Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.—Yehuda Berg
You’ve probably noticed the ongoing debate over whether, and how much, typos matter. Full disclosure: As a copy editor/proofreader, I have to admit I’m more than a bit biased when I say, “Yes! Yes, they do matter!” For those who aren’t in an editorial position, not so much.
Even among the best writers, typos happen. Our minds know what we want to say, so it’s easy to gloss over a missing word or typo as we read our copy back to ourselves.
However, depending on who your audience is, typos can have some negative consequences for your organization or message:
The focus will turn to the typo and away from your message. Some readers and clients may be spelling and grammar nerds. You want the focus to be on your message, not on a relatively minor error.
The inadvertent result of conveying the opposite of what you mean to say. This is especially the case for a missing word (e.g., “not”), or the confusing use/misuse of negative phrasing (e.g., “they disagreed that they didn’t know about the meeting).
The perception that you’re sloppy or incompetent. If you can’t get your message right, how will you be able to handle the actual work?
Besides, with spell check, we can now at the very least catch some of those silly spelling mistakes we all make from time to time.
When all is said and done, it’s the writing—the story you’re telling—that is front and centre. And the odd typo or missed word won’t take away from solid, compelling writing.
While copy editing and proofreading will give you the tight, crisp edge your copy needs (especially for those more discerning clients), what matters the most is your words. So choose your words carefully. And have someone else read over your copy if possible.