Do typos matter? How about grammar errors?

Suppose you are a young adult looking for someone to rent a bedroom in your house or apartment.  You receive the following email:

Hey! My name is Pat and I’m interested in sharing a house with other students who are serious abuot there schoolwork but who also know how to relax and have fun. I like to play tennis and love old school rap. If your someone who likes that kind of thing too, maybe we would mkae good housemates.

Would you rent to this person?

According to the University of Michigan, which studied how volunteers responded to such inquiries, emails containing typos and grammar errors lowered the chances of a prospective housemate. Typos had a more negative effect than grammar errors.

Moreover, researchers found that extroverts reading the emails were more likely to ignore typos and grammar mistakes when deciding whether to rent, while introverts were more likely to judge the prospective renter negatively.

So what?  How does this research affect you and me?

  • Typos can usually be found with spell-check. A writer who doesn’t bother to change typos might be judged lazy or not careful.
  • Grammar errors can be harder to detect and so might be excused. On the other hand, knowing how to spell “their” and “you’re” correctly is an elementary school skill.  Adults are expected to know these grammar skills.
  • Your response to typos and grammar errors says a lot about you. Does your skin crawl when you receive an email which contains errors from a friend?  Do you judge that person based on such errors?  Should you?

Years ago, before spell-check and even word processors, I had a job requiring me to proofread a weekly newspaper before it was printed.  One day a highly respected man in our community let me know he had found an error in the latest issue, an error I had not detected.  I could see that this man no longer held me in the same esteem as before.

You never know who will be reading your writing or what impact your writing could have on your future.  If your emails are error-free, people are not likely to notice that.  It’s expected.  But if your emails contain errors, that will be noticed.  And even though polite people might never tell you, some could hold those errors against you.

For more information on the U of M study, go to http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.014988.

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