Why Typos Always Matter, Even Online & In Text Messages [Opinion]

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typos are badWe all make mistakes from time to time. It’s natural, a part of life, a learning curve which we use to better ourselves. Typos are no exception. They happen often, and if writing forms a big part of your life, whether for your job or for sheer entertainment, typos can be a tiresome subject matter that can get you down when they’re pointed out to you. Repeatedly.

People always notice typos. Some people take great pleasure in noticing them and mentioning them to the culprit. At the time this can be very annoying and you just wish they’d go about their business without bothering you. But actually typos always matter, and those who inform the authors and editors of this world they’ve made mistakes that need rectifying are undertaking a great service.

The Importance Of Language

typos are bad

Humanity’s ability to communicate may just be the one thing that separates us from other animals. Sure, many species communicate, but none have developed languages that can be learned and taught to enable the free exchange of ideas and stories.

Languages keep evolving, with new words constantly being added, and old words being adapted in both spelling and usage. This has been the case for generations and will continue to be the case for many more generations to come.

However, language is now being somewhat corrupted by new technologies, with the emergence of the computer, the Internet, email, and text messaging having a profound effect on how we as a species communicate using the written word. Which is a worrying trend.

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Technology Corrupts

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I suspect that we’re communicating with each other using the written word more now than we ever have before. A couple of centuries ago the art of communication meant speaking directly to each other face-to-face, and a couple of decades ago speaking on the phone was king. Now, through a combination of emailing, Twittering, Facebooking, and texting, the written word has come to the fore.

Unfortunately while the quantity of written communiques has seen an upswing, the quality has taken a major downward turn. People generally don’t care whether they’re spelling words correctly or whether their grammar is up to scratch. I believe this is a mistake, with typos especially being mistreated and disregarded.

Does It Matter?

avoid typos

One recent event prompted this line of thinking: an invitation by Technophilia Podcast (a must-listen for all geeks) to opine on Google’s belief in self-driving cars. Unfortunately this comment on Facebook was written as “self-driving cards.” That’s one misplaced letter that changes the context of the sentence completely. Has Google invented some kind of playing card able to drive itself? Of course not, but taken literally that is what the phrase suggests.

Most people knew exactly what had occurred and exactly what the sentence actually meant, as our brains have the ability to filter out nonsense, at least for the most part. But that isn’t the point. A few people mentioned the typo in the thread, starting with the Managing Director of MakeUseOf, Mark O’Neill. After a little pushing, Justin Pot, the member of the Technophilia crew who had messed up, stated, “I’d edit it if it mattered. It doesn’t.”

I disagree with this sentiment. I believe it does matter and always matters, even if these typos are being made online or in text messages.

Misunderstandings

avoid typos

The first reason typos always matter is the scope they have for creating misunderstandings. One or two letters out of place can make all the difference, turning “kiss” into “kill,” and “jump” into “dump.” These are the first two examples given in That Auto-Correct Song by Ben Champion, embedded below.

 

Auto-correct and automatic spell-checkers are the source of many typos, some of which can have truly dire consequences. Damn You Auto Correct has thousands of other examples of these misunderstandings borne out of typos, and while most are amusing, some are also disconcerting.

Dumbing Down

typos are bad

The second reason typos always matter is that by allowing them to remain festering away on websites or social networks, and in emails or text messages, we as a species are dumbing down. We’re letting mistakes stand, refusing to fix them even when we’re told they exist. This fosters the idea in the collective minds of the mainstream that typos are harmless.

Once typos are accepted as an inevitable part of our everyday lives it’s a slippery slope down the dumb scale until we’re gutturally grunting at each other in the same way our evolutionary forebears once did. Which is a dystopian future I’d rather avoid if I can help it, and I’m hoping you feel the same way too. In which case we all need to guard against typos seeping into conversations, no matter how petty and unimportant we think they may be at the time.

Conclusions

Do you agree with me that typos should be treated more seriously than they currently seem to be? Or do you think I’m on my own on this one? Either way I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Just be sure to use a spell-checker before you click on the big blue Submit button. It should also go without saying that if you spot any typos in this article you should let me know immediately. We’re all human, but we needn’t all be dumb.

Image Credits: Lauren Finkel, Jhaymesisviphotography, Raffi Asdourian, Quinn Dombrowski

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Comments (77)
  • XP

    I get so annoyed when I see others correcting others on the Internet, like who cares how they spell, type. It’s not like it’s for a work or a essay it’s the Internet
    There is people of all ages on here and different personalaitys and lots who just don’t care

  • Jo Marsh

    I feel incredibly sad when I note that spelling and grammatical errors in emails have become the norm, rather than the exception. And I blame plummeting standards on those who insist on “making life easier” for, say, those (in school) who are less able than those at the top. “So long as he UNDERSTANDS, then spelling and grammar are not important” … and this was in an English class! Rather than aiming high, trying to improve how we do, mediocrity seems to be acceptable in every way of life. A lack of pride in how we see and present ourselves and a distinct “who cares?” or “can’t be bothered” lethargy has taken over, certainly in the UK.

    I used to get annoyed with the misuse of the apostrophe…. nowadays that is the least of my issues.

  • Dennis Teel

    i agree with you.but i don’t believe most young people today will/I believe the problem is that it’s young people who control so much of what’s going on today,be it regarding music,movies and even most of the online forums online are aimed at young people if not also created by young people(in this case,young people being 18- 20 something years old).Most young people seem to believe anything is acceptable(except for being a ‘hater’ which they seem to regard religion and some personal preferences as being in that catagory).This belief that most anything is acceptable,leaves few standards that they feel are necesarry and very few an abosolute requirement.this ranges from such things as ‘nanny laws’ like curfews in any form, to catagories regarding education,such as proper (or improper)spelling.it’s surprising ,the number of people that i’ve spoken to in the past about slang and improper spelling,that feel like it’s not important under any circumstances that words be spelled correctly, and that it’s less important to be made an issue of.if you think about it , many radio stations don’t require anymore , the deep voice and perfect articulation of the disc jockey. More especially if the DJ is African American.

  • Tomasz

    Dave, I’m right there with you! Typos are downright irritating and show lack of respect towards the reader. Period!

    • Mustafa

      Absolutely agree with this sentiment. Typos are an irritating distraction that slows down understanding (i.e. degrades communication), especially for people who have a sharp eye (those who read “diagonally” without attention to detail already typically understand less than more thorough readers do — trained “speed readers” being an exception).

      Refusing to improve writing skills and pig-headedly refusing to acknowledge that typos should be looked out for and corrected is indeed demonstrating a lack of respect for readers — especially for sharp, literate and/or well-educated reader (by the way, why should they shut up when they can help improve things and/or help avoid the quasi-systematic degradation of communication skills?).

      I’m never impressed by company websites that are full of typos, poor grammar and spelling mistakes. I typically won’t order from them. Such sites show the company can’t be bothered to do things properly/carefully, even where the whole world can see some of their work. If they don’t have in-house people who can write properly and spot errors, I’d expect them to have the professionalism to hire someone who can.

  • Ghame Playerprofile

    My wife is terrible at using proper punctuation or capitalizing, example: I just helped my uncle jack off his horse versus I just helped my Uncle Jack off his horse. I find it insulting when she doesn’t capitalize proper names as well. Laziness or carelessness to proofread what she has written.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.