On-line Typos Cost Millions

Is it mispelling or misspelling?  You’re, your, yore, or yer?  There, their, or they’re?  I point out writing errors when I grade, but many students shrug off my corrections with, “Oh, it’s a harmless little typo.”

I require written work by students in every course I teach, and have for many years.  I don’t recall ever getting a clean manuscript.  Errors abound, each provoking a physiological or emotional response within me.  Students have turned in papers with so many typos that I am medicated for high blood pressure.

Students don’t seem to realize that collegiate writing assignments are opportunities for learning to write for life.  Instead, many think that writing assignments are intended by the professor to inflict needless inconvenience and annoyance.  Being marked down for typos is unfair, because they are too insignificant to matter.

Virginia Heffernan, a columnist to the Opinionator blog at the New York Times, disagrees.  On Sunday, July 17, she blogged about, “The Price of Typos.”  We won’t tell her about the typo in her title.  Having a doctorate in English instead of accounting, she doesn’t seem to realize that cost would have been the correct term to use.

Rushing to publish and overlooking glaring typos may have become part of the new economics of traditional publishing. But on the Web, typos sometimes come with a price. “Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales,” said a BBC headline last week. The article cited an analysis of British Web figures that suggested that a single spelling mistake on an e-commerce site can hurt credibility so much that online revenues fall by half.

While the idea that sloppy spelling can sink whole businesses seems far-fetched, even casual bloggers recognize the imperative to spell well online. This is because search engines look for strings of characters in sequence, and if your site has misspellings, Google is less likely to list it at the top of search results. With misspellings, according to the tech site Geekosystem, “You aren’t going to get nearly as many hits as you deserve.” The imperative to spell correctly on the Web, and attract Google attention, means that even the lowliest content farmer will know that it’s i-before-e in “Bieber.”

Although good writing is important for professionals, it cannot take place without an error-free foundation.

by David Albrecht

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