Typos: When Are They Acceptable?

Typos and ErrorsTypos. Everyone makes them. Editors, writers, communications professionals, teachers, and just about everyone else in between. They can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright awkward. But sometimes they can do more than cause you to flush and send a quick correction.

Sometimes, typos can make or break a job application, or cause a reader to leave you a negative review. But how do you know when you should do an extensive edit and when you’re OK to worry a little less about the technical side of things? I mean, coming from a writer and editor, it’s just about impossible to produce error-free content every time.

First, let’s start with the difference between a typo and amateur writing. A typo is when you make a mistake, like typing “dacning” instead of “dancing”, or missing a single letter in a word by accident, like “smeling” instead of “smelling”. Common mistakes are acceptable in casual writing, like texts, blog posts, or quick emails to friends.

Amateur writing is when you use “it’s” instead of “its”, or you have trouble figuring out the differences between “to”, “too”, and “two”, or “there”, “their”, and “they’re”. These are the kinds of mistakes that push you below the competition, and send readers off to leave two star reviews after reading a few pages.

If you read my post from a couple of weeks ago, you know that I’ve spent a lot of time over the last month or so reviewing writing samples and resumes to fill a junior writing position where I work. To be honest, we have received a couple of samples that had errors that we were willing to overlook, but only because the quality of the writing was so high and the errors so small.

Even so, if you’re sending out writing that will likely be reviewed by expert readers or writers, you had better make sure that your spelling and grammar skills are up to scratch. A small error or two between a resume, cover letter, and 2-3 samples is understandable. But sending along a sample where your first word is “It’s” instead of “Its” is a little too  much.

The same goes for any kind of creative writing. If you’re scribbling in your journal, typo away! But if you’re either self-publishing or submitting to publishers, you should be certain to take a very, very close look at your writing. Like I’ve said before, if you aren’t willing to put in the time with your writing, why should your readers?

To avoid mistakes and errors that make your writing look poor, try to:

  • Pay careful attention to the beginning and end of your piece, errors stuffed within the content are a bit more understandable and harder to find.
  • Re-read after every edit as making changes can leave behind unintentional errors.
  • Take time between edits and reads so that you don’t hurry through the content out of boredom.
  • Make sure that you take time to learn best spelling and grammar practices, even if it isn’t your thing.

And remember, everyone, even pros, make mistakes. It happens. But if it’s something important, take the time to make the piece shine instead of risking a job offer over a silly typo.

What’s your editing process like? How do you make sure your content has no errors? Have you tried to learn about spelling and grammar from a professional standpoint?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.


35 thoughts on “Typos: When Are They Acceptable?

  1. This all makes good sense. I read aloud, read in print, alter my font, anything to change things up, and with each new editing pass, I catch new typos. It’s mind-boggling. And, of course, a few always slip through. Slowing down is key. Boredom or the opposite – getting enrapt in the story – both make my brain immune to seeing typos. I’ve heard reading the book from back to front works, and I dread the thought!

    • Those are absolutely excellent tips, mind if I include some in a future post?

      One of my best tricks is to read the content out loud, it definitely helps to catch errors, though it can make you sound a bit nutty if you don’t tell anyone what you’re doing. 🙂

  2. One of the easiest mistakes to make these days, when we can cut and paste with so much abandon, is to delete a necessary word w/o realizing it or to leave in a word we meant to delete. Reading aloud is a good test for this easy glitch. Incidentally, a college-writing scholar (Andrea Lunsford) found that the most common errors twenty years ago were spelling errors, whereas, in her more recent study, “wrong word” errors predominated. It’s risky to assume the spellchecker will save you! I know.

    • Very interesting. I agree, typing causes its own set of mishaps and errors. I suppose there is no way to be absolutely certain of error-free content unless you have someone look it over, and even then, things can slip through.

  3. Good points. I struggle with typos because I don’t see them – sometimes obvious ones. I used to be a proofreader long ago for Walter Drake until I couldn’t see that the giant display of the man’s signature, Brain, wasn’t Brian. My brain transposed the letters and I missed it on a card proof. I almost got fired over it. One thing that I do now, besides wearing reading glasses, is to increase the font size or click the three horizontal lines on the top right of the online toolbar. This helps me at least with periods v commas. Another techy thing that helps is to show the symbols when you type in Word. My spelling is much worse than I like to admit, so when I am unsure or get the spell check line, I pay attention and Google the word. I may still miss things, but this helps. 🙂

    • Great tips! Even the best of us miss things, sometimes after we’ve reviewed a piece multiple times it can still come out with typos. I miss them sometimes too, especially in my own work. When it’s someone else’s, I tend to be able to look at it differently, likely because it’s the first time I have seen the content.

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sound advice, especially the points about taking time out between reads and edits, and rechecking after you’ve made changes. It’s not always easy to see typos onscreen or even on printed pages of A4 – when I got the proof copy of my book from CreateSpace I found mistakes I’d missed in every previous edit! I had to correct them and submit the whole thing again.

  5. My editing process and checking for errors:

    1. It is my opinion that the best editing tool ever devised for a dyslexic writer is the squiggly red line that appears under the misspelled word.

    2. Using a text reader is very helpful. I can hear when “than” belongs in a sentence instead of “that.” It’s like having a hammer hit you on the head when the ill-written word passes by your ears. As Vanderso said, cutting and pasting is another problem. A text reader catches that, too. Some people don’t like the mechanical sound, but it has saved me embarrassment so many times I stopped counting.

    3. If the document is important, I ask someone to proof read it after I’ve completed my efforts to do so. Almost always, a grammar or punctuation problem shows its ugly head.

    I haven’t learned about spelling and grammar from a professional standpoint. My sister taught Effective Business Writing for executives in large companies for over 30 years. Believe me, she tried. But when your eyes are continually turning the letters and numbers around, it makes editing a bit harder. Then she tried teaching me how to read editorial squiggly’s. I think that one, single, endeavor is why she has high blood pressure. That, and my complete inability to understand how to use apostrophes. 🙂

    • Excellent points! I’ve never considered a text reader, in fact I didn’t know there was such a thing. I might have to try it out as editing my own content can become tiresome.

      My go to is to have someone do a review for me, but finding those willing to do so for longer stories can be difficult.

      Don’t worry, there is always at least one aspect of the technical sides of writing that escapes us, no matter how trained or experienced we are.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • You’re welcome. There is supposed to be a text reader on Word, but I’ve never figured out how to use it. I download Cyberbuddy for free and once in a while I give a donation.

  6. I always do two last proof reads with a physical copy of the changes—either print and ink edits, or track changes in Word. Then after I make the changes, I go back to compared the marked changes with the actual changes to make sure I actually made the changes or didn’t create additional errors. (This an old trick from the days when cut and paste meant real cut and paste with layout boards and photo-type setters in the seventies).

  7. Usually when I read something soon after I’ve written it, I mentally skip over the mistakes. so what works for me is to leave the writing alone for a long while so I forget it a bit and then read it again.

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