This post was updated on May 30, 2012.
In the era of tiny keyboards and social media, flying thumbs and emoticons, English majors everywhere are having conniption fits. Typos are inevitable, but do they really matter?
For business leaders and entrepreneurs, the answer is Yes. Hell yes. If you need a reminder, just look at the latest gaffe from Mitt Romney's campaign, which unveiled a new iPhone app that led off with the phrase, "A Better Amercia." Not surprisingly, the twitterverse had a field day.
Leaders need to communicate with clarity and authority, regardless of politics, industry or keyboard size. Sloppy communication skills dilute your message, and, at worst, seriously diminish your credibility. There’s nothing like slogging through hundreds of e-mails and coming upon a subject line that says, “Coonecting through George.” Without opening the message, I’ve already formed an opinion about the sender -- and it isn’t good. In this case, the sender was applying for an open position on my team. You can guess how that turned out.
Want to get a customer or prospect’s attention? Spell their name incorrectly. Nothing says, “We don’t care about you,” like a misspelled company or recipient name. From someone who has seen every possible spelling of Rene Siegel, including Mr. Renay Seagull, let me tell you, Hell yes, it matters. That’s not a typo. That’s just wrong.
Are there exceptions? You bet. Texting, Skyping, instant messages and Facebook comments are rife with hastily written typos -- and that’s ok. But you can still try to keep messages succinct and spelled correctly. Auto-correct and screen glare work at odds with deadlines to derail a well-intended response. Typing full-length emails on a tiny smartphone is never easy, so if the message is important, you might want to wait and use a full-sized keyboard.
What can you do to minimize typos in your personal communication?
Read it out loud. When my fingers are flying and I’m cranking out e-mail, there are times when my fingers don’t catch up to my brain. Words like “from” turn into “form” and won’t be caught by spell-checkers. They leave a sloppy impression with the reader. Take a minute to read your draft out loud, which will help catch any words that shouldn’t be there or any that should.
Borrow another pair of eyes. If it’s important, if you’re tired or in a rush--especially if you’re in a rush-- ask someone else to read what you wrote. If I’m sending a critical e-mail, creating something that will been seen by many, or if I’m dealing with a prickly situation, I want to make sure I’m typo-free so that my authentic message comes through.
Separate social media from the rest of your writing. Remember there’s a time and place for TTYL, :-) and cr8tv wrtg. Birthday wishes and comments about weekend adventures don’t fall into the same category as business communications.
You can set the standard for your company by writing in a way that shows you care about quality, professionalism and clear communication. How you communicate speaks just as loudly as the actual content of your message. Regardless of technology trends and busy schedules, a few extra seconds can reinforce a great personal brand.