Do Typos Matter?

February 28th, 2007 by Bob Bly

A local gym recently mailed a postcard to attract new members.

It features a stock color photo of an attractive woman working out, with some brief copy, the closing of which read: “Call today. Summer is comming.”

When I pointed out to the owner that “coming” is spelled with one m, he shrugged it off.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said dismissively. “The picture of the hot chick exercising will pull ‘em in.”

I have no doubt that the photo will get people to stop and look.

But is he right about the spelling?

Do people care if there’s a typo on your web site or in your mailer, ad, resume, or cover letter?

Or is concern about proper spelling and grammar an old-fashioned, archaic belief that people no longer have?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 at 2:13 pm and is filed under General, Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

37 responses about “Do Typos Matter?”

  1. Passer By said:

    It’s all relative. A typo on a cheap mailer from a local mom/pop shop that may not be read from top to bottom doesn’t matter as much as it would on a resume or reputable (or trying-to-be-reputable) business.

    And if it’s never proven to hurt the effectiveness of the ad or the reputation of the business, I can see where the owner wouldn’t care (then again, that kind of person probably wouldn’t bother to spend the time to find out). I would, as would most people, but to each his own.

    And, yes, I have skipped over a business for spelling errors/unprofessional flyers or web sites.

  2. Lisa Taylor Huff said:

    Typos are irritating, but whether or not it would impact my decision to buy would depend on the situation. For instance when I’m in my favorite local ethnic restaurant and I see typos on the menu, I think what a shame it was that they didn’t ask a native English-speaker to proofread it and it was probably the language barrier at fault, but I don’t stop eating there. But if I got a flyer or sales letter with errors, or saw a typo on a billboard, it might make me think that if they’re that sloppy in checking their advertising, they might be sloppy in creating the products or fulfilling the services I would be buying. And a mistake in adverts for a small company with few resources might not bother me as much as if it were in a campaign for a major company who can afford to pay for a lot of proofreading.

    Having said that, “let she who is without sin”… I’ve caught (or been caught) with the odd typo on my own website, and I do this for a living… and boy was my face red. So I do try to be a bit tolerant and remember that we’re all just human. And I proofed this comment three times.

  3. Cristina Favreau said:

    I think it depends on each person.

    My best friend will not even consider buying from someone if their site, mailer or other marketing material contain ANY spelling or grammar errors (how dare they?).

    I’m in the middle. If the message is compelling and they show me they know who they are talking about (their target market), I’ll let a mistake slide, but I tend to remember the mistake for a long time after (maybe because I’m a woman and we DON’T forget??).

    If this local gym is counting on the fact that their target market are ogling womanizers, then he’s right, the picture alone will pull them in. But he’s got to ask himself… how does he plan on attracting the sexy women??

  4. Jim Logan said:

    Great question! Typos matter. And they’re increasingly common.

    I don’t know if others have noticed, but I see more typos in news stories today than I recall seeing in the past. I wonder if it’s the speed of the Internet and life in general that’s the cause?

    Regardless, the gym owner is probably right, the typo won’t hurt his sales.

    Greater care should be given to eliminate typos and grammatical errors. I struggle with both – I like think it’s my mind working much faster than my hands. Truth be told, it’s more likely I don’t have the eye for detail. That’s why I always hire a proofreader to review my copy before it’s released to a customer.

    Ocfourse, tehre is a sutdy msot of us are faimliar wtih taht syas as lnog as the fistt and lsat lettres of a wrod are in thier corerct odrer, the hmuan mnid can raed rihgt thruogh the mistkaes.

  5. Michael Roach said:

    Good thing it wasn’t spelled it with a “u”, instead of “o”…

    To answer the question: Is concern about proper spelling and grammar an old-fashioned, archaic belief that people no longer have?

    Well, not for everyone. I hate typos. I’m still one of those old-fashioned nerds who cringes at them, especially my own. I shake my head when I post something and realize my typos later, and I’m unable to change them.

    I tend to point typos out to other people as well — not to belittle them, but to help them out. I appreciate when others discreetly do the same for me, when I’m in a position to correct my mistake, that is.

  6. Steven Pam said:

    Hey again Bob,

    This is one of those tricky, polarizing (yet seemingly trivial) issues. Well spotted… already a lively discussion here!

    I also fall somewhere in the middle on this:

    Personally, I do find typos irritating. Although I realise (intentional Australian spelling!) that spelling and grammar are not strengths for many people, and that this doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on how well they do their job, I still can’t help also going with the ‘attention to detail’ angle.

    I have certainly passed over offers or deleted emails containing typos.

    Actually, to clarify.. as far as I’m concerned, there’s a difference between a ‘typo’ and a dumb error. A typo is when you accidentally hit the wrong key or miss a letter. A dumb error is mixing up you’re/your their/there/they’re effect/affect. The latter gets up my goat far more than the former, for some reason.

    Maybe those of us who care about this just have Asperger’s Syndrome? :-)

  7. Joel Heffner said:

    If you are writing a quick email to a buddy…a typo is usually overlooked. If you let one go in a mailing…it never looks good and it will hurt because there are some folks who care.

    Joel

  8. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob–Depends on whether their audience can spell! As for me, I can hardly spell… or do.. exercise.

  9. Sean Woodruff said:

    The owner’s reaction to the typo is more disturbing than the typo. I’d be willing to be there are other details of the business that are shrugged off too.

    The owner should be sending a letter to the same list that describes how upset he is with the typo. He could go on to say that we pay attention to detail here at our gym. He could detail how the “little” things matter when you work out and get fit. His “I screwed up” promotion would pull more business than the original card.

    Unfortunately, he’s missing the opportunity because of his “it’s not a big deal” attitude.

  10. Sean Woodruff said:

    By the way, I meant “bet” and not “be” in the second sentence above.

    I screwed up. I really do pay more attention to detail most of the time. Really. Your business is an important part of your life and when you trust me with your marketing I take that very seriously. Not only the marketing but the importance of your business in your life as a whole.

    See how that works. :-)

  11. Susan Getgood said:

    Typos matter. Especially common words. Like “come.” Grammar mistakes less so.

    Some prospects (like me) will round file your mailer immediately when we see a typo. Others may not, but if it is a common word, and your audience fairly articulate, I think the typo creates a “discomfort” even if the person can’t say exactly why.

    Typos indicate lack of attention to detail. If you don’t care about your mailer, why should I think you care about me as a customer.

  12. Dan Fletcher said:

    I think typos DO matter a lot in a sales message.

    Some people get annoyed by them, and some people may be able to see past them. But I think most people will still notice them. Particularly if it’s as easy to spot as the “comming” in this example.

    And if they notice a type- then guess what? For a time (however brief), they aren’t thinking about the sales message, they are thinking about the typo.

    You don’t want to be distracting a prospect like that.

  13. Erlend Førsund said:

    Typos matter – they distract people
    and make you look stupid…

    And no matter what you sell, you
    don’t want to look stupid.

    Erlend Førsund

    (Norwegian copywriter
    & marketer)

  14. Jodi Kaplan said:

    I believe typos do matter, and I hate when I find one (particularly my own).

    I think that the general public has become so accustomed to the “license plate spelling” and symbols used in IMs and text messaging that fewer and fewer people seem to care. I send very few text messages, but when I do I’m such a “word nerd” that I can’t bring myself to type “u” instead of you.

    Of course, I have very little interest in either “hot chicks” or exercise, so I don’t think the mailing would appeal to me with or without the typo!

  15. Suzanne Ryan said:

    I caught a typo at Hertz car rental one day in the ad that was splayed at their counter.

    It didn’t stop me from renting but it stuck in my mind. Perhaps lodged in my subconscious as an indication of sloppiness and carelessness and mismanagement.

    I keep reading over and over that customers want good, pertinent copy from business literature. Surely this must include carefully proofread copy?!?

    On another note, over the last 10 years I have noticed an increased amount of typos in books! There was one glaringly messed up paragraph in the book of an author I respect and admire. I was shocked.

  16. Virginia Van Vynckt said:

    I spent years working as a copy editor, so I cringe when I spot misspellings and even more when I see words misused (e.g., loose for lose).

    That said, a typo wouldn’t stop me from buying or joining if I trust the seller or the deal is good enough.

    I do think poor spelling or grammar can tarnish your professional image and possibly your credibility. When some marketing type who claims to be making millions a year publishes a sales letter or email with typos and misused words, I start wondering if he’s really making that kind of money. If he is, shouldn’t he be able to hire a competent proofreader?

  17. Lisa Manyon said:

    Typos do matter and that is why even the best writers should consider investing in an editor/proofreader. We are all human and it’s quite possible to let a typo slip by (accidentally of course) if we don’t let another set of eyes take a look at our writing.

    I must confess that although typos are a pet peeve of mine, I have been guilty of letting them slip by and it is embarrassing.

    In a blog entry posted on in the Manyon’s Musings section, I reference some specific examples about how typos can hurt business. The posting title it Copywriting VS. Copyrighting.

    Enjoy,

    Lisa Manyon~

  18. MayaAndMarketability.com said:

    I tend to be lenient when seeing typos on blogs because blog authors may get inspiration for a quick blog post and write off the cuff. But I do think typos matter on marketing materials. You invest so much in creating an informative website or pay so much to print postcards, why throw your money away? It could be a potential customer’s first impression of you and your business. If you want to leave an impression of professionalism, take time to use that spell checker -or- get another person (with eagle eyes on grammar and spelling to quickly skim through your copy.

    Maya, http://MayaAndMarketability.com

  19. Terry Dean said:

    Typos can definitely be a problem. One of our goals should always be to fix them. One thing we should keep in mind though is that all of us will be picky about typos than the average person. You do this for a living. So typos stand out clearly to us. Those who aren’t as picky may not even notice some of the things you do. Of course, this is not an excuse for laziness.

    To answer the question directly, would a typo like this keep me from buying. No. I wouldn’t even hesitate. Would I want to hire his editor? No.

  20. Fern said:

    Typos and misusages make me cringe — especially from higher-end companies that I know hire professional marketers. Last year, Macy’s department store had signs on every counter that misused “it’s.” (I remember being really annoyed! But I still bought Christmas gifts there.)

    I’m not that smart and can remember that ‘it’s’ is a contraction for ‘it is,’ so I guess I wonder why other people can’t.

    My opinion: Even if a small business owner is doing his/her own marketing, I think a typo matters — it does distract the reader.

    The list of commonly misspelled/misused words isn’t that long, words such as:
    - your and you’re
    - too and to and two
    - there and their
    - its and it’s (and its’)
    - then and than

    Is it really so hard to keep a list of these words or refer to a dictionary? (I use http://www.dictionary.com.)

    I do think it matters — all the time.

  21. Maya and Marketability - Do Typos Matter? said:

    [...] Recently, fellow copywriter – Bob Bly posted this question on his blog. Short answer: I’m an advocate that Design Matters and Copy Matters in marketing. Therefore, Typos Matter! [...]

  22. Peter Gillberg - Software Marketing Secrets said:

    I am guessing he was after the best possible ROI on this campaign. Will he loose a few clients – definitely, will he win some by the typo – very unlikely.

    The result – he got fewer clients than he could have.

    PS. Thanks for a great blog! Please post some blogs about software marketing – I am all ears.

  23. Apryl Parcher said:

    After reading all these posts, the consensus seems to be that yes, typos do matter, but to varying degrees. As a magazine editor, I cringe when I see them (especially my own) because I just know there is a retired English professor out there who lives to trounce on them and shake a finger at me. One even asked me for a writing job at the magazine, then proceeded to outline 3 “usage mistakes” in the copy of my editorial column.

    We all make spelling/typo mistakes, but I try like heck to keep them out of my copywriting campaigns. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression. A friend of mine received a postcard mailing from a local seafood restaurant recently. Its headline: Best Crap Cakes in Delaware! Ooops. Makes you REALLY want to eat at that restaurant, doesn’t it? I wonder what the ROI was on that one??

  24. Frank Catalano said:

    Typos matter in marketing materials that are presumed to be of professional quality (as opposed, say, to individual emails or blog entries or even blog comments).

    Why? As Susan noted above, it’s attention to detail. If someone doesn’t care enough to pitch me with that kind of care taken, then how can I be certain they’ll live up to the details of their commitments after they have my business?

    Typos do happen, despite best efforts (the worst I’ve seen have been in materials where the word is spelled correctly, but it’s the wrong word — “hoe” instead of “how,” for example — and no spellchecker catches that). But they should be rare, and an “it doesn’t matter” attitude tells way more about the business than the typo itself.

  25. Nancy Germond said:

    Perhaps if you’re selling skateboards (oh, no, now some skateboarders are going to have a serious problem with me!), you may be able to afford a typo. I think not, though. It’s better to be right than to risk offending someone with a grammatical or spelling error. I certainly notice them all!

    Having said that, I certainly marvel at the lack of copyediting I see every day when forced to read most newspapers. It’s pretty sad.

  26. Erin Blaskie said:

    I’m also in between on this. I tend to be the type of person to pick up on mistakes when visiting other people’s blogs and more often than not, I point them out when I know the person who is writing. I don’t think a typo would be enough to turn me away completely (although in my recruiting days, I would toss any resume with a typo) and I find in blog posts it’s a bit different because it’s a more natural way to write…

    I suppose I don’t have an actual answer for this question. I think it depends on my mood that day and whether or not it is a mistake that makes me roll my eyes.

    Erin Blaskie

  27. Jenny said:

    I think typos and errors on ethnic restaurant menus are kind of cute and add to the experience. Typos and errors in broader marketing campaigns are tragic. Having “been there and done that” I know the pit in your stomach feeling you get when you find an error too late.

    As far as this gym offer postcard, the owner was probably embarrassed more than anything and shrugged it off in defense. Plus, it was too late to do anything about it except to fix it if they print the postcard again.

    This all reminds me of a friend who was trying online dating. She immediately eliminated anyone that had an error in his profile. She asked me if I would date someone who made errors in his profile and I said, “Well yes, I married him.” My husband is notoriously bad in this area but he is a great guy none-the-less.

    Perhaps there is too much judgment in the world today and we would be better off giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Does an error on a postcard for a gym mean that the gym will be dirty and poorly run? Probably not.

  28. Stacey DePolo said:

    Interesting discussion here on this topic. One thing I didn’t see pointed out yet is this: as we are increasingly overwhelmed with marketing messages and materials, our brains have to evolve more tools to filter all this information coming at us. Michael Fortin’s “Death of a Sales Letter” report goes into great detail on how this is changing the business of writing sales copy. My question here is this: If one is targeting an educated group (perhaps the gym ad was not, but many of my clients do) doesn’t it make sense that punctuation, spelling, and grammar may become one of our unconscious filters in this process of sorting and choosing what to give our attention to? It may not prevent us from purchasing from someone who we have already decided to do business with, but when choosing which blog to read, which ad to click on, or which site to visit, we need all the filters we can naturally absorb to handle the job. And we may not even consciously register that that this filter is at work at the time.

  29. The Charming InfoSec Geek » Typos in My Blog said:

    [...] I decided to change the format and design of my blog and of course, I was pretty proud of my changes. Out of my excitement, I sent the link to my girlfriend and her response was “there is a typo in the first one”. This sparked some thoughts in my head. Are typos in blogs a big deal? Do the readers get irritated by them? Is it “unprofessional”? Are blogs meant to be “professional” in the first place. So I did a search and found that this is a big topic on the web amongst bloggers and blog readers. [...]

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  31. redboxoffice » Typos - Should they Matter to You and Me? said:

    [...] I’ve been reading a couple of posts about whether typos in copy, text and on websites really matter.  Bob Bly posted this after talking to a gym owner about his leaflet for new members.   Maya Sunpongco of Design Insomnia posted this, too on her Maya & Marketability website. span> And the overriding answer is, most definitely, yes, they matter. I have to say the same thing.  Typos in text, in marketing materials, everyday correspondence and on websites really do matter.  I am a stickler for correct grammar and spelling as I think it shows that the person writing the article or the letter took pride in what they were doing, as well as knowing how to use their spell checker. [...]

  32. You Can Present! - Persuassively, Poignantly, Productively : Blog Editing and Typos: Does it matter? said:

    [...] I decided to research the topic. Bob Bly has an interesting post from a year ago that asks “Do Typos Matter?” Thirty one comments and the opinions are all across the [...]

  33. Jim Rodante said:

    Hi Bob,

    I’m a copywriter for the world’s largest manufacturer of building control and automation systems, which is based in Rockleigh, NJ. In other words, the company designs and manufacturers products that let you control systems (HVAC, AV, shades, security, lighting, etc.) in your building or home by pressing a few buttons.

    I recently found a type in a brochure that was made before I came on board. Not knowing if my boss, who is an excellent marketer, wrote this piece of copy, I hesitantly pointed the typo out to him. His response was…”oh sh#t!”. Meanwhile, I think they had about 1,000 of these brochures printed already, and they are of high quality.

    Anyone who says typos don’t matter is flat-out WRONG. For me personally, if I see one in an ad, I immediately make a conscious decision to not do business with the company. Call me a tight @ss, but hey, that’s just the way I feel.

    Spelling night as “nite”, or through as “thru”, is a different story, that doesn’t bother me at all. Spelling coming as “comming” is just ridiculous and unacceptable.

    Not to confuse this with colloquial (spelled that wrong until spell-checker bailed me out) style writing, which I prefer…mainly because all the legendary writers (Caples, Bencivenga, Bly, Makepeace, Masterson)all teach to write as if you are having a conversation with your prospect.

    But, typos…hey, if you can’t spell a word correctly, you just lost me as a customer.

    Thanks Bob for all your brilliant advice,

    Jim Rodante

  34. Jim Rodante said:

    And, just to prove my point, I misspelled the word “typo” in my post above. So there!

    Ain’t that a kick in the teeth…

    PS. I would never do that in an ad :-)

  35. do typso realyl mattrt? « Bruce Reyes-Chow said:

    [...] Search for "Why Typos" I got a few interesting posts like 10 Most Common Typos in Blogging and Do Typos Matter.  I couldn’t find any non-defensive sounding posts about ANY [...]

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  37. Creative Writing Services by Write On ~ Creative Writing Services - Articles, Advertising, Marketing, Copy writing for Businesses and Non-Profit Organizations and Consulting by Lisa Manyon in Lewiston Idaho said:

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