Category Archives: Typos

The price of typos

BBC: Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales

“An online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses. Charles Duncombe (who runs travel, mobile phones and clothing websites) says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. Mr Duncombe says when recruiting staff he has been ‘shocked at the poor quality of written English.’ Sales figures suggest misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility, he says. (Source: BBC News, 7/13/11).

“When recruiting school and university (graduates), Mr Duncombe says too many applications have contained spelling mistakes or poor grammar. ‘Some people even used text speak in their cover letter,’ he says.”

New York Times digital and pop culture writer Virginia Heffernan had this to say about the importance of spelling correctly online:

“While the idea that sloppy spelling can sink whole businesses seems far-fetched, even casual bloggers recognize the imperative to spell well online. This is because search engines look for strings of characters in sequence, and if your site has misspellings, Google is less likely to list it at the top of search results. With misspellings, according to the tech site Geekosystem, ‘You aren’t going to get nearly as many hits as you deserve.’  The imperative to spell correctly on the Web, and attract Google attention, means that even the lowliest content farmer will know that it’s i-before-e in ‘Bieber.'”

(Source: The Price of Typos, 7/17/11)

For more feel-good stuff, check out Chris Epting’s blog on AOL News, “Notorious Spelling Mistakes.” I especially loved this excerpt:

“In 2004, an artist constructing a mural at a library — of all places — botched the spellings of some famous names, including Einstein, Shakespeare, Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Artist Maria Alquilar fixed the names but was unapologetic about the spelling mistakes on the $40,000 ceramic mural, which was installed at a new city library in Livermore, Calif. 

“‘They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work,’ she said back then. ‘The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake’s concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words. In their mind, the words register correctly.'” 

Not sure which “people that are into humanities” she was speaking for. I do have to admire her for her chutzpah, though.


Hey, about that typo …

I can almost excuse this  … but this school-related sign?

I was at a party recently and a guy I know was wearing a black t-shirt that said, “Taste’s Like Chicken.” I can’t help myself. I’m an editor. I felt he was familiar enough to me for me to get personal, so I poked at the apostrophe and said, “Taste’s”?

And he had no clue what I was talking about. Sigh. I’m sorry to say this, but my opinion of him dropped a tiny bit. Why would you wear a t-shirt–which I’m assuming he wanted people to look at and find amusing–with a glaring typo? (I tried to find a picture of this t-shirt–yes, I was too tactful to take a picture while I was talking to him–and, sadly, my Google search revealed that many, many other people think that “taste’s” in this context is correct.

As I was going through these links I started to get a little woozy and even began to think, “Am I wrong?” Maybe there really should be an apostrophe there … (anyone else ever have that feeling?)

With friends, I excuse typos (mostly). In emails and texts, I simply can’t be that critical. In someone’s social networking profile, with many opportunities for correction, I form opinions when there are errors. When I’m reading strangers’ material on the internet, I overlook most grammatically incorrect comments and chalk them up as either non-native speakers, or people rushing to post something. I feel embarrassed when I see typos on a forum populated by professional editors. But I won’t say anything. Basically I look at it this way: If you are in a situation where you can’t correct a typo (as in a comment thread), it’s understandable. (If I make a mistake myself, I feel compelled to post a second comment correcting it.)

Typos on a printed sign, on a professional website, or on a resume are a bit different. But what do we do about them?

What’s a tactful way to tell a company they’re in dire need of an editor?” a person asked on Yahoo Answers: “In the process of purchasing a home, I stumbled across a custom builder in my area. The content on their website is chock full of spelling and punctuation errors. I’d really like to call them on it, because for one, I don’t think it’s professional, and second, I’m sure they’ve driven potential customers away for the same reason. I just believe that the care you put into any writing that represents your company reflects the care that you will exhibit toward your clients. I’m an editor, so I could do it myself, but I’m wondering if I should take a tactful approach to telling them this, or if I should just move on. What should I say, if I do write to them?”

As usual, there was only one response to this question (Yahoo answers can be less than helpful for this reason), but it was pretty good: “Write them and tell them what you said here. If you want, extend them an offer to edit their site. It’s possible they may not think it is worth the time and effort to correct, but at least you will have tried.”

That’s a no-lose situation. The company wants her business and she’s simply expressing a reason why she might not use them. (They might not care; however, if the company were in the sign business, it might be a pretty serious problem.)

Would I go to this store? I guess if there were big sales and it was nearby, but this sign is appalling. I’d definitely be tempted to comment. Sure, one could blame it on the sign maker — but what company would accept that sign? The sign company owes them a new one!