Has Social Media Increased Our Tolerance for Typos?
I ask this question as a B2B copywriter, who’s also active in social media. I’ve noticed more typos in social media content in the past several years, which begs the question, “Are we more tolerant of typos given the ‘always on,’ ‘always be communicating’ world of social media?” Posting via virtual keyboards and that embarrassing auto completion of a word you hadn’t intended, have contributed to the increase in typos. I’m guilty of it myself, but does that make me a bad writer or you a bad communicator?
In listening to what my peers have said about their tolerance for typos, I summarized their overall sentiment. I’ll preface my findings by saying that this post refers to typos within the context of social media. For many B2B marcom managers who may be responsible for integrated marcom programs that include social media, there should be little tolerance for typos; however, acknowledging that they do happen from time to time, they should be the exception rather than the rule. That said, there seem to be certain conditions under which typos, though unacceptable, are tolerable. Feel free to add your opinion too in the comments section below.
Context dictates the tolerance for typos.
While it’s never acceptable to publish a white paper or blog post with typos, there does seem to be a tolerance for typos in tweets and even some comments to blogs for the reason’s mentioned above… more people are posting and responding via virtual keyboards, making the risk of a typo greater, and therefore, somewhat more acceptable.
Email disclaimers aren’t a good excuse for typos.
Here’s one that I’m not too sure about myself… the popular disclaimer that follows the signature line and asks the recipient to “please excuse any embarrassing typos as this message was sent from my <enter name of device>.” Does the device increase typo tolerance? I’m inclined to think not.
In the context of an outbound business communication to colleagues or clients, typos aren’t acceptable regardless of device. However, in certain cases, busy professionals, attempting to manage their burgeoning in-boxes in between flights, meetings, appointments, etc., will occasionally mistype a word as their fingers fly across the virtual keypad. I can tolerate typos of this nature. We’ve all been there…
There’s a difference between typos and usage errors.
Inadvertently touching the wrong key, resulting in a typo, is not the same as misusing a word, e.g., you’re typo vs. your typo. This type of typo is rarely acceptable. Though I’m more tolerant when I’m mingling in the social sphere with colleagues for whom English is a second language. This is particularly the case when I’m on an enterprise activity stream of a global company or multi-national blog.
Does message timing supersede the rules of typos?
This is another case with which I struggle. I’ve often heard bloggers say that it’s more important to communicate your thoughts in a timely fashion than miss timing an opportunity because you were caught up in perfecting the post. In some cases, I tend to agree. When you’re passionate about a subject and feverishly typing a comment or initial post, getting your thoughts out is often more important than dotting the I’s or crossing the T’s. That said, it’s usually better to hold off on emotional replies, that you may regret later.
Social shorthand, colloquialism and writing like we speak…
In our more casual society, we’ve grown tolerant of ending sentences with prepositions and breaking rules for the sake of sounding more conversational. So within the context of more casual social channels, including blogs, activity streams and tweets, is it ever o.k. to break the rules? I’m o.k. with that in certain situations where it’s generally acceptable. For example, Twitter only allows 140 characters, so saying, “C U at the mtg.” is acceptable within Twitter and other formats where it consists of casual conversation between several colleagues of similar stature. However, in the context of a formal email announcement or when communicating up to higher levels within a traditional organization, it’s not acceptable; unless, of course, your organization maintains a casual culture. Texting is another example where short form words and phrases are almost always acceptable and understood… IMHO.
Some typos are never acceptable regardless of context…
I think it’s safe to say that misspelling someone’s name or a company name is never acceptable. We may overlook a dangling participle or inadvertently transpose characters; however, a name is someone’s identity, and it’s important to them and to you to get it right.
In general, typos are not acceptable. They make us appear sloppy and amateurish and diminish our authority. That’s not to say that accidents don’t happen, because they do. And when they do, it does make us look less-than-professional; however it also makes us human. Feel free to add your opinion in the comments section below… spelling doesn’t count.
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