not a joke. (well, it is, and i’m ROFLMAO at the idea. but i’m dead serious about it).– kid mercury, official bouncer

      2. fredwilson

        I don’t want to be left alone though

  19. fredwilson

    You are right that putting comments behind the front page is a big problem

  20. fredwilson

    I’ll have to check that out. Thanks!

  21. kidmercury

    nobody cares about typos, most people dont even care to comment they are not going to care about typos assuming they even notice in the first place. if they do just make fun of them for being stupid and brag that you’re richer. if you want me to make fun of them on your behalf just let me know, they definitely won’t beef with me as my avatar will scare them away. it’d be an honor to provide security services for all the fred haters, why dont you hate on 9/11 being an inside job instead? oh that’s right, you’re afraid, so you take it out on the rich popular guy instead. you’re a cowardly punk ass chump. now quit picking on fred and go cry to your mommy asking her why you have such low self esteem that you need to hate on others.

  22. Dan Blank

    The feature you are looking for sounds like a version of “track changes” that is a feature used in a Microsoft Word document. So, someone could go through your post, and “suggest” changes. Perhaps you would see these suggestions on your blog dashboard, and simply approve or reject changes. This is not as much a full solution as you desire, but it does put the suggestions in context, and is simply a matter of quickly working through and approving or rejecting them. On the front end, perhaps there would be a note at the end of the post with the number of suggested changes that people have submitted, and readers could see them.I do feel that people would likely co-opt this tool for several other uses: fun, spam, marketing, and conversation. But I like how it will bring more of the interaction directly into the blog post, not walled off to a “comments” area far below the post. Perhaps a feature like this could be turned into an in-context comment tool.Thanks, have a nice day.

  23. fredwilson

    The idea would be to crowdsource this. Just like wikipedia. Only those who cared to participate would do it

    1. centernetworks

      While I like the idea as a paid service, this is not the same as Wikipedia. What does the person who fixes up your content get out of the deal? It would be like asking a maid to come clean your house for free.

      1. Dan Lewis

        People who hate typos would fix typos. That’s the theory being posited.

      2. Nate Westheimer

        Allen, people do things WITHOUT being paid all the time. Last night, we held a stray dog until its owner arrived and did not get paid — and we didn’t expect to!

        1. centernetworks

          wow nice one nate! yea im sure you know how much i’ve done for free/not getting paid.

  24. fredwilson

    They are doing it already by leaving comments about the mistakes. The idea is they just fix it if it bothers themIts fine for me just the way it is to be honestBut there are some who are bothered by the errors so I figure I should find a tool that allows them to fix them

    1. centernetworks

      right, what i am saying is that a service that offered paid editors for blogs might work pretty well – you pay $x/month depending on number of posts and the editor (might not be the right name for the position) comes in and cleans up the text. could be a great job for college students, etc.

      1. fredwilson

        Right. But the number of bloggers who would pay for editing is small. I think maybe there is a freemium model here to try

  25. fredwilson


  26. Rob Lindberg

    There is this: http://www.essayrater.comI have used only the free version which seemed to work well but I wanted to see a little more guts before forking over any cash. Now on a tangent, I asked for a free trial / suggested implementing a trial system, to which they responded they are building a free trial where you may gain access by email XX friends about the site. (Forced viral marketing makes me gag just a little!)One more tangent! I love the idea of Facebook Connect on blogs. This will add tremendous credibility to areas of the web suffering from too much anonymity.

  27. lfschwartz

    Fred – I discovered GooseGrade ( at this years BlogWorldExpo – seems to work and do what you are looking for.ABOUT is the web’s newest way for readers and writers to interact with each other and promises to improve the quality and accuracy of information found online. The service allows readers to post corrections (grammar, spelling, factual accuracy, and more) to blogs and other online media outlets and will soon be sparking new debates in the blogosphere. These corrections are ultimately tabulated into a “gooseGrade” (1 to 100) indicated by a badge on the blog or web site and are ranked accordingly on the portal. Authors, however, maintain complete control over their content and can choose to accept or ignore any suggestion made by a “gooseGrader”. gooseGraders, likewise, should make their corrections wisely – they’re being scored, too!Created in 2008 by John Brooks Pounders, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of Alabama and a serial web entrepreneur, officially launched at the Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas in September 2008. The company is privately held and headquartered in Las Vegas.twitter/lfschwartz

    1. fnazeeri

      Thx for the tip! I just installed GooseGrade on Altgate, my blog, to test it out. My 10 minute “review” is that it’s easy to install and has a nice copy/paste script, but lacks two key features: (1) blog side rendering a la Apture to show edits inline with Digg-like thumbs up/down and (2) integration with existing blog publishing APIs (instead, the blog owner has to review edits on the site and fix manually). If they added those features, I’d say they nailed it (and I’d use it).

      1. fredwilson

        I hope the team that built it is reading this thread

        1. John Brooks Pounders

          We’re reading this thread. Look for all of these things in the coming weeks! Which blog script are you using?Thanks,John Brooks PoundersCEO of

      2. John Brooks Pounders

        fnazeeri, We’re so excited that you like our product! We’re striving to meet as many needs as we can and you should be expecting a lot from us very very soon :)-JBP CEO of [email protected][email protected] — get in touch if you have anything you want to discuss.

  28. Nate Westheimer

    Of course I do, Allen. You know I’ve always championed your public service. But why would people need to be paid to help their friends edit their blogs? The question seemed unnecessarily cynical.

  29. centernetworks

    How much are you willing to pay the people who edit your posts for you?

  30. Zach

    I did a few searches to no avail but +/- 6 months ago someone posted on Hacker News about a web app they made that would certainly be of interest to you. You paste any text into a box and it analyzed it for both spelling and grammar. After a few short tests I was very impressed but still managed to lose the URL somewhere down the line. Corrected posts by the way, will have none of the slop you mention above as a problem with editing in Word.Perhaps someone with better HN juju or a better memory can chime in.

  31. Dan Lewis

    We did that with ArmchairGM ( It’s MediaWiki with a lot of blogging tools layered in, and the blog articles were editable by anyone — logged in or otherwise. (Well, anyone not banned/blocked.)Most of your fears are overstated. We had a policy of “non-substantive (i.e. grammar, spelling, formatting) edits only” for blog articles, and the community abided by enforced the rules. Even though we had a HUGE percentage of trolls, they stuck to trolling in the comments — and by writing their own blog posts.I think your community could do the same thing — self-police and abide by the rules.

  32. wizzardsblog

    Hi Fred,You don’t need an editor, what you really need is a proof reader, their job is exactly what you want, they point out the typos and the grammatical errors without changing the meanings of the words.

    1. fredwilson

      Right. So what I really want is audience based proofing

      1. Zach

        So – an Awesome Highlighter type service with a karma system perhaps? Readers could highlight an error or typo and if it gets xx up-votes the correction would be applied? iiiiiiiiiiiiiinteresting.

  33. Nate Westheimer

    Back at BarCampNYC3 I proposed an open standard called “Ohance” (means Open Enhancement). The purpose was to increase the amount of semantic data on webpages, but the the standard I proposed could also be used to build a tool exactly for your purposes. A very very rough draft of my proposal is here:, it would leverage the XML-RPC API your blog has for editing. Then it would have a basic permissions and version management layer and an identity layer.Check out It has a similar protocol, but for link editing only. No one I’ve heard of has done it for the entire page yet.Let us know when you find one!

  34. e.p.c.

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and I don’t think I’ve ever cringed at a typo or the way you’ve phrased a thought. With the possible exception of celebrities like Adams and Jefferson, most written correspondence wasn’t edited — it was a dashed off, hand–written, ink–stained, error–laden stream–of–consciousness.That’s not to say don’t proofread, nor not to make corrections when an error clearly changes the meaning you intended.When you post from the Blackberry, is that through email or a web interface?

    1. fredwilson

      I like emailing it in from my bberry. Seems more ‘native’

  35. andyswan

    The fcat taht you can raed tihs qucikly is evdeicne taht our brians do not gvie a siht abuot sepellnig mistkaes. Poelpe need to lgihetn up and ejnoy the rdie.

    1. fredwilson

      You crack me up andy

  36. brooksjordan

    Those who have read Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones,” and understand how hard it is to write like that – and what a gift it is to readers – will, I think, agree that Fred does just that here.Your writing, Fred, is better than edited, it’s (it is) real and rich and chock full of insights that come directly from you. What could be better?

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks but I’d still like to get my its and it’s straight!

  37. reiboldt

    Frankly, I think it’s rude when people correct my poor typing. Just think about how much productivity we lose each year making sure our emails, posts, comments, etc look acceptable to third grade grammar teachers.

    1. Dan Blank

      I agree with many of the comments here that the value of Fred’s ideas far outweigh the minute details in how he expresses them. That said – Fred likely endeavors for something closer to perfection in his own processes – but also, he seems fixated on building a community in even the smallest of details. A way for people to be more involved and help each other. This is less about creating a large process for himself (eg: hiring an assistant to copyedit), and more about empowering his community to make itself stronger without his intervention. It’s not about the misspelled word – it’s about creating something larger than himself.Fascinating to think about. Thanks.

      1. fredwilson

        CorrectThe more you all own this blog the better

  38. brlewis

    Audience-powered editing is a great concept. I don’t have an implementation of audience-powered editing for words, but for pictures I have things set up on OurDoings so that by default you let your audience pick which ones are “featured” on your home page and in monthly summaries, and which get buried behind a “more photos” link. There’s also an option (off by default) to let your audience rotate photos for you. I’ve thought about setting up a system where the audience can crop a photo, but requiring approval for the change to go in. That kind of system presents the same sort of challenges your punctuation/grammar system would.

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll check it out

  39. Greg

    Fred, you write very well. Your posts are very compelling and useful. I agree with another commenter: “Leave Fred alone!!!!”Enjoy Paris.

  40. rick gregory

    I’m one of those people who generally gets spelling and punctuation correct and my grammar is good though not perfect. And… I could care less about the minor misspelling, missing comma etc. (See what I did there..?)If your posts were rife with them so that it was very distracting or if it was hard to guess at the meaning of a sentence, that would be different. But on forums where I see this happen and am a more regular participant, I sometimes ask this rhetorical question – “Did you understand what he meant? You did? Then move on.” The point, of course, is to communicate, not to get an A in English 101. I don’t mean to say that spelling and grammar aren’t important… they are and ideally we’d all be perfect at them. But given the choice between reading interesting ideas with the occasional mistake and not reading those ideas at all, I’ll always take the former.

    1. brooksjordan

      I don’t disagree that grammar and so on are important, but there also can be a downside to writing and speaking “correctly.” It can suck the life right out of what’s being expressed.Sometimes the poetry – from Dylan to B.I.G. – comes through much more powerfully because they’re speaking to what they know in their own way.Language can free your mind, but it also can lock you into a worldview.

      1. rick gregory

        I disagree that writing grammatically in English or any other language sucks the life from the writing. When it does, that’s the fault of the writer, not the rules.Language is a tool for communication – grammar and spelling are there as a common ground that makes that easier. Far from sucking the life out of writing, a really great writer can work within the rules and produce incredibly powerful work. Masterful use of tools can produce breathaking work whether that’s writing, music or visual art.Breaking the rules in a creative fashion can be powerful too, especially when it’s done by someone who really knows the rules and is deliberately breaking them in a way that makes or reinforces the creative intent. But let’s not fall into the trap that because something breaks rules it’s inherently creative… that’s false. An artist uses their medium to serve them… that may be visual art that’s representational or that’s very abstract. It might be Saul Bellow or it might be Dylan or B.I.G. But in all of them are masters of the medium and use it to make art.But we’re not really talking art here… like most blogs, Fred’s writing is expository and the standard should be whether we can understand what he’s saying. I’ve never found Fred’s writing hard to understand and the odd typo or misspelling or even grammatical error doesn’t get in the way. Grammar nazis need to remember that the point of writing is to communicate, not to adhere to a set of rules.I do sometimes follow links to posts that are so grammatically poor that I can’t actually follow the thoughts of the writer or, if I can, it’s a chore to tease the meaning from the words. That simply doesn’t describe Fred’s writing… it’s clear, the meaning is easy to understand and it’s not in need of editing to meet some artificial standard.

        1. brooksjordan

          “Masterful use of tools can produce breathaking work whether that’s writing, music or visual art.”And I have a deep respect for mastery, rickg, but my point is that there are many writers, artists, and performers that used what they had to create a mastery all their own, outside of and overlapping with what is normally accepted as correct, and we all benefited greatly from it.Completely agree with you about the clarity of Fred’s posts and that there’s no need for editing.

          1. rick gregory

            Amusingly given the topic, I think I’m expressing myself poorly since I don’t think we disagree too much. Mastery to me isn’t about rule following… it’s about knowing the system and choosing how to use it to express what you want it to whether the system was designed to do that or not.Some artists never learned the rules but what they have to say is so powerful, their vision so compelling, that the art still comes through and sometimes they show us a new way of thinking about something. So, yes, they create great art. Very rarely, they create a new field, what you refer to as a new mastery… but I think that’s pretty rare. Most people who attempt it fail since breaking rules doesn’t inherently make something artistic – the artist does that.Linguistic rules are really just conventions anyway, and since when have artists cared about convention? 🙂

          2. fredwilson

            I’m glad to see you guys debating something other than my grammar! 🙂

      2. fredwilson

        That’s a good pointThough this blog is not in dylan or BIG territory

  41. Gabriel Nijmeh

    This would be similar to watching a band play so perfect live that you might as well be listening to their CDs. I have no problem if a band messes up a song or two live… so they break a string or hit the wrong note… it’s the power and rawness of the music (or the written word) that matter not how well each note is played or that the grammar and spelling is perfect. Words in their natural state without being glossed up carry more of the intended meaning…Oh and people only focused on grammar and spelling usually have no idea/understanding what is being written about anyways! 🙂

  42. simondodson

    great idea fred

  43. alexandrosM

    Hi Fred,It is intresting that you mention this, I had been thinking about the same problem for a while. As a specific category of posts in every blog is about typos, there should be a ‘corrections interaction channel’ seperate from the ‘comments interaction channel’ as corrections generally do not contribute to the conversation.The way I was thinking about this being implemented is that the posts are essentially editable (or easy to turn to edit-mode), with anyone being able to submit small correction diffs. these would get gathered similarly to comments but in their own queue that could be public or private only to you. duplicate submissions essentially count as ‘vote ups’.The application of the diffs is a painful subject. Perhaps the MTurk approach, perhaps through high-reputation users who can OK some changes (but leave the more challenging/ambiguous ones for you), perhaps once a correction reaches a vote threshold or a combination method.Whatever method of application is chosen though, I do think the blogger should be the final approval authority, as some times the error is not clear cut or its solution is not.

    1. fredwilson

      Good ideas are generally thought of by multiple people

  44. jim peterson

    Fred, keep typing and posting on the fly as you do now so as not to lose the immediacy of the post. But have one editing guru go in and edit the post (maybe alerted to do so with a text). The right person will not lose your intended meaning. No, it’s not mechanical, it’s possibly not even needed, and it’s not free- but it is worth it for what you are doing with your blog.

  45. Brad Inman

    Your readership has grown because of your insight, but you at times punish us with dirty copy, as do many bloggers. As our numbers grow on this blog, you should consider giving us clean copy, what a joy for us and, therefore, worth your investment. The results, not the means, matter. Now, can anyone give my copy a second read?

  46. Jon Chamberlin

    I’m reminded of a Monty Python sketch called, “The Funniest Joke in the World”. This one joke was so funny the English needed several translators working on one word each for safety reasons.While editing one word at a time wouldn’t work, one sentence may. Person A gets one sentence, Person B another, Person C chooses his own sentence and so on. Click done to hand in, click next for another sentence.The meaning of the post wouldn’t change and yet grammar, punctuation and spelling would be corrected.

    1. fredwilson

      I love monty python

  47. girishwarrier

    Just came upon this one through a recent Mashable story on BB productivity tools-eSpell:…. Looks like it does a pretty good job.

  48. fredwilson

    Let me check this out and get back to you

  49. Todd Herman

    Mr. Wilson -You asked, Sir, and you have been answered:…While our tool is not mean for this -it is meant to “crowd-edit” the spin and inaccuracies out of new- this will give you a good example of how it works. I am not a grammar expert as you shall see but, I did have fun in the guise of a nit picky editor. Based on my personal experiences with editors, I also performed one of their most egregious, rude and, sadly, common errors—take a look at the extract and, see if you find it as unforgivable as I do!If you would like to see how that changes appear on your blog, please simply add Spinoculars to your Firefox browser:…. When you have Spinoculars, visit your post.For Mr. Wilson’s readers: please feel free to augment my additions to the article—and, please, vote down or edit my rude pseudo-error. You can all vote them up or down without the Toolbar at… or, you can create your own edits to Mr. Wilson’s piece on his own page with our toolbar.Thanks,Todd

    1. Penelope Trunk

      Hi, Fred. Four people sent this post to me because I talk all the time about how I have an editor for my blog.I think your post could have been cut to half the length that it is. Which an editor would have done for you. For me, the reason for a blog editor is to respect my readers’ time.That said, I’m still a fan of your blog :)Penelope

  50. Sylvia

    I have a solution! A solution that combines humans with technology, thus it can differentiate between grammatical errors and content alterations. There is absolutely no need for someone to come through and change the content or meaning of your words. I agree: that would be overstepping a reader’s boundaries. As you have observed, however, it would be worthwhile to have someone come through and edit for punctuation, spelling, and other grammatical errors.My suggestion = There are people to contact on the home page, and they can set you up with an appropriate editor(s). It would look much like the editing already taken place on this page (if you download Spinoculars at Spinspotter, it will become clear).I hope to work with you in the future. 🙂

  51. Anon

    A colleague and I spent a half-hour discussing a few sentences you wrote in a recent post:”Of course mobile reading is a bigger deal because for every writer, there are tens or hundreds or thousands of readers. Writing is still something not everyone is predisposed to do. But reading is something everyone does.”…I read that statement as “for every writer, there are POTENTIALLY tens or hundreds or thousands of readers”. And also, that you are not implying that (some, many, whatever) readers are not also writers. In fact, I felt you are not saying anything about the ratio of readers to writers. What you are saying is that everyone reads a lot more than they write!However, my colleague interpreted your meaning to be that there are many, many more online writers than readers.I don’t believe the latter is true, given a variety of input, including the PEW reports that claim most internet users are also content creators of some sort (and a high percentage, generally depending on age range, are bloggers themselves e.g. teenagers: 28% have created their own online journal or blog).So, here’s a place where an editor could possibly have helped — by making these sentences clearer.

    1. fredwilson

      AgreedWhat I meant is that for every writer, there are hundreds or maybe thousandsof readers

  52. editowl

    Re: your point about “How will [an editor] know what I really want to convey?” You could say the same of your readers. That is, if an editor doesn’t know, how will they? An editor simply stands in for the audience and makes sure that what you want to convey is conveyed.Also, you may underestimate how quickly editors and proofreaders can work. I run an editing business for online news and blogs and would probably spend about 20 minutes editing this post. Granted, that’s probably 20 minutes longer than you care to wait, but for some authors it’s a fair trade-off.But I agree with one of the major threads running through the comments here: if your meaning is clear, it ain’t broke. Your blog isn’t the kind that begs for editing. But there are many types of blogs out there, and some of them depend (partly) on polished grammar for credibility.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. That’s very helpful. You should know that most of my posts are written in less than 20 mins. Maybe that’s why they need editing!!!

      1. editowl

        Fred, your post and the comments really got me thinking.I just wrote a post on my blog exploring (very tentatively) the idea of audience-powered editing. Being an editor myself, I focus not on the technical challenges, but rather than on its editorial implications and how it can affect the publishing process.Anyway, it’s there if you or any of your readers are interested:,Andrew

  53. fredwilson

    Ha! That’s exactly my point. He’s original and worthy of reading but his copy could use some work

  54. Megan

    When you develop the crowd sourcing blog copy editor, please contact Blogmaverick about joining the beta program. Mark Cuban needs this. Badly.

  55. Sam Foster

    Conceptually the idea of audience-powered edits is just like submitting a patch to an open-source project. You need a simple UI for creating and adding the patch, a way to review the patch – preferably in context – and apply it if it meets approval. Implicit in this is the ability to keep versions of posts. In this case UI is everything: if the user experience is good, its a valuable feature. Otherwise it impedes the normal flow and is worse than useless. Word’s Track Changes is a passable stab at the problem, but that too suffers from the problem of visual noise if there’s lots of changes. It does a pretty good job of flagging what got changed though.In the context of a blog post you want the patch creation to be transparent – the reader/copy-editor just sees a simple text editor. The patch would be attached to a comment, and you’d click to see it applied to the original. As owner you’d be able to apply it, others might be able to thumbs up/down.Potential problems might be: it would get a bit gnarly if you use rich text (then a simple text diff might not be very enlightening), but that’s an edge case. And trolls: reviewing bogus/deliberate mis-edits could get time-consuming, and you’d really need the digg-like vote up/down to mitigate that.That said, it seems an entirely practical idea to me, and just wants implementing for the various blogging engines. I think it needs to be fully integrated at that level – e.g. a wordpress plugin, rather than a browser plugin / external service.

    1. fredwilson

      I think the patch to an open-source project is a great analogy

  56. slowblogger

    I call this crowd editing. In 2006 and 2007, I looked for something very similar (if not identical) to what you are looking for. I tried all kinds of Wiki, blog, CMS, but none solved the problem. So I decided to create something related, and it became Paragraphr. But we only got to a very early (yet open) version and became too busy with another project. So we stopped it. (But we might be able to show you if you want.)But this is still one of the top 3 future projects of mine. I am very happy that Fred Wilson is interested in this, too.

    1. fredwilson

      If you ever do launch it, pls let me beta test it here at avc

      1. slowblogger

        Yes, I will.

  57. CathleenRitt

    Fred, I saw this post just now about GooseGrade and remembered you had talked about wanting a service like this. I’ve read through the original comments from 2 months ago and saw that others had suggested it, but with mixed reviews. Perhaps it has improved since then, so here’s the link in case you want to revisit.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes, this is what I am looking for but right now GooseGrade only works onwordpress blogs

      1. im2b_dl

        As a screenwriter/filmmaker who has about 15 years of challenges with editors,”studio/network development ladder climbers”, critics, friends and family members offended by the content, state politicos who have asked for content to be filmed in their state only to ask us to change it after producers who want it shorter actors who want it longerother writers who want it written their wayeditors who lose sight of the art for grammar..or lose site of the grammar for art…either rely on basic computerized grammatical editing tools and don’t worry about the nitpickers… whether they be right or not…or make sure to pick a person who focuses on grammar but whom you can talk to face to face. Trust is essential in an editor no matter what you are doing.

        1. fredwilson

          What do you think about opening up my posts (wikipedia style) for basic copy editing?

      2. John Brooks Pounders

        Hi Fred,gooseGrade works on all webpages/blogs. Signup->Add your site-> copy your code into your template. Our wordpress plugin is based off our API that is coming soon. Let me know if there is anything we can do to help you setup gG on your blog.Cheers,John Brooks PoundersgooseGrade CEO

        1. fredwilson

          When did that change?

        2. fredwilson

          I have a typepad hosted blogI can’t figure out how to add goose grade to itI just spent five minutes on and am scratchting my head

          1. jbpounders

            Hi Fred,Here’s how it’s done:1) Login/Register.2) Click “Add My Site” in the top right.3) Fill in the necessary info to add your site to gooseGrade.4) Click the green “Add to Typepad” button under the Automated Install section.

          2. fredwilson

            Ok, I’ll give it a shotNot sure why the badge says “grade it” when I am looking for a copy editingsolution