It turns out that there are other people out there like us, like the members of the writing community, who get just as pissed off when they spot a typo as Stephen Fry surely does. Perhaps it’s because we’re educated to follow the strict set of rules that we call grammar, and so witnessing a flagrant misuse of them feels just as wrong as seeing someone throwing litter on the floor.
So far the evidence has been anecdotal, and you could argue that the correct use of spelling and grammar is a matter of personal preference. I’m here to blow that argument out of the water.
Simply put, spelling mistakes and grammar fails cost money, to people, to businesses and to the government. According to the BBC, poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses, with analyses of website figures showing that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. Meanwhile, a 2006 report found that top retail websites lose an average of $6.7 million every year due to mistyped e-mail addresses – imagine how much more they must be losing in 2015!
There are stories of typos which destroyed rockets, cost an eBay user over $500,000, and caused Penguin to destroy $20,000 worth of inadvertently racist recipe books. And it’s not a new problem, either – back in 1872, a misplaced comma in a tariff law cost American taxpayers more than $2 million, which equates to $38,350,000 in today’s money. Begrudgingly, I’ll admit that spellcheck might’ve picked that one up.
The Impotence of Proofreading
I mean, you can see it right there in the headline – proofreading isn’t impotent, it’s important, but the spellchecker built into your word processor doesn’t know the difference.
Spellcheckers can’t proofread a document anywhere near as well as a human can – there, I said it. In fact, they often fail to pick up on things if your typo is still a dictionary word (i.e. ‘rap’ instead of ‘trap’), and they can often get things wrong. Here’s a pro tip – turn off the automatic grammar suggestions on your word processor, and use your common sense instead. You’ll usually find that you were right, and you’ll also get better and better at doing it, over time.
I’m a writer, and so proofreading is of paramount importance, especially because I’m a blogger as well – I review books and speak to authors on a site called SocialBookshelves.com, and while my default rating for a professional book is a seven, my default rating for a book with one or more typos is a six.
You could argue that I’m so passionate about proofreading and the correct usage of the written word because I’m a writer, and that probably does have something to do with it, but it’s not just me – just look at the ‘grammar police’, the nameless, faceless people who pop up every now and then as you browse the internet with comments like this one:
And, because I’m a superhero whose special power is an ability to spell correctly, I have to proofread when I’m working my 9-5. I’m a social media specialist at an integrated creative agency, which basically means I spend my days writing status updates, blog posts and pitch documents for international and national clients. If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a typo in an e-mail – if you send over a typo in some of your creative work, you’re in trouble.
So it’s pretty important to try to avoid spelling and grammar fails, and that’s why I’m proud to be a proofreader. Hopefully, if I do my job properly, you won’t even know that I’m there.
I just hope there aren’t any typos in this article. Tweet me at @DaneCobain or let me know through my website if you find one, and I’ll give you a biscuit.
Multi-Genre Author. When she isn't writing, she edits, proofreads, designs covers and helps promote other authors and blogs.