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Avoiding Epic Typos

Even John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, admits to a few typos in his prose. Here’s how to avoid these simple yet deadly writing mistakes.

Even John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, admits to a few typos in his prose. Here’s how to avoid these simple yet deadly writing mistakes.

Disclaimer: No one is perfect. In fact, there may be a typo in this post — though, I swear I triple-checked.

The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Developed by a public vote of PR professionals, I believe the key phrase in this definition is “strategic communication.”

After all, in public relations, every single word matters because each is included to formulate a strategic message intended for a specific audience. So, a typo can make the difference between a negative or positive response.

The Fault In Our Stars

John and Hank Green at VidCon 2012. Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

The Fault In Our Stars Author Has Done It

As I mentioned, no one is perfect. Even John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, calls out a typo in his book, along with the “5 Worst Typos of History,” which includes examples from the U.S. Constitution and the Bible. These examples are epic, but the list doesn’t end there. Typographical errors and mispelled misspelled words are far too often the cause of massive PR screw-ups.

You may recall when JCPenney tweeted typos during the 2014 Super Bowl. Was it a genius move or loss of credibility? Many viewers’ first reaction was that the handle owner was drunk. Even though the goal of the planned tweets was to launch JCPenney’s #TweetingWithMittens campaign, many think that the PR stunt was a PR fail.

The Fault In Our Stars

Avoid Making Costly Typos

According to WIRED, we don’t see our own typos because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads. But typos or misspelled words can lead to a loss in quality, clarity, credibility, respect and readers’ attention.

You may not realize it, but one wrong word can change the meaning of your message.  And in the end, it could cost you big time. Whether it’s a detailed press release or a simple post to social media, try to avoid typos by following these tips:

  • Believe that “i” usually comes before “e” except after “c.”
  • Let your drafts sit overnight before finalizing them. Rereading, over time, helps you spot errors you can’t see as you’re writing.
  • Spell check won’t always catch errors, especially if it’s a usage error such as the difference between “premier” and “premiere.” And, yes, there is a big difference.
  • Writers should read through their content twice — once for spelling and grammar, and a second time for context and structure.
  • Quick and Dirty Tips is a free, condensed version of the AP Style Guide, with guidelines for grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage.
  • Familiarize yourself with “The 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English” because practice makes purrfact perfect!

Whether it’s the unnecessary apostrophe e.g., “restroom’s,” the missing apostrophe e.g., “mens room,” or it’s the difference between “you’re” and “your,” don’t let typos get in the way of the message. PR is a strategic communication process that requires attention to detail in order to successfully tell a story.

So, what do you think? Are you tormented by typos or mastering the message? Take this test to see if you’re a PR pro or among the word crime perpetrators.

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