Freelance Writers and Typo Paranoia

The freelance writing community is getting a little paranoid. I find I can’t hold a casual online conversation with someone without that person apologizing for typos or errors. It’s getting a little silly. Excellent writers are posting thought provoking comments on blogs and in forums,  and then turn around and post again apologizing for typos most others wouldn’t have noticed in the first place.

Relax, people. You’re human. You’re allowed to make mistakes.

When Freelance Writers Should Mind Their Typos

The purpose of this post isn’t to say we shouldn’t be diligent about our writing and do our best to ensure clean writing every time. Mostly it’s to say we don’t have to be so paranoid about our writing when we’re having an online water cooler conversation.

Just as there are times we should take extra care, there are times when we can relax a bit. I am always extra careful when turning in client projects or when applying for gigs, sending official correspondences, and on anything I consider “formal” writing. However, when I’m writing a letter to Dear Diary, I’m pretty sure I don’t need the grammar police looking over my shoulder. While I do try and be conscious of my errors (and many of you write to let me know when I miss the mark ) my genuine rule of thumb is to be particularly mindful when I have something to gain. For example, if a client is paying me, I’m creating a sign, or if I have to write a letter to my Congressman. If I’m posting a comment in a casual discussion forum and I “your” when I should have “you’re ‘d” I’m not going to be bothered by it too much.

You shouldn’t take it to heart, either.

Very Few People Give a Crap if You Forgot a Letter or Added an Apostrophe

I’m not decrepit, but I’m no spring chicken. I like to think I’ve been around the block a few times. Over the past four and a half decades, I have yet to find a person who is perfect. I’ll even go as far as to say that most people make at least a mistake a day, and many go beyond that. Yeah, there are the sticklers (Lynne Truss, I’m talking to you!), but I’m sure even the sticklers would agree that it’s OK for folks to let their guard down once in a while. If I’m having a conversation with another writer, I’m not going to be talking in the AP Format. I might notice horribly poor grammar (My pet peeve is “Where’s it at?” ) but there’s a difference between improper usage and honest mistakes. Only people with superiority complexes complain about honest mistakes in casual conversation , most people couldn’t care less or  they realize a mistake for what it is and mind their manners.

Lighten Up, People. Everyone Make Mistakes Once in a While

Because the not-so silent minority are now policing the social networks to ensure we’re not “righting” when we should be “writing,” freelance writers are paranoid  they’ll be called out as bad writers if they make the slightest mistake.  Not a day goes by that I don’t see a casual conversation among writers where one apologizes to another for a typo. Both sides need to lighten up. We’re people, people, and we make mistakes. No one is going to think you’re a poor writer for having typos. Show me a writer who has never made an error, and I’ll show you a liar.

You know why you don’t see popular novelists or journlists making many mistakes in their writing? Because editors are proofing their work. What you see is the finished product. Chances are, those writers made a few errors before going to press.Of course I cringe when I see major gaffes in magazines or misspelled signs, but having gaffes get past a professional proofreader is a hell of a lot different than than a misplaced apostrophe in a Facebook comment.

You’ll probably find typos all over this blog, and even some on Twitter and Facebook…and you know what? I don’t care. If Facebook wants to pay me for turning in clean writing, I can certainly be more diligent. However, if I’m participating in casual conversation and the odd typo comes out, I don’t owe anyone an apology.

There’s no excuse for improper grammar, but we don’t need to be so paranoid we’re constantly (publicly) apologizing for forgetting a comma or adding an apostrophe.

Go ahead, make a typo. I’ll still respect you in the morning.


10 responses
  1. P.S. Jones Avatar

    Thank you! There’s nothing like having a discussion in a forum or blog and suddenly it’s not about the issue at hand but the typos of the other poster. With few exceptions for major mistakes, I think that as long as we understand what you’re trying to say, comments on blogs, forums, Twitter, etc don’t need to be edited. Also, pointing out grammatical errors to someone who hasn’t asked you to edit their words can come off rude and condescending even when you have the best of intentions.

    Even as I type this, I have to admit that will delete a Facebook or Twitter friend who constantly types in all caps or types something like “Dis is da bes nu car i ever had” on a regular basis. That’s just annoying.

  2. cathy ann sauer Avatar

    Deb, good post. This is a paranoia among writers, which is a good thing, but we can drive ourselves nutty. You’re right about being relaxed in certain situations. I am ruined for life looking for typos. I can’t sit in a restaurant without scanning the menu looking, looking… a hah! It’s a sickness. Have I done it? You betcha. Now that I’m blogging it’s worse. I proof backward and forward, just knowing something is lurking within the copy. As writers we should support one another. I suggest not calling each other out in public. If you see a blooper on a blog post, try to contact that person privately and say, “Hey, I think you missed this and thought you might want to fix.” As for proofing comments? Fogetaboutit.

  3. lornadoone Avatar

    I agree for the most part, but I will admit that when I see writers who constantly use improper grammar, I actually get a little offended for some reason. There is most definitely a difference between typos and just not knowing how to do things the right way. Both are forgivable, but the latter might make me take you less seriously as a supposed “writer.” But then again, I’m a snob like that. 😉

  4. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

    I get that once in awhile, mostly jokingly from friends.

    Friend: You’re a professional writer and you said “your” instead of “you’re.”
    Me: When you start paying me to write on your Facebook wall, I’ll start painstakingly proofreading my comments.

    That’s meant as a joke, and is taken as such, but if I started policing my every online interaction I would never have time to make any money!
    .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..My Best Advice to New Freelance Writers =-.

  5. Kate Lister Avatar

    Wow. Thanks for saying that Deb. I possess over typo, grammos, etc. Yet, I agree, not every communication requires the same level of diligence. People who love to point out your typos just have to get over themselves. If they were busier making money, they wouldn’t have the time to criticize those of us who are.
    .-= Kate Lister´s last blog ..• New Business Evaluation 101 =-.

  6. Caterina N Avatar
    Caterina N

    I agree with lornadoone about people who consistently mess up on grammar – I can’t help thinking it’s their way of saying the conversation isn’t important to them… I think anyone writing on social networks should at least be held to the standards we’d hold him/her to in oral conversation – problem is that the act of typing creates LOTS of opportunities for errors that don’t exist in normal speech.

    I’ve occasionally read emails I’ve sent and been mortified by the grammatical or spelling errors I’ve committed – probably a function of having written for lawyers for 20 years.

    By the way, Deb, you misspelled journalist. (Sorry, reflex on my part, since I’m both a copy editor and a writer.) Was that intentional?

  7. Leah McClellan Avatar

    lol I wrote something very similar a few weeks ago after seeing someone apologizing for really minor errors–and it wasn’t a writer, I don’t thing <<—leaving that for effect 🙂 At least the blog wasn't about writing.

    Personally, I extend the forgiveness to grammar as well. I mean, a misplaced modifier or two or some sort of subject-verb agreement thing, I mean, really no biggy. As long as I can understand someone I don't care 🙂

    I find that when I'm in a hurry or tired, I tend to just fling out phonetic spellings so, even though I've harped in classrooms about they're, their, and there and to, too, and two and hear and here and all that, that's a different situation. Forums, Facebook, blog comments…no biggy.

    Just don't do double negatives around when you're talking!
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..How to make your blog pay the bills with Leo Babauta =-.

    1. Leah McClellan Avatar

      OMG I left out a word in my last sentence! Should have been Just don’t do double negatives around ME when you’re talking!

      Oh my I’m mortified lmao

      🙂 (no I’m tired, time to go to bed 🙂
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..How to make your blog pay the bills with Leo Babauta =-.

  8. Andy Hayes Avatar

    I make typos on a regular basis, and yes I have a loyal following of haters who like to call me out on it.

    These are the same people who really don’t appreciate the fact that they’re getting served up plates of fresh content on a daily basis.

    My regular readers, who comment on the stories and experiences, not the occasional typo? They don’t care.

    Guess who I am worried about? Not the haters, for sure.
    .-= Andy Hayes´s last blog ..Bath: England’s Loveliest Town? =-.

  9. Tracy Avatar

    I agree with Caterina N.

    When people don’t take the time to give their communication a once-over, I think they don’t care. What else don’t they care about/ pay attention to/ do because it’s right not because it’s required…

    I care about my public face; FB, twitter, blog comments, they are all about who I am to the world. Shouldn’t I care enough to spell the very best?

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