Do Typos Matter?

September 10th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Do typos in promotional materials matter?

I pondered this question after receiving a mailer from a local company that gives writing workshops.

In the third paragraph of a self-mailer describing their writing workshops, the copy reads: “We hold them in around a conference table in a wood-paneled office.”

Of course, it should say “We hold them around a conference table in a wood-paneled office.”

In a mailing for a writing teacher, this error stands out like a sore thumb.

But do typos like this really matter in marketing materials for other businesses?

For example, would you not hire a plumber because of a typo in his Yellow Pages ad?

Or would you refuse to visit a cosmetic dentist because of a spelling error on her web site?

Do typos matter?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2009 at 9:39 am and is filed under 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.

34 responses about “Do Typos Matter?”

  1. Morgan said:

    If the advertiser is sloppy in their promotional materials, then they will be sloppy or casual in their profession. At least, that’s the message they’re sending.

  2. Bill Perry said:

    No, typos don’t matter.

    Just like some companies that refuse to hire ex-convicts. Granted, in some jobs and careers, it might be an issue.

    A typo is just that, a typo. Instead of refusing to deal with someone who makes a typo, it’s better to tactfully bring it to their attention. That way you’re raising the quality of the entire species.

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  4. Henry said:

    Typos occasionally sneak through in every industry.

    I would never refuse to do business with someone because of a typo or misspelling, but they do distract from the message and interrupt the flow of the copy.

    It’s another place marketers lose their prospects and that is the real danger.

  5. Susanna K. Hutcheson said:

    I’d love to say they do not matter because I’m a lousy speller and I certainly understand misspellings and typos perhaps better than most. But the truth is, typos do matter. A typo glares out at the reader and, while usually not deserved, makes the advertiser look stupid and incompetent. Sadly, there are people who seem to have nothing to do but edit Web sites and marketing material in search for a mistake. They’re usually PhD’s who can’t make it in business but feel comfortable grading anything.

  6. Aprill Allen said:

    I don’t think it matters when I seek out the services of a particular business. However, it’s a big turn off in direct marketing materials where I haven’t made the initial inquiry. Perhaps I’m just looking for any excuse to turn down a telemarketer.

  7. Jeff Geist said:

    Sadly, I do tend to make judgements based on pour speeling and numberous typos!!

  8. Byrne said:

    Typos don’t matter specifically. What matters is keeping your reader’s attention focused on the business proposition. Distract them for a second–with inelegant copy, overwhelming illustrations, or, yes, an an extra word–and you’ve hurt your chances of closing the sale.

    I might hire a plumber who had a typo in his ad. But the ad without the typo will probably convince me first.

  9. Raphael said:

    For me, it doesn’t matter. As long as I can still understand the message, minimal typos are tolerable. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time reading it if there are too many errors. They must at least find time to double check their email before sending it to their customers.

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  12. Greg said:

    It depends. If I saw an ads for a great restaurant that I really wanted to try, a typo would not matter.

    But most of the times, small things do matter to me because I usually have so many choices in today’s competitive market society. Why deal with a company or person who makes mistakes if there is an alternative?

    Yesterday, I had a salesman criticize a choice that I had previously made that was costing me some serious money. His criticism ventured on rudeness. If he does not understand that sales people almost always need to be liked to make a sale, he does not deserve my business. He is off my list.

  13. Lou Wasser said:

    Manners and style represent our social face. If we dress sloppily or are rude, we are in effect saying to others “respect me anyway,” or “do business with me anyway — what you see is really less than what you’ll eventually get. I care more than I show I care” Or even worse: “I don’t care, but do business with me anyway.”

    Writing which has been thoroughly proofread is the printed word equivalent of manners and style. We can, and should, forgive an occasional typo. But typos which appear routinely relay a similar message as sloppy appearance, bad manners or lack of attention to detail.

  14. Dianna Huff said:

    I’m more resigned to typos in Web content because it’s harder to catch them and because they’re easily fixed. So I give people leeway when I see typos in blog posts, Web content, etc.

    But I have more rigorous standards for printed material.

    Here is what Ben Franklin said:

    “Whoever accustoms himself to pass over in silence the faults of his neighbors shall meet with much better quarter from the world when he happens to fall into a mistake himself.”

    With regard to typos, all I can say is AMEN.

  15. TC said:

    “… would you not hire a plumber because of a typo in his Yellow Pages ad?”

    Check out the plumber and if he is good, hire him (or her). Check out whoever wrote the copy for the plumber and make a note not to recommend them or hire them. If the plumber wrote the copy himself, offer some friendly (free) advice, in the hope that one day he will hire you to write an ad or build a website when he can afford it.

    By the way, even if a plumber has a perfectly formed typo-free ad, you still need to check him out before hiring, so in practice a typo makes no difference.

  16. Bamboo Forest - PunIntended said:

    If it’s not a writing business, then I think it matters only a little.

    The reputation of the business and the deals they offer is what’s going to sway the customer.

    A typo? The above is far more important to the customer.

  17. monica said:

    To me, they hurt the credibility and professionalism that the company has for its business. Have another set of eyes look over your promo materials before you send it out, if you really care about the message you are sending your potential customers. Typos matter. There is a reason the English language has rules.

  18. Michael Owen said:

    What if this was not a “typo” error but the omission of a word?

    How do we know it shouldn’t have read:

    “We hold them in darkness around a conference table in a wood-paneled office.”

    or, “…in camera…” or “…in silence…”

    Omitting words is not acceptable, especially if including them could change the actual meaning of a sentence.

    Typo errors are, for the most part, acceptable. For me, a typo error (using the example given) would have been: “cofnerence”, “tabel”, etc!

    Like it or not, first impressions count. Error free copy conveys a better first impression than copy with even one error.

  19. Bob Bly said:

    Michael: In this case I know it was a typo because I have actually taken a class with this firm, been in the room, and sat around the table.

  20. Ken Harrison said:

    Of course typos matter in marketing materials. They happen… but they matter. Every client or prospect who sees that typo will have one negative experience that may be erased when you have proven yourself. But, that is too late. Marketing materials are a prospect’s 1st exposure to your brand. In my opinion it’s not even a question of “do they matter?” as much as “do you care about the message you send to your prospects?”

  21. Ken Harrison said:

    To clarify the above, I would avoid any business that had a typo in their marketing materials. I’m not saying that it is indicative of their primary business skills, but it is certainly indicative of their customer care.

  22. Russell said:

    Sorry. My superior Scottish education means no typos in anythng I do.

    8-)

  23. Lesley Peters said:

    Yes, typos do matter to me. I know that today many folks don’t think they are important, and don’t always have time to read their marketing materials. We can all miss a typo when reviewing our own materials, though.

    As far as not doing business . . . it depends. If it is a small typo, and the company/professional is highly recommended, I would do business with them. I might also mention that there is a typo in their materials. If it is sloppy marketing material, I’d avoid doing business with the company.

  24. Jodi Kaplan said:

    Yes, typos do matter. A tutoring company here has been running TV ads with a typo. Not a good way to build trust in their ability to help a struggling child.

    Typos can also be confusing. “Word News” sounds like information on dictionaries or slang. “World News” is a report on current events.

    That said, they do happen, even when you’re careful.

  25. FunnyHaha said:

    Who say typros matter? If the messarge is clear, then thats all that mattergs?

  26. Claudia Pesce said:

    It’s all a question of perception. To me they are real eyesores, and it’s very easy for me to spot them. Once I do, my reaction is, “Tsk, tsk…” That’s just who I am. So, if someone wants to do business with me, or convince me in some way, they’d better not have any. However, for others it doesn’t matter at all. So just to stay on the safe side, and remain in the good graces of those who hate typos, there shouldn’t be any.

  27. Jules Brown said:

    Yeah, I think they matter alright.

    I’m just not sure whether they matter for good or for bad.

    An acquaintance of mine has an (untested) suspicion that typos may actually increase response. If so, then they matter a lot… for good. And I for one would be happy to put intentional typos in my copy.

    If they diminish, or have no effect on response, then they matter too… and should obviously be avoided.

    I’d really like to test a letter with typos against one without, but have as yet failed to convince a client to give it a go. If there’s anyone out there who has tried it… please share your findings!

  28. Ignacio Perez de Vargas said:

    I seem to almost always forget to put the “r” on the end of “your”. So, I end up looking like a dip when I write “You welcome!” or “What’s you name?”

  29. Pamela said:

    As a former classroom English teacher and school newspaper advisor, plus part-time newspaper stringer, and now as a quality control person for a business management firm, I have always found a certain correlation between the defensive, defiant “it don’t mattters” group and the supporters of accurate writing. Those who needed to spend a little more time studying English during their formal education years are always the more forgiving of sloppiness by others and often “pooh pooh” the value of accurate communication. They also rarely double-check their work or efforts, in any area of their lives, not just on a written page. Do you think that someone who can’t produce a well-planned, simple direct marketing piece, which is their one chance of making a good impression, and on which they are spending their own money, is going to try any harder once they are spending YOUR money?

    Those who put in the time to develop the skill of crafting consistently high levels of quality writing value their labor and don’t appreciate the off-handed “oh,wells” of the less educated or irresponsible. People gaily chirp that they “can’t spell,” with no embarrassment whatsoever, like it is not the low achiever identifier that it is. Learning to spell is hard work, period. Fact checking before spouting off is hard work. Reviewing and editing one’s public writing is hard work. Maybe you don’t care if your plumber knows the difference between their, there and they’re, but you will care when he “forgets” to install a washer in your faucet because he didn’t double-check the supplies on his truck before doing business with the public. A sloppy mind splashes about everywhere: on the pages it blatheringly fills; in its usually unkempt physical surroundings and daily affairs; and when it seeps throughout pointless speeches.

    Harsh judgement on “typos”? From my editing experience of over 20 years, a “typo” is only the tip of the careless iceberg.

    If you can’t spell, for god’s sake, let a professional prepare your public written face for you. Don’t strut around in your ignorance and lose thousands of dollars in potential business because you came off as a dummy. Typos are not an indicator of your intelligence but they are an indicator of how much you care.

  30. Linda said:

    Typos DO greatly matter. Some write essays or some other papers with so many mistakes that it’s impossible to read! A reader just has to strain his eyes all the time. Guys! Do check your spelling in papers!

  31. Customized Fat Loss said:

    Absolutely. How perfect your writings are in a material tells the customer/consumer how much effort you put into it. Furthermore, it shows how good you are at whatever you do.

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