Writing without typos is totally outdated

Will everyone please shut up about the typos on blogs? Show me someone who is blogging every day and also complains about someone’s typos. Just try. See? You can’t. Because anyone who is trying to come up with fresh ideas, and convey them in an intelligent, organized way, on a daily basis, has way too many things on their plate to complain about other peoples’ typos.

There is a new economy for writing. The focus has shifted toward taking risks with conversation and ideas, and away from hierarchical input (the editorial process) and perfection.

As the world of content and writing shifts, the spelling tyrants will be left behind. Here are five reasons why complaining about typos is totally stupid and outdated.

1. Spellchecker isn’t perfect.
Everyone knows that Spellchecker misses some words. And everyone knows that sometimes we think we are making a stylistic choice when we have actually made a grammar error.

And anyway, it’s nearly impossible for us to catch the errors that Spellchecker misses. If it were tenable to proofread one’s own stuff, then there would never have been a copy editor to begin with. And there is research to show that if the first and last letter of a word are correct then our brain adjusts for all the letters in between. (My personal favorite of all Spellchecker problems: form and from. Try it—there are so many cases when both words will get past Spellchecker.)

So don’t bitch to me that I should use Spellchecker.

2. Spelling has nothing to do with intelligence.
Usually the person who is bitching about spelling errors also has to make some comment about how the blogger in question is a moron—but you might want to rethink the idea that a spelling error is a sign of incompetence.

Many people with dyslexia are very smart. Most kids who win spelling bees have many signs of Asperger’s syndrome (see the documentary on this, which I love). This means that many amazing spellers actually have brains that are developing intellectual skills (in this case, spelling skills) at the expense of social skills.

So people who have spelling problems might be super intelligent with great social skills—if you’d just take the time to notice.

3. You don’t have unlimited time, so spend it on ideas, not hyphens.
I am extremely knowledgeable about grammar. I can parse any sentence. I can sign the preposition song in my sleep. So I feel fine telling you that there are great writers who don’t know grammar.

Real grammarians, by the way, have memorized the AP Stylebook. Newspapers and magazines have people who are paid to enforce these rules. There is no way a blogger could hire for this, and few bloggers can justify spending the years it takes to memorize The AP Stylebook. So you could spend your life reading the AP Stylebook, or you could spend your life spouting ideas.

So what if your ideas have hyphens in the wrong places and you turn an adverb into a noun? People can almost always figure out what you’re saying anyway, but they won’t care enough to try without a great idea lurking there to attract their effort. And there’s a reason that people who have amazing ideas get paid twenty times more than people who have amazing grammar: Ideas are worth a lot more to us.

4. Perfectionism is a disease.
If errors bother you a lot, consider that you might be a perfectionist, which is a disorder. Perfectionists are more likely to be depressed than other people because no amount of work seems like enough. They are more likely to be unhappy with their work because delegating is nearly impossible if you are a perfectionist. And they are more likely to have social problems because people mired in details cannot look up and notice the nuances of what matters to other people.

5. Use the comments section for what matters: Intelligent discourse.
The comments section of a blog is a place for people to exchange ideas. The best comments sections, of which I think mine is one, is full of smart, curious people who don’t spend as much time finding perfect answers (are there any?) as finding good questions. The best comments sections are full of people helping each other to sharpen the questions we ask.

So blogging is not an homage to perfectionism but rather an homage to the art of being curious. And while old journalism was hell-bent on being Right and being The Authority, new journalism understands that news is a commodity and opinion-makers are the layer that goes on top of the news to make it resonate. So stop wasting your time in the comments section parsing grammar and start contributing to the discussion.

Posted in How to blog, Journalism, No image
193 comments on “Writing without typos is totally outdated
  1. Dan Schawbel says:

    I do typos and am fine with it. I think people should be satisfied that we are taking the time out of our schedule to provide them with meaningful information and resources.

    When I make a mistake, I typically get a comment, an email or a Facebook message telling me that I did. My mom actually patrols my blog on occasion and corrects it.

    To me, although it might slightly impact your personal brand by doing typos, in the grand scheme of things, it’s better to get the message across.

  2. sarah says:

    I won’t bitch you that you need spellchecker, but why not an editor? Everyone is improved by an editor when they write, and it wouldn’t cost you much. This is your livelihood, and as you’re always telling us, it’s worth investing in that a little.

    No matter how much you tell us it is outdated, people will still be distracted by errors. Their reading of your piece will stumble, their focus and attention will be lost to you. Yes, they’ll understand your point, but it’ll have been a little jolted. Writing to be read is like composing music, and good writing should really flow. This isn’t about judgement, it’s about whether you detract from your point with distracting flaws.

    (Just as an FYI, my RSS reader shows up the corrected versions when it updates feeds as ‘edited’ versions of the original, so your posts turn up with red words with lines through them, etc. It doesn’t look very professional)

    * * * * * * *
    Hi. An editor is really different than a proofreader. I have an editor, and I send a draft of just about every post to him before I publish. The editor is not there to check spelling (although invariably, he does). He is there to tell me things like “this post is not useful” or “this post is boring”. This sort of editor seems very important for a blog, but to be honest, it’s expensive.

    –Penelope

    • Manashree says:

      I agree with Sarah here. Yes, Penelope is right that an Editor is not a proofreader. As Sarah says, everyone is improved by an Editor when they write.

  3. Jennifer Robinson says:

    This post really speaks to me because I recently got hit by the spelling police lurkers at Brazen Careerist. The comments section of my article from BC is way different than the comments we receive at http://www.newlycorporate.com where the article was first published. I don’t mind getting the complaint it makes me aware of areas of opportunity.

    I agree with your points but I expect to see some harsh criticism in the comments section later in the day from the people who are critical of spelling. A lot of the critics happen to seem quite smart and can defend their positions very passionately.

    Round 1.

  4. Adrian L says:

    This is sort of funny!

    @ Dan Schawbel:

    “I do typos and am fine with it. I think people should be satisfied that we are taking the time out of our schedule to provide them with meaningful information and resources.”

    And we are taking time out of our schedule to read what you provide and comment on it. The least a blogger can do is ensure that the product they are providing is of high quality. After all, there are advertisements on many blogs, and bloggers are making money off of the time and effort that readers put into their blog.

    Is it too much to ask for the blogger to use some high-school level editing techniques before clicking the post button? It only takes maybe 120 seconds to read a post back-to-front to catch spelling errors.

    Am I a perfectionist? Hell no, I make errors on my blog. But I try hard not to, and I am apologetic about it, not shameless.

    Since in this case, Penelope is a professional writer, she should consider the services of an editor to simply be part of the cost of doing business.

  5. Randy says:

    Did I detect a slight shift of focus away from the typo-er to the typo-complainer? I agree that complaining about other peoples typos is “outdated” (without actually agreeing that it was ever “in”). I don’t agree that striving to eliminate them, particularly in public or professional writing, is outdated.

    I can overlook typos, but not advice from a career blogger who says they don’t matter.

  6. Adrian L says:

    Actually, even funnier is the title of the previous post on this blog, as it is exceedingly relevant:

    “Start-up skill: Find people who compensate for your weakness”

    Says it all, if you ask me. Hire an editor, or be prepared for those who use your service to comment on its quality.

  7. Andrew says:

    You’re turning this into a network of blogs, right? Once you have an economy of scale working in your favor, wouldn’t it make sense to hire a proofreader?

    As far as ideas over hyphens; in theory, I agree with you. In practice, I think this article:
    http://alistapart.com/articles/designisinthedetails
    is a little more on the nose. Yes, the idea is the most important thing. Unfortunately, people do fixate on little details, and you aren’t going to change the human nature of your readers with an impassioned plea to ignore the little problems.

  8. Jim D'Amico says:

    Andrew Jackson used to opine that he had no use for a person that could spell a word only one way.

  9. Amanda says:

    Typos are distracting. I am making my way through a post when I trip. If I am enjoying myself—i.e. if the post is otherwise well crafted and the errors are rare—it won’t be a big deal.

    If, though, there are typos upon typos (or if the writing is just plain crappy), I *will* make a judgement about the poster’s intellegence and attention to detail.

    Amanda

  10. Menachem Wecker says:

    I agree completely that it is a wonderful thing that we are moving away from (form?) some of the stuffiness that used to surround the craft toward more experimental and improvisational writing.

    That being said, there is nothing wrong with sounding sophisticated and using proper spelling and grammar to complement (and compliment?) our earth-shattering ideas. That’s a common courtesy we should be extending to our readers. If they take the time to read our ideas, we ought to respect them enough to take a few moments (that’s all it takes!) after we have composed our frenzied posts to re-read them and make sure they are legible.

  11. Aaron says:

    Penelope,

    I don’t disagree with what you’re saying.

    However, there are a number of blogs I read where the lack of any attention whatsoever to spelling and grammar is so distracting to the reader that it dramatically decreases the value of the otherwise interesting ideas.

    Certainly spending a lot of time complaining about individual typos in other people’s writing isn’t a great use of anyone’s time. That being said, plenty of bloggers could do themselves a great favor by taking a few minutes before hitting the “Post” button to review and clean up their work (and maybe read a few Style Manuals when they have a chance).

  12. Sam Davidson says:

    Good points here, Penelope. I know of a blogger who’s terrible at the their/they’re/there distinction, but his ideas are great and that’s why I read him. He doesn’t apologize for his mistakes in grammar, either. He calls it ‘no look’ blogging, like a no look pass in basketball. He writes the ideas in a clear, thought-provoking manner and then clicks publish. That’s it.

  13. Alan Wilensky says:

    The era of the editor is fading away. I used to retain a full-time Harvard grad for polishing my analyst work; Maggie always improved my clarity and style. Did I use the semi correctly?

    But, in this new era of self edited content, we have to concede Pirsig’s position from Zen and the Art, “Grammar is itsy bitsy rules for itsy bitsy people.”

    I used to pay Maggie about 25 per page which totaled around 1500 a month -can’t afford that anymore. Sometimes I will have her or someone like her polish a high touch piece.

    Also, industry writing for the tech sector that is composed strictly to Strunk and White standards comes out sounding and looking like it is from another planet.

  14. Paul Roundy says:

    Writing is the vehicle that conveys your ideas on the blog. The better the writing the better the delivery of the ideas. Poor spelling, poor grammar and poor choice of words can make the reader question not only the ideas, but the person generating them. Simply having a colleague proofread your post could eliminate many errors.

  15. Jenny says:

    Okay, its funny that this is your topic today because I was just getting ready to write a post myself about how important it is to make sure you don’t have typos in your resume and cover letter, because I got a cover letter this morning from a 20-year marketing executive with so many mistakes it’s ridiculous. Yes, blogs are different, they are more stream of consciousness, but still a professional example of your writing and you need to be careful. But in resumes, NO. The old rules still apply. As a recruiter, I consider myself to be the last line of defense between a writer and an employer, so I don’t mind as much if I find the typos, but if I send a resume to an employer with typos in it, then I look like an idiot. It does still matter.

    * * * * * *

    I actually think that a few typos in a resume are fine. It’s too hard to not have typos if you’re customizing your resume to every job. And, it takes such insanely careful proofreading to catch typos in your own resume, that maybe an error-free resume is a sign that someone is an obsessive-compulsive and not a good hire. Just a thought.

    Here’s more on the topic of typos on resumes:
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2006/10/03/you-sent-your-resume-with-a-typo-get-over-it/

    -Penelope

  16. BrandonA says:

    Come on people, lets get some perceptive here. These are blogs, and as much as we want to think our blogs are a huge deal, in the end they are online journals. Often people sit down and take a couple hours, if that, to write a post. They go content first, if we have some extra time, maybe some more attention to grammar and whatnot. If you are so easily distracted by errors maybe you should stick to the classic BOOK. There are plenty out there, and for the most part, error free.

  17. Robert 'Groby' Blum says:

    I think I slightly disagree with what you said. I write on a blog, and I *do* care about typos.

    At the same time I know that typos happen. So what to do? Personally, I apply to yard sticks.

    #1 Keep it polite.
    If I find a spelling mistake in an article that really truly bothers me, I let the author know via e-mail. There’s no point in having a spelling or grammar discussion in the comments section.

    #2 Keep it proportional.
    The occasional mistake happens. E.g. your article above probably contains one or two spelling mistakes. That’s not a problem at all, because it’s still readable. I wouldn’t even bother sending an e-mail if I found one – the article is well-written, and perfectly readable.

    On the flip side, there are plenty of articles on the Internet that read more like the result of a cat vomiting on the keyboard. Not to mention plenty of places that don’t bother with capitalization, punctuation, and paragraphs. These are insults to the reader – they make it harder to actually get to the content. I’d recommend simply ignoring those sites, though. If a writer doesn’t care, no amount of complaining will fix that.

    Which leaves only the occasional glaring misspelling as a candidate for an e-mail. If I think it would reflect badly on the author *and* I care about the author, I’ll actually write one.

    On the other hand, seeing as I write about half an article in a simple comment, I just don’t have time for a lot of that ;)

  18. dz says:

    You had a typo!

    I can sign the preposition song in my sleep.

    I think you meant ‘sing’- jk

    Otherwise I agree with what you say.

  19. TheOtherOne says:

    I don’t complain when a blogger has a typo here or there.

    I do complain when my local newspaper (or the New York Times) has a typo. Especially when it’s in the headline. . . .

  20. Monica says:

    I use to get annoyed with spelling errors and typos until I started making them on my own blog. So people who are obsessed with spelling should start a blog and write in it at least four times a week. You will start getting over it.

    And I completely agree that perfectionism is a disease. The other thing I think is very bad about perfectionism is it has a horrible impact on the person’s self-esteem. Whenever I meet people who are obsessed with their grades or anything else in their lives I think about how depressed the person must be.

  21. Genuine Chris Johnson says:

    Focusing on ideas is important. However we must write well enough (technically) so our typos aren’t a distraction to others. WE can’t throw up some gibberish and claim our ideas are good.

    Goes back to your “strategy v. tactics” post a couple months ago.

  22. Steve says:

    All excuses to institutionalize mediocrity.

    If you can’t take five minutes to look over your writing, or CARE enough to take five minutes to look over your writing, what does that really say about the writer?

    I’ll tell you what it says – “good enough”.

    Bring this attitude to the workplace and we are all in a lot of trouble. If the blog world is your workplace, even more trouble.

    • Tom Byron says:

      Steve, thank you. Penelope’s blog is insulting. What the hell kind of career advice is that? Forget quality, don’t work hard, it’s okay to be lazy? Wow Penelope, what next, it’s okay to steal from your employer? Come in late and surf the Internet all day? Take long lunches? I can imagine your next blog: “Deadlines: So Overrated.”

      Steve, what further galls me is that it took this long through the comments to find your extremely reasonable refutation. Sad.

      Everyone: For the record, laziness and indifference are not valued in the workplace. Ever. Quality and pride over a job well done are concepts that will never go out of fashion.

  23. JenFlex says:

    I would argue that a person who can justify tooth-whitening as a method to manage appearances even though she doesn’t think it’s personally important should consider typos in a similar light. They are the yellow on the smile of a blog.

    Now, having yellow teeth may be a natural part of being human (as a coffee-drinker, I sure do understand that). But, P says that yellow teeth are something which are noticed by a significant and potentially influential portion of the audience, and as such encourages her audience to actively manage this part of one’s image. As a cost of doing business.

    Now for my stuffy rant:
    Spelling and grammar are like anything else…a discipline which in the practicing, can provide structure for growth of awareness, and ideas too. You don’t have to like iambic pentameter or punctuation rules, but just writing unpunctuated free verse isn’t going to make you e.e. cummings.

  24. Emon says:

    I care about typos…but on my blog. I try not to make them at all but they slip through. I never rely on spell-check because I make up words – kidding!

    I stopped being a d*ck about spellings by others after I’d made the mother of all spelling errors. I’d sent out an email to a bunch of people about checking my copy for spelling…and I’d misspelled ‘misspell’!

  25. t h rive says:

    So, usually in this blogging kingdom around here what Trunk says goes, which is kind of sad. Typos are not *okay*, they’re mistakes, which is usually okay.

    I didn’t like the way she began in saying “There is a new economy for writing. The focus has shifted toward taking risks with conversation and ideas, and away from hierarchical input (the editorial process) and perfection.” Because that is acceptance of plain laziness. That’s like saying in 5 years it’ll be okay if everyone uses email like “txt msgng”. Already the next generation coming out of school now is crap enough at writing, so please let us not say that typos should start to be the norm.

    That’s not to say I am a spelling basher. I’m not at all. I was going to ignore P’s typo in writing sign not sing (but she may have done that to induce commenting). But because P is always the first step forward (and lets admit, she is) I don't think it is fair to those who take particular care that suddenly it’s okay when there's less editing. Mistakes are still distracting.

    Apologies for any mistakes in this comment. Lay off it!

    * * * * * *
    This is why I disagree with the idea that lazy is an issue here. Lazy would require a decrease in energy. But I am talking about a shift in energy — away from things that used to matter (perfection) to things that use to not matter (the opinions and rants of the writer overriding objectivity). It takes just as much energy to form and convey opinions than it does to have perfect presentation.

    Actually, though, I can’t believe I’m even engaging in a discussion about whether a whole generation is lazy. When, ever, in the history of the world, has a whole generation been judged to be lazy in hindsight? Never.

    -Penelope

  26. Miriam Salpeter says:

    Penelope –
    I agree with you…You spend time putting together an interesting, creative take on something for people to read, and instead they pick it apart because it says “sign” instead of “sing.” (Although I was thinking that maybe you are signing the song…Not impossible!)

    For my part, I’d rather see more GOOD blogs than more PERFECT blogs. I learned from my first boss:
    “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” In my mind, this mantra applies to most topics, although NOT resumes and not anything that I write for my clients!

    Blogs, however, are just that – blogs. Bloggers are not performing brain surgery. An error in a blog is not going to have dire consequences for the reader. Bloggers (even with a large readership) should NOT need to hire editors.

    I like your style and creative license with certain grammatical techniques. It makes the blog more conversational, direct and interesting to read.

    The fact is, success can breed contempt. When you are good at something, a lot of people want to knock you down a peg or two…To me, this is more about them than it is about you.

    For when every word does count, I blogged on error-free resumes, and included a tip for using Word’s spell check to help catch certain easy to mistake words – think manger/manager:

    http://keppiecareers.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/error-free-resumes/

    Blog on!
    Miriam Salpeter

  27. Kenneth says:

    I can live with the typos; I’ll call it even if you never mention your foot fungus or anal sex again. Deal?

  28. DrPizza says:

    “And there is research to show that if the first and last letter of a word are correct then our brain adjusts for all the letters in between.”

    Actually, the research shows that the effect of internal mixing is highly variable (some jumbled sentences are all but unreadable), and that even with “easy” jumbled sentences, reading speed and comprehension are reduced.

    Besides, typos can easily screw up the first or last letter of a word. Even if internal mixing caused no impediment, that wouldn’t be an argument in favour of typos, because typos aren’t restricted to internal letters.

    “So people who have spelling problems might be super intelligent with great social skills – if you'd just take the time to notice.”
    For the most part, dyslexics–people with reduced reading/spelling ability but with otherwise normal intelligence–can be taught to read in the same way that people with reduced reading/spelling ability and somewhat subnormal performance. Remedial classes that are effective at teaching the stupid kids to read and write also work well with the dyslexics. Dyslexia is not a good excuse for being unable to read and write.

    “You don't have unlimited time, so spend it on ideas, not hyphens.”
    The premise that writing something that is both reasonably grammatical and properly spelled should take appreciably longer than writing something that is neither is a flawed one. It does not. If your ideas are worth disseminating, they’re worth disseminating in a form that is clear and accurate; proper spelling and grammar improve both clarity and accuracy.

    “Perfectionism is a disease.”
    Armchair diagnoses of diseases are a scourge.

    Imperfection makes doctors prescribe the wrong drugs, it makes cars drive into each other, it makes planes fall out of the sky, it makes software crash. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to do things correctly.

    “Use the comments section for what matters: Intelligent discourse.”
    Effective discourse requires clear communication, and poor spelling and grammar detract from that.

  29. Mikeachim says:

    Go back to Chaucerian Middle English, and spelling was inconsistent as a matter of course.

    I found this to illustrate: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/spfree17c.htm

    The best modern writers play with grammar and spelling, they don’t let it shackle them. And they get things wrong too – because they know the important thing is to just get on with it….

    As you say, it’s *meaning* that matters. I stand with you on this to the bitter end.

    …..

    Having said all that, txt-spk will triumph over English over my smouldering corpse.

  30. Jeff says:

    I disagree big time. I think people can make too big of a deal out of typos, for sure, but I’d never say typos are no big deal. It’s a sign that someone is either not educated or doesn’t care enough about the audience to give a typo-free article. Professionals don’t have typos; amateurs do. There’s a big difference between memorizing the AP Stylebook and making sure that the words you write are spelled correctly and things are punctuated in a way that makes sense. Besides, don’t you think that IM and text messaging are eroding our language enough? Should we just lower all our standards?

    Also, while I’m on my soapbox ;), I also think that even “on topic” blog comments – the “discussion” – can be meaningless. Some are just for pure self-promotion – “I’ll just write some fluff, and provide a link back to my own blog.” Others are just arguing for the sake of arguing. I guess what I’m getting at is that ideally, whether we’re talking typos or “discussion,” the comments should be of some value.

  31. xgravity23 says:

    @Kenneth: ditto!

    @JenFlex: Great point. If you care enough to whiten your teeth, shouldn’t you care enough about editing?

    On another note, why in the world do people have to get all uppity about grammar/spelling mistakes? There is no reason to be less than civil to other people. Just because you’re hiding behind a computer screen and miles of cables, that does not mean that you can be rude and degrading to another human being for a grammar/spelling mistake. Grow up.

  32. sarah says:

    “An editor is really different than a proofreader. I have an editor, and I send a draft of just about every post to him before I publish. The editor is not there to check spelling (although invariably, he does)”

    That’s semantics and not answering the point. Editor, proofreader, copy editor, you can call them what you like and indeed we call ourselves any of those throughout many fields. The point was that someone who checks your spelling and grammar is a worthwhile investment.

  33. Joselle Palacios says:

    Typos are inevitable in most blogs because the very nature of blogging is very ephemeral and of the moment. If you want to post about something as it’s happening, there will be a few typos. I do think those typos, however, should be minor if you’re a clear communicator. Good writers have a sense of how things should flow and a sense of proper grammar, even if there are still typos. I don’t mind typos but I won’t read blogs where someone cannot clearly express a point. Those are two different things, though.

    I’m a writer and an editor. I’m a writer first. I can write as fast as I think and it comes very easy to me. The only thing in my life that does, actually. Editing is new to me and it’s my day job. I’ve found that, in the grand scheme of things, I just don’t care about when I need to use an en dash as opposed to an em dash. But now I know the difference and that’s great. By editing other people’s work and working with editors who know so much more than me, my writing has improved. Editors do such important work. I now realize that all of the writers I love are not lone geniuses but have really brilliant editors. When I write something for work and get it back from my editor, it’s always so much better than what I could do alone and I love that.

  34. t h rive says:

    Lazy is not the point, I shouldn’t have brought up lazy because it distracted you. The point is that typos are still mitsakes. I fancy myself a freestyle writer, I sacrifice some grammar for the point of fun, sometimes. But the purposeful is the point, not the un-caring of quality.

  35. Rupert says:

    I think this is another area greatly affected by the generational view. Good grammar will matter to boomers, somewhat to Xers, and less so for Yers. So as in many other areas of writing, the rule is “know your audience.”

    In a similar veign, switch modes of work based on the media in which you are working. Concentrate on the big picture/ideas over perfection in blogs, but take care of the details in presentations, proposals, and especially resumes.

    If your gramatical error annoys a grammar nazi in your blog, it won’t hurt you much. But if the HR specialist filtering your resume is a grammarian contrarian, it could hurt your prospects.

    I often wonder at the amount of wasted energy expended by people who seem to *want* to be annoyed, waiting for the slightest trigger to set them off. Grammar is one of those triggers. My message to them is to get over it … or find that their peers and competitors are running circles around them.

  36. F.Y. says:

    Sarah,

    Penelope’s right. Editors are different than copyeditors or proofreaders. (And copyeditors and proofreaders are also different from each other.) In general, the main focus of an editor is content, whereas that of a copyeditor is that of consistency… and a proofreader’s focus is typos, typesetting, etc.

    I’m in that field, so of course I think all that work is highly important. (*cough*) However, what many people who point out “grammar” mistakes fail to realize is that they’re usually pointing out a style issue, not necessarily a hard and fast grammar rule. AP isn’t the only style guide. There’s Chicago, MLA, APA, and quite a few others.

    Because, as of the moment, I’ve really yet to see someone accuse another poster on a board: “That was a misplaced modifier. You are a MORON.”

  37. Jennie says:

    As a former spelling bee contestant and third-place winner circa 1983 (I misspelled “anthropology”), I have to speak up as someone who thinks spelling and grammar does matter. Typos are just plain distracting. Can I admit that when I send a text message I even spell out whole words? It’s a giant pet peeve of mine to write “R U” for “Are you” etc.

    When I see typos, I don’t think the writer is unintelligent, I just think the writer wasn’t that careful. And of course I make typos too sometimes when I’m moving too quickly or doing too many things at once. Also, I do not have Asperger’s syndrome, I’m not a perfectionist, nor did my intellectual skills develop at the expense of my social skills.

  38. Walter says:

    It seems like everyone is looking at this as black or white, when really it’s gray. I regularly read blogs for many different, and I find some that are full of mistakes, and others that are near mistake free (like this one). With too many mistakes, the post does lose credibility; to me that shows a lack of attention to detail. I think the point is this – no one can always be perfect and typo-free. No one wants typos, but they happen. So long as the post isn’t riddled with errors, just think to your “oh, that shouldn’ve been from instead of form” and move on.

    PS: As someone in their mid 20s, I take great exception to anyone labeling my generation as lazy or making generalizations about poor skills (e.g. writing). Don’t generalize an entire population – it will invariably be wrong.

  39. Neil Pursey says:

    As a newbie to blogging, I tend to disagree with you. Myself and a friend (who is also a blogger and has been blogging for several years now) were actually having a conversation about typos last night and we both felt that if someone let us know that there was a typo in our blog we’d be thankful. Your blog is about work and life and how we relate the two, right? Then why can we not be perfectionists in our blogs, do our typos not represent how we do business as well as our personal lives? Should we not as humans be always striving for perfection, surely this is what we should be telling our kids…

  40. Bárbara says:

    P.:

    I’ve been reading your blog with interest for some time now, but this post — which at its root is an excuse for mispelled words — is nonsense.

    How can you write about career development and professionalism without making correct spelling, not to mention grammar and style, a priority of some sort?

    I am senior writer for a regional daily newspaper; everyday typos, no matter how much attention one pays, get through to print. No one and no organization is perfect, obviously, but a little effort toward polished work never hurt. It especially never hurt those who bill themselves as professional writers.

    I’m with you on numerous issues, but on this one, you’re off base. More annoying than those who point out the typos of others are those who dismiss proper spelling as unimportant. More over, the value of spelling shouldn’t vary upon the medium; whether one is writing for a blog or a print publication, proper spelling is proper spelling.

    I’ve read your posts on multi-tasking and know where you stand on the subject. Still, an editor who doesn’t proofread? Come on.

    And FYI: You don’t have to memorize the AP Stylebook, but you can reference it, and the dictionary, every once in a while.

  41. Andrea says:

    I think it’s definitely worthwhile to parse this issue generationally…it is rather piquant that this self-professed gen-x’er is expressing impatience with getting hung up on typos. That said, I used to be very tight with my grip on typos, grammar, etc., but have since realized there is a margin of error that is best accepted.

    What people seem to fear is not that an article is 95% grammatical and correct, but an article that is 92%, 85%, 75%…then the beauty of words can be really lost. I think you earn more valor points for working within the rules with the realization that it’s that much more challenging.

    Now that the majority of my reading is done online, I do notice that my “gut grammar” skills are slipping…I can never remember when to use single or double quotes! So I understand why people wring their hands, while also understanding that the wringing doesn’t amount to much when we live in a world where information comes at a constant gush (for example, in two days, most of these comments will be pretty much obsolete for all intents and purposes). Some people want to put themselves in front of that fire hose and insist that it slow down for the sake of protocol – good luck to ‘em.

    All this said, is the de-emphasis on rules maybe why blogs will never be considered ‘literature’ in the traditional sense? (There’s them quotes again!)

  42. Jason says:

    As a blogger, you are producing writing to communicate ideas to people. Your reputation is based not only on the ideas you have, but your facility in communicating them.

    If all the vowels were removed from this sentence, you could still understand it. Does that mean it isn’t important to put vowels in your words?

    I regularly read your posts. If they were illiterate, I would stop. Why? Because the polish in your writing is an indicator of how much care has gone into it. And I have no interest in the unconsidered opinion of a stranger.

  43. Scott Williamson says:

    Werd! ;-)

  44. Don B. says:

    Are you aware sometimes typos are intentional to help identify if people are copying your work or ideas without acknowledgment? You are really on a roll with your last two posts. The never know what’s going to be in the next paragraph Penelope. Glad to have you back. Must be breathing deeper and more relaxed. Do you keep any thoughts private?

  45. Tim2 says:

    Yes, attention to detail is so yesterday.
    I guess, too, caring about your product–whatever that is–is a bit passe as well.

  46. Andertoons says:

    My wife teaches first grade and told me recently of a parent who was totally bonkers because their child missed some spelling words.

    We were talking about it over dinner and my wife explained how, from an educator’s standpoint, spelling is relatively low on the priorities.

    Of course we should all put out as well-crafted posts as we can, but the occasional typo is just not that big a deal.

    Good heavens!

  47. c h says:

    Paul Orfalea the founder of Kinkos had Dyslexia and most ADDers have it.

  48. Matt Bingham says:

    My grandfather (may he rest in peace) always said, “If someone comes into your house and bends over far enough to scrutinize the trim, kick em in the ass while they’re bending over”. This statement really holds true for a lot of things. I often find that when people criticize the work of others they are trying to make themselves feel better about their work; but in turn, could not do any better under the same circumstances.

  49. Casey says:

    I think a half of the premise of your post is right and the other half is wrong. I believe anyone who writes anything ought to strive for the absence of spelling and grammar mistakes; however, unless you are their boss, if you correct someone’s spelling or grammar, you look like a petty asshole.

  50. zak says:

    Your timing on this post could not have been better. While I should have been excited that your team thought my latest post was interesting enough to be on the home page of Brazen Careerist and that I had 5 comments in my inbox this morning as a result of that post, instead I was kicking myself over a typo I didn’t catch before I posted it on my blog.

    I re-read everything twice before I post it, but there’s an occasional word jumble or punctuation mark that evades me. One that I usually catch immediately after posting my thoughts, which is of course too late for the RSS feed. And then it winds up posted on your site with a typo.

    I’m clearly dwelling on the wrong details of the experience.

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