It’s become common to see poor grammar and typos in all sorts of documents. From newspapers to national budgets, CVs to blog posts and even books. A side note: here’s an entertaining and fun discussion on Reddit on the difference in using “the shit” to mean something awesome and “is shit” to mean it sucks!
A decade ago, it was almost considered treason to see typos in official documents, but now, despite our free online dictionaries, these writing errors are everywhere!
It’s now so common that people are mistakenly thinking that it’s okay not to be keen about the kind of work they are submitting and many cannot tell the difference between whose and who’s, it’s and its, they’re and their, or lose and loose.
One writer in a freelance writing facebook group recently asked whether it was necessary to be a Grammar Nazi in order to be a good writer? That question actually inspired this article.
The answer you’re wondering? A resounding yes! Here’s why.
It can cost you
Typos can be dangerous and have cost companies millions of dollars. Italian airline, Alitalia, lost 7.2 million because of a typo. In 2006, they listed the cost of their business class seats as $39 instead of $3900. 2000 travelers quickly bought those seats and when Alitalia tried to correct their mistake with the 2000 travelers, there was a major brouhaha. In order to salvage their reputation, they had to honor their end of the deal and let those travelers fly at $39 per head. It cost them $7.2 million and that typo probably cost a few people their jobs.
A typo in a national budget, someone’s expected salary, an invoice, legal documents, medical report and in many more cases will not only cost you but they can be very dangerous.
It makes you look tardy and unprofessional
A CV full of typos is akin to turning up for an interview looking unkempt. No matter how talented you are or how much work experience you have, you might not even make it past the security desk if you’re looking unkempt.
Remember, HR has to go through a mountain of CVs and they are looking for any reason to disqualify a CV so that they have a shorter list of ideal candidates to choose from.
This applies to businesses as well. Typos in professional documents indicate that you’re either hiring unqualified people or a sign that employee engagement and morale are low.
You lose credibility
If you’re considered a guru on a topic such as writing/ journalism/ languages, etc, and people visit your blog or social media handles and read your content for advice or to gain more knowledge in that field, the minute you start having typos or grammatical errors, you’ll immediately begin to lost credibility. People won’t take you seriously. They won’t respect you for not being keen on what you produce. It will be like preaching water and drinking wine.
A person may be enjoying your article/ book, loving the flow and then they come across a grammatical mistake or a spelling mistake. You can almost hear the brakes screeching as this happens. There are readers who won’t even go beyond this mistake because frankly, it’s annoying, especially if they purchased the document.
It could even be a menu. The minute a diner sees an error, especially a first-time diner at your restaurant, many will immediately put you in a box that you don’t want to be put in. Those typos in your menu will color their experience and expectations of your establishment. That’s why they don’t seem surprised when you get their orders wrong or if your service is poor because the typos already told them so.
It disqualifies you from certain jobs
If you’re a freelance writer applying for a writing gig and your cover letter or samples have typos or grammatical mistakes then don’t expect to get called back. A lot of companies want competent writers who, when the writer submits their work, the company doesn’t have to go through the writer’s work to check if it has errors.
Whoever hired you is probably too busy to keep going through your work and correcting your mistakes. They want someone they can trust, who can submit their work and post on time without having to correct it for grammatical errors. They know the writer always delivers clean quality work and can edit on their own effectively.
Certain content mills or jobs require you to take grammar or language skills tests and poor grammar will bar you from passing and qualifying for the job.
It creates misunderstandings
Having these errors can cause confusion and misunderstanding. For example, if I write you’re fast and your fast, they sound the same but they mean two different things. You’re fast means that the person being addressed moves at high speed. The second one can be addressing a person who has refrained from eating for a day or more, ie, fasting.
How to improve your writing:
1) Stop using colloquialisms in text
Linkedin is a professional platform but you’ll find people writing wanna, gonna, in their posts. That is a nanna. Potential job recruiters on this platform may not be able to see past this.
Stop using slang to write your profile on Linkedin, to text, to chat via social media or post your status updates. In fact, don’t use it in your writing or speech for a while until you’ve improved your writing.
2) Stop using shorthand
Again, similar to slang, cut this out of your writing. Even if you are just texting your friends. None of that pls, sry, k, luv u 2. People get so used to writing in shorthand that it slips into messages to a client/ boss or their writing and don’t even notice it until someone points it out, usually when it’s too late! Don’t let that be you (eesh).
3) Be keen
Start taking note of how words and sentences are structured in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books. When you come across a word that is new and that you’d like to use in your writing, write it down and practice writing it in sentences or including it in your vocabulary for about a week.
When you’re watching a movie or listening to something and you hear a word of which you’re not sure of the spelling, look it up. Movies and audio are great ways to learn words and how they’re used.
You can also listen to podcasts that have transcripts and read and listen at the same time.
4) Learn the principles of grammar
You have to do this with any language that you want to be proficient in. Start with the basic grammar principles and work your way up from there. Make sure you’re not making basic mistakes like confusing it’s for its or pluralizing words that you shouldn’t.
You can even do a test like IELTS or TOEFL or free online grammar courses. Studying for these tests will not only improve your language skills but the certificates for these courses will open doors for you such as teaching.
5) Get someone to go through your documents
This tip is very important for job seekers. A lot of CVs these days are poorly written. University graduates submit CVs that make the HR person reading it, doubt whether the job candidate actually completed high school.
This is not an attack on anyone that hasn’t attained a higher level of education. Anyone job seeking, particularly those that have been sending out their CVs and not getting back any responses or if you’re fresh out of school or university, get someone to help you with your CV.
Don’t just copy a template online. Get someone who knows what they’re doing to look at your CV and edit it. It will make a world of difference.
For people that earn money through writing, you can get a friend or pay someone to go through your work and edit it. Penstars.com offers this service at a fee. You submit your document and not only do they correct the grammar and delete typos, but they give feedback and give you a score. You then rewrite your document and resubmit it. The process is repeated. In total, your work is checked three times.
6) Install a grammar checker
There are so many to choose from, but one of the most popular is Grammarly. You can download it on your phone or install it on your PC/ laptop. Remember though that these apps aren’t a hundred percent accurate so you do need to go through your document as well to catch something that the app hasn’t or as was previously advised, get someone to go through your work for you.
Realizing that your writing is an extension of yourself will motivate you to improve your grammar and reduce the typos in your writing. Think of your writing as a way people gauge your intelligence, your style and how keen you are about your work.
You’re writing (…made you cringe, right?) in a way, advertises who you are and what you are capable of, and since we always want to put our best foot forward, continue to work on perfecting your writing.