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Marketing / Business writing

Typos and other errors: Dealing with mistakes

With delightful regularity, we receive feedback from the solo community offering some form of praise for the work we do here at Flying Solo. Occasionally, though, we'll receive a comment dealing with mistakes where the karma isn't so good.

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Recently I was the target of a swipe from a guy who was absolutely incandescent with rage due to a typo on our website. 

As the editor of Flying Solo’s hundreds of articles, the odd mistake is inevitable. Normally these are picked up by a friendly reader who points out the broken hyperlink or the spelling/grammar error in question. Typos and other errors are fixed up pronto. 

But this guy was far from friendly and left me in no uncertain terms that I had not only offended his sensibilities, I had actually ruined his day. 

It reminded me that…I used to be the same when dealing with mistakes! I would get so upset by any deviation from perfection. I devoured books like Lynne Truss’ grammar bible, Eats, Shoots and Leaves and thought nothing of sending (actually pretty offensive) emails to sites like the ABC when they made an error. I secretly loved the sense of superiority it gave me. 

At some point, though, something changed. Reason replaced righteousness and I stopped reacting in the same way. 

"I wonder what is it about language that can turn normal, rational people into such grouches when dealing with mistakes."

That’s not to say I don’t care about language. My love for words is part of who I am and I still enjoy arguments about the possessive apostrophe as much as the next wordsmith. 

But what I’ve let go of is that vitriolic attitude towards language. I now have zero empathy with those who believe being right is all that matters. We all know the types, those who think anyone who struggles with spelling must be a moron, and that people who write SMS messages like “cu 2nite” ought to be publicly flogged. 

Want more articles like this? Check out the business writing section.

I wonder what is it about language that can turn normal, rational people into such grouches when dealing with mistakes. It seems to me in some cases, such as with our angry reader, being right came at the expense of fairness, perspective and manners. 

So my question for you is…am I right to have let it go? Or is it a travesty that someone in my position, with my responsibility, has such a laissez-faire attitude? 

Give it to me via a comment.

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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