I recently attended a small business class which provided information about the topic of blogging. Someone in the class made a comment about the fact that she is sad to see blogging replace “real journalism” because it’s such an impulsive form of writing. One of the things that she mentioned about this was that so many blogs and web articles are filled with typos. When the conversation came around to my turn, I shocked the class by saying that I really don’t mind typos. In fact, I kind of like them. What?! That’s not something that a full-time writer is supposed to say.
Why a Writer Might Like Typos
Don’t get me wrong; if a piece of writing is filled with misspellings and errors then I’m probably not going to enjoy reading the piece. However, if there are one or two typos in a long article then I’m not going to look down upon the author for the errors. In fact, I’m probably going to enjoy the piece a little bit more. Here are some of the reasons that I like typos:
• It’s almost like an inside joke for the reader. When I see a typo in a piece of writing, I feel an instant moment of connection with the author. It’s like this wink that says, “ha, ha, I know what you meant to write”.
• Sometimes typos are just plain funny. I have a friend who is a hairstylist. She was frustrated with the other stylists in her salon because they weren’t cleaning out their hair dye bowls regularly enough. She penned a memo asking them to “please clean out their bowels after every client”. I’m sorry; that’s just plain funny.
• Typos show the human side of the writer. Sometimes it can seem so difficult to believe that an author is just another human being. They’re published. They’re an authority on a topic. They know something that we don’t know, right? Wrong. A typo now and then reminds us of their humanity. It makes me feel like writing is something that I can do, too, even if I make a mistake now and then.
• It means that content is more important than form. I love to read wonderful poetic prose that describes a great idea in an eloquent manner. However, I think that we too often get lured in by pretty prose and don’t actually consider the content of a piece carefully enough. If a piece is good in content in spite of a few typos then I think this means it’s a really good piece.
This Isn’t an Excuse to be Lazy
I love typos. I think they’re funny and they’re fine. I don’t believe that they say anything negative about the author of the piece unless they are excessive or completely inappropriate. However, I recognize that the majority of the reading / writing world does not feel this way about typos. People will judge you for the typos that you make. Some of those judgments may include:
• That the author isn’t smart and / or can’t spell.
• That the author is too lazy to proofread his own work.
• That the author really needs an editor and can’t get one because she’s too poor / too snobby/ too difficult to work with.
• That the author doesn’t care about his work.
• That the author is a sloppy writer.
• That the author doesn’t take herself seriously (so we shouldn’t either as readers).
These are just a few of the things that people might assume about you if you have typos in your work. Therefore, it’s important to proofread your work and to weed out typos vigilantly in spite of the fact that there are some of us who don’t mind typos at all. Whenever I do writing for a client, I proofread my work for typos. I don’t want anyone thinking these things about my client’s websites or blogs. Liking typos myself doesn’t mean that I get to be lazy about them in my writing.
It’s a Changing World
One thing that I’ve noticed is that the majority of people who seem to think like me about typos tend to come from a younger generation. They come from the era of automatic spell check systems and intentionally-abbreviated text messages. As the way that we communicate changes, I believe that the emphasis on typos as a problem is going to change. Fewer people will care about a typo here and there. Writing on the web changes so quickly that most people aren’t even going to see the online typo before the story is replaced with a new one.
Ah, but what about typos in books you might ask? You know what? I think that typos in books are the best typos ever. They are rare. When I come across one, I share a private laugh with the author across time. I wonder who the editor of the book was and why the typo wasn’t caught. And I think to myself, “well, if this book can be so great even though there’s a typo in it then it is a really terrific book.”
What do you think about typos in writing?