We 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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.