Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Do the Little Things in Life (Like Typos) Really Matter?

TyposLast night, I signed in to Facebook to see this hilarious, but serious, advertisement in my feed.

Under the image, there was a debate about whether or not we should care about “little things” like typos.

One group of people said they didn’t mind the typo and that it wouldn’t affect their purchasing decisions. And the other (of which I was a part) was outraged.

The person responsible for the ad said he was aware of the typo (there are actually two — bonus points if you can find them both), but it would take 10 minutes to fix. So he wasn’t going to bother. Plus, the ad was converting just fine — no need to change a thing, he said.

This raises an important question: What really matters?

  • Do typos matter?
  • Does doing your best work, even when no one notices, matter?
  • Does the work you do in the dark that you may never get credit for matter? (You can see where I’m going with this.)

Here’s the truth: If what you do is merely a means to an end, then how you work is irrelevant. All that matters is the outcome. But maybe that’s not all there is to consider.

If you steal a scene from a movie for your memoir, it doesn’t matter that it didn’t happen, does it? What matters is whether or not the book sells… right?

If you beat and shame your kids into compliance — and as a result, they become well behaved — then you’re in the clear. You’re an “effective” parent… aren’t you?

And if the way you sell stuff to your audience insults their intelligence but allows you to meet your bottom line, don’t worry about “little things” like trust and permission. After all, this is marketing, not English class… so who cares?

Certainly, there are successes to be made with this kind of thinking, but there’s also a cost. And for those of us who care, who believe how we do something is as important as what we do, it may not be worth paying. (I personally don’t think it is.)

The alternative is to care about everything, which is hard (but important).

It requires the audacious belief that everything we do matters, even the little things like watching typos and paying our taxes and not cheating our employers out of a few hours of work.

And who has time to worry about those things? We’ve got stuff to sell… right?

What do you think? Share in the comments.

For what it’s worth: If you want to build a platform, the little (but intentional) things are what matter most. Success, in my experience, is more about habits than big breaks. I talk more about that in this interview.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

Ever Wonder If Your Blog Post Is Good Enough?

We built a free tool so you don’t have to worry about that ever again.

1. Pick your goal of the post
2. Answer 5 basic questions
3. It tells you if it’s good enough and how to make it better

Click here to use the tool.

  • My own typos drive me insane. I probably have more grace toward others, but if it’s selling a product, it makes me wonder about the quality of the product.

    • I agree.

    • Agreed. Same goes for book covers.

      • Sam Edge (Notes from the Edge)

        As a dyslexic writer this is a sensitive issue. i have worked very hard to overcome my typo prone prose spelling errors. 

  • Interesting Jeff. I think I lie somewhere in-between.  There are times that small things will matter greatly. Like when you’re beginning a new routine. It’s all about the small things that lead to great results.

    But then there’s the times you’re using the small imperfections as an excuse not to ship. Telling yourself it’s not perfect so it should not be released until it is.

    It all depends on where you’re at and the reason for the small things.

    • I learned early on from Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, and Jeff to ship – but typos still drive me nuts!

      • Haha, true but typos are easy to fix. It’s amazing this guy is unwilling to correct the issue. 

        •  I think you hit the nail on the head, Joe. If it’s easy to fix, fix-it.

          • It is surprising that he’s unwilling to change the typo – but I’m not surprised that it isn’t drastically affecting sales.  The kind of demo that will respond to that ad probably isn’t as critical as Jeff Goins’ demo (which reads his posts thoroughly and will probably be on average – better educated).

            Read an interesting article about how spam emailers intentionally create ridiculous stories about Prince’s from Nigeria because it helps weed out the more educated recipients.  The less “smart replies” they have to go through, the more efficient their strategy to fool the stupid ones.  

            It goes to show that “stupid marketing” will still reach “stupid demographics,” and will still convert.  So perhaps if this guy is on a pay-per-click set-up, the typo actually serves him more efficiently.

        • I agree!

    • So the question is: Should the marketer have shipped this ad?

      • Good question Jeff. I wouldn’t have but even with the error, it sounds like his customers don’t care about it.

  • I lie somewhere between the two too. I let some things slide, because sometimes done is good enough, but other times I take things more seriously. This kind of typo would make me question the credibility of the advertisment though. If you’re serious about your business and want to attract customers, you proofread.

  • Great thoughts Jeff! Everything we do does matter – an important discipline is to do the hard work of setting priorities for life and work. Otherwise we’d go crazy trying to keep up with “everything”.

  • Mark Blasini

    I think you’re asking the wrong question.  The real question is not whether the little things matter, but whether or not you can take responsibility for the things you do.  Most people try to excuse themselves from editing and proofreading (e.g. takes too much time to correct everything), instead of taking responsibility for not doing it properly.  

    Hemingway has a great quote on ethics and responsibility, one that I try to look up to in my own life: “What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”  If it’s a loss that you’re willing to take, and that you don’t think you’ll feel bad after, then I don’t think it’s an issue.  But if it is something you think you’ll feel bad after, then you should change it.

    You just need to take the time to think about it.

    • Interesting, Mark. I appreciate your perspective.

  • I agree with the other posters that seeing that typo would have me questioning the credibility of the person selling whatever product they’re trying to sell.

    I’ve had this argument multiple times with different people. While being absolutely perfect is pretty much unattainable, shouldn’t you try to put your best work out there? Shouldn’t you try to make yourself look as credible as possible? Isn’t ten minutes of fixing something worth the extra person or two (or more) that would click on the advertisement?

  • Personally, I believe it’s best to always avoid hypos and use proper grammar.  We should always be alert concerning the quality of our own wart.  

    But on the other hand, if one occasionally slips through, I don’t think we should be ultra hard on ourselves and we should be forgiving to others when it happens.  If I catch my own errors I usually take the time to fix them.  

    We should always aim for professionalism, but not be uptight about the occasional mistake.  After all, we’re only humus.  ; )

  • I had this computer teacher in high school who would stand over my shoulder and point out every mistake. Not only did it drive me nuts, but it stifled the learning process. Finally, I told her, “If you really want me to learn how to type, then I can’t be stopping every 10 seconds to fix this stuff. I’ll fix these later.” She stopped hovering over my shoulder, and I became a better typist.

    It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my mistakes; I just knew a hyper-awareness of them would cripple me. However,  if I never corrected them, I’d never improve my craft. It’s about putting all this in the right order. Write with abandon – edit with precision and care.

  • poohhodges

    Everything matters. I have to write my best work every time I dictate to my typist. Thank you Mr. Goins for an excellent reminder to make sure my staff use spell check. 

  • Sometimes an errant typo can bring lots of attention, especially when a high traffic blogger picks it up and makes a point of it… Hmmm, how do you get automated traffic?? 🙂

  • Jamie Alexander

    Caring about the little things holds people back, or it does with me.

    They don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things and the outcome is all that matters.

    There will always be exceptions and that’s just a basic explanation.

    • Hmmm…. I think I disagree.

    • I feel like the best things in life are little.

  • Personally, I believe that in advertising there should be no excuse for typos. How can you trust a company that can’t even proof a short ad? Furthermore, even if it was purposefully done as a gimmick, it diminishes credibility. 

  • Personally, I believe that in advertising there should be no excuse for typos. How can you trust a company that can’t even proof a short ad? Furthermore, even if it was purposefully done as a gimmick, it diminishes credibility. 

    • agreed. if the ad has typos, there are probably other errors in the product. (in the case of this ad, the same kind of errors were on the landing page and probably in the program the person was selling, too. for me, i would just find that distracting.)

  • Typos is a small matter, then let’s say… exploiting people to meet your bottom line or shaming your kids into submission. I think as with everything in life, there are levels and degrees.

    • That’s fair. Of course, those latter examples are extremes. But I think they’re all gradations of the same kind of thinking, which is essentially this: The end justifies the means.

  • Just the fact that people were debating the typo in the comments, shows that it matters. It’s distracting. 

    I’ve also heard of writers say that they’ll self-publish a book, and not worry about typos because the point is to publish something – to say you did it. I don’t agree with that reasoning at all but to each his own, I guess. I think it’s a little insulting to the muse. Kill your darlings and fix it till it does her justice. But, that’s just me.

    I like how you wrote this post, Jeff. You clearly have a definite opinion on the subject and that’s way better than being lukewarm or neutral about it.

    • I agree with you, Denise. This is the difference between mediocrity.

  • Ryan Haack

    There are actually two typos.

  • As a former full-time copy editor, who was paid to care about typos … I love your point of view! Yes, the little things add up. You publish a book full of typos, your credibility automatically diminishes. 

  • Tom

    Great post Jeff and thanks for linking the interview!

    I try to make my work perfect, but I’d much rather produce something short of perfect than produce nothing for fear of making a mistake.

  • I like to catch typos in my writing before I publish my blog. I think it is even more serious for book writing. If I want someone to take my books seriously then I’m not going to have typos.

    Now as a reader, I try to be pretty understanding when I see typos. I don’t usually mention them unless I know the person would want me to and even then it would be privately by email if possible. Because I do make mistakes on my blog and that would be the common courtesy that I hope my readers would have for me.

  • Jessica

    He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much… – Luke 16:10

    And there’s also a difference between being a perfectionist and just being faithful in the small stuff.

  • This could be one of my favorite things you’ve written and perhaps it is because this topic was on my mind just a few hours ago. I am a frequent reader of an on-line magazine where I have friends who are writers and lately, every time I go there to read an article, there are several glaring typos and grammatical errors by the very people who founded the magazine. Even though I believe in the vision of the magazine, it is making me not want to go there anymore. Once or twice, maybe I can overlook it. But when it happens every time, it does matter, even typos matter. I sometimes don’t like that about myself. How I expect excellence in whatever I do because it can be exhausting but you’ve restored my reason for doing things this way. Thank you. 

    • Thanks, Shelly. I just whipped it together before going to bed last night. But you better believe I double-checked to make sure there were no typos. Hope I didn’t miss any!

    • Lynn

       I agree! Using good grammar and punctuation isn’t about what others call “perfectionism”. I think they term it that in order to make it look negative.

  • Typos absolutely matter! As a former typesetter and now desktop publisher, typos can cost a company a LOT of money and create lots of ill will. Typos are my weakness and I’ve suffered many a time because of the little buggers!

    That typo in that ad really annoyed me and the fact that the guy wouldn’t even bother to fix it annoyed me more. It said to me that he didn’t care about me as a customer and I know I’m not the only one. The little things truly DO matter.

    • I appreciate this perspective, Susan.

  • My own method of handling the whole “devil is in the details” thing is to try to strike a happy medium, but it is sometimes difficult to find that dividing line between what’s personally acceptable and what’s not. I have often fallen prey to the “paralysis by analysis” paradigm – so I’m trying to act more decisively. I recently read a Jack Canfield quote: “99% is a bitch, but 100% is a breeze”. The point being that if you accept nothing less than 100%, you don’t have to keep revisiting the issue. I think this works well for the bigger picture, but for the littler things – I guess I’ll keep revisiting. I’ll view it as part of the admission price of being human.

  • Excellent point, Jeff! I recently finished reading a book call “The Speed of Trust” explaining the absolute necessity of trust, personally and professionally. Details matter because trust matters. 

  • Tatumlight

    As a Christian writer, I am called to do my best work: “Serve as if you were serving the Lord, not men…” [Ephesians 6:7]. That means typos, misspellings, and incomplete or confusing sentences all reflect my poor attitude toward my work AS WELL AS to Christ! I am also a middle school language arts teacher; I’d be embarrassed for them to catch errors in my writing.

    • Jessica


  • I think it matters in the long run.  Like you said what kind of reputation do you want?  One of excellent work or short term sales success?

  • I don’t know why grammar, spelling and typos bother me but they do–and they bother other people.  IMO, if one wants to sel something, one wants to appeal to everyone who’s a possible customer and that includes us fanatics.

  • My perception might be more skewed because my background involves writing computer code as well. A typo often means the whole thing doesn’t work.

    When I see a typo, it means to me that either they do not have the skill to present their output correctly or did not have the time/desire to put forth effort. It really depends on the context, though. I thought about typos on menus : I think it would be more reasonable to forgive a typo on a laminated menu at a mom-and-pop place than one with four-stars and white tablecloths.

  • Ashleigh D

    I think there are times when you don’t need to worry about EVERY detail, but writing, spelling, and grammar are areas where you should worry about the details. If I see an advertisement with a typo, I wonder why I should spend time looking at their products if they can’t even spend a few minutes to make sure their ad is typo-free. I understand that typos in emails or a blog post will happen – we are all humans. But, in an advertisement, you should have several people check it out because it probably has a long shelf life. 

  • Pattie

    I’m an English teacher. Grammar and punctuation matter.

  • Rockin-Redhead

    With regard to writing, it is best to err on the side of “typo-free”.  Since it does bother a large portion of an audience (me included), and won’t offend the other group that doesn’t mind , then it makes sense that taking 10 minutes to correct the error would be well worth it.

    My biggest concern is that I typed this quickly and there will likely be a typo!  🙂

  • Just last week, I saw an inspirational poster created by an author on Facebook. It began to make its rounds and I spotted the same thing you did in that FB ad: an apostrophe “s” for a plural. It irritated me so much, I wrote a blog post about it! https://janetboyer.typepad.com/blog/2013/01/plural-s-vs-possessive-s.html 

    I absolutely judge individuals by their grammar, but I think that may be a mistake. Why? Well, for one, I have severe tendinitis and carpal tunnel. Sometimes, I make typos (especially if I’m typing in my Kindle) and it has NOTHING to do with my grammar capabilities and EVERYTHING to do with my numb hands.  

    Thus, with all due respect, I don’t think typos and grammar are on the same level as honesty, integrity, conformity, appearance and the other “desirable” traits you highlighted here. And, we can only know the intent and attitude of a writer–not to mention the reason for a mistake–unless we ask them. 

    Assume the best is a good policy, especially in this era of internet cynicism and hostile groupthink. :o)

  • Since I do work as a copyeditor, I’m ashamed when I find typos in my own work and always correct them when I have the capabilities to do so. Yet, as a copyeditor, I understand how some typos slip through no matter how carefully or how many times you reread. I will admit that if I see a typo like you showed above, I question the quality of the product. In fact, anything littered with typos is tagged as spam in my head.

  • deairby

    I always say, “Excellence is in the details.”

  • So funny that you posted this today because exactly a week ago – I announced the publication of my novel, Playing Along. I sent out an email to hundreds of contacts, and it was bursting forth with little sneaky errors that my spellcheck (for some reason) decided not to alert me to, and my excited mind just didn’t catch them. 

    Of course a few concerned friends began responding immediately pointing out the typos and I was mortified!! The irony of trying to sell my self as a professional while sending out such a scrappy email. But it was a good lesson in ‘letting go’! I resent the email with a funny disclaimer and I’ve sold 180 copies in a week – so it didn’t hurt me too much! It happens to the best of us – especially that pesky apostrophe. I guess it’s one of the perils of being so reliant on our technology – we forget that spellcheck will not always have our backs. But then again – we are human (thankfully) – and a typo here and there confirms that!

    • Agreed, Rory. There are typos in things I have written. We are not perfect. But if I knew about a typo, you’d better know I’d correct it (if I could). That’s what I find disturbing about this: the person wasn’t willing to amend the error after he found out about it. That speaks volumes to me.

  • Bcanndid

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Errors have been on the rise for years now — I see them in advertising copy, and even in televised news tags and crawlers.  I believe there’s a twofold element of blame, partly due to the lack of that ‘dreaded’ year of grammar in junior/middle school and partly due to all the ‘text-speak’ seemingly employed everywhere whether there’s a character limitation or not.   We’re becoming so lazy in our language, it makes me wonder if the fundamentals are being taught anymore. 

    The occasional misspelling and transposition of a couple letters don’t really bother me, it’s the infernal mishandling of  ‘s and your/you’re — they drive me to the brink!  I am so glad to know I’m not the only one who sees this as sloppy, especially when it’s coming from someone classified as a professional.

    • Bcanndid

       OH!  And please — for any teachers who read my initial comment…..I am NOT berating you for I have teachers in my family and I know the passion and commitment you have.  I am speaking of our educational system itself that no longer seems to feel language fundamentals are important.

  • For me, that typo is maddening. I see a lot of typographical errors, lazy diction, and too many errors in grammar and syntax to count. They all annoy me, although I can overlook the occasional error in a work whose quality tells me the error is simply human fallibility. It absolutely baffles me how books published by traditional houses appear with so many errors. Do they not have editors anymore? I have learned that if I want to read, I must tolerate these errors.
    I hate hearing errrors in diction, grammar and syntax when speakers on radio and television are reading announcements and news, too. Of course, I make a lot of errors myself. I can’t afford an editor for my blog or my comments. As a consequence I publish errors. Unfortunately, when I read what I write, I know exactly what I meant. Interstingly, however, I find that when I change formats, errors that were hiding simply jump up and grab me. I sometimes write using Scrivener. I am trying to learn that tool. As soon as I put my work into Word, errors pop out. As soon as I copy a Word document into WordPress or into Yahoo content, new errors appear. When I click “preview” I discover more. The change in contrast and font or even font size shows me more and more errors.
    At some point I must go ahead and publish. I try to be diligent and careful, but more than once I have discovered an error in a post weeks after I posted it. I think we all have to do the best we can, which brings me back to your example. The typographical error is silly and looks childish, but I know very well that it could happen to anyone. What fries my grits (talk about lazy diction) is that the perpetrator did not think it was worth fixing when it was called to his attention. I can forgive anyone for making an error. I am completely baffled when a professional doesn’t have ten minutes to correct an error. Talk about lazy! I hope not to be guilty of such carelessness myself. I think I owe my readers more respect than that.

  • There are two things that I find disturbing in this example. The first one is the location of the mistake. An advertisement is a company’s “front door.” It sets the impression of the place. The first impression that I get from this company, due to its ad, is that it doesn’t know grammar at all. That makes me question its educational level. If the company doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe, does it really know anything about increasing traffic? Also, under location, in this ad, there are 13 words and two major mistakes. If these mistakes are in a book of 100,000 words, I wouldn’t care as much. 

    But what I think most disturbing is the attitude of the company. They admitted that “Yes, we know, but it takes too long to fix.” To me, that shows a lack of excellence within their work. If I did this, I’d die of embarrassment and have the graphic down as soon as I found out my mistakes. 10 minutes is not too long to ensure my company’s reputation.

    • I like the point that the density of errors makes a mistake (i.e. 2/13 is a lot!). Thanks Vicki.

  • Kathleen

    I’m with you, Bcanndid, regarding “the infernal mishandling of  ‘s and your/you’re.” And like Katie, I discredit the product being advertised if I see typos in the ad. 
    Sometimes I’m tempted to make a collection of ads with errors, but then I tell myself it’s better to spend the time trying to perfect my own stuff.  Still — if I did have a collection, this one would be a real keeper. TWO typos in TWELVE words?  Amazing.
    I hope this example makes me a better editor of my own writing.

  • David Biddle

    It is all about whether you are a pro or not.

  • How sad this person does not get the importance of the First Impression. Yet this attitude has its fans for sure. For me, the issue is respect. Do you respect your audience or not?

  • Pearannoyed

    It matters. Of course it matters. And a company that can’t take 10 minutes to fix an egregious error in a public advertisement is taking a risk. Whether or not I would use that company’s products or services would depend more on the kind of products and services they’re offering. If they’re selling a specific product that I couldn’t get elsewhere or a specialty service I could still comfortably buy from them. If, however, they were selling some kind of intellectual service or anything where spelling and grammar count – proofreading, accounting, legal advice, tattoos that contain words – I would have to look elsewhere.

    Here’s the thing – typos and mistakes happen to all of us. It’s important to judge the error in context. Fix what’s reasonable to fix. Don’t be overly harsh when it’s not important.

  • Rose-Marie

    Sloppy is as sloppy does, and I’m sure not going to entrust my business to someone who doesn’t show an effort to make a good first impression. Maybe they wouldn’t really leave me stranded with sloppy goods or services, but the odds are not stacked favorably. After all, TWO typos in one headline is incredibly sloppy, and an unwillingness to spend ten minutes after it is brought to the author’s attention bodes poorly for any kind of quality follow-through later.

  • Timothy Rash

    I really think you need to put forth your best work. Ulitmately this will help you achieve your goals faster. But certainly there are times when correcting a punctuation mistake is not worth it. In the case of this ad, where it would have only taken ten minutes, the mistake should have been corrected.

  • Somehow, when I’m really in a mad mood, I’d say, I don’t care and the outcome is all that counts. But when I’m my usual self, I realise that I don’t simply want to be a mere seller… I want to be more than that. I want to be someone. And to be someone is to reach out to the public and give them a hand, please them because it pleases you, do everything for them to be satisfied of your writing… Because I care about my readers and I wouldn’t do anything to outrage them. A 10 mins typo: well I’ll correct it! 

  • Professor Henry

    One of my favorite writers instructional books (a series) is filled with typos, each one a speed bump. If I had not heard great things about this series from a friend, I probably would not have purchased more than the first one. Small things can change everything.

  • Patricia Olson

    Yes, little things matter. Even though we aren’t supposed to sweat the small stuff, it is the small stuff that makes us who we are. That’s where trust is built.

  • HBR agrees with you – https://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/i_wont_hire_people_who_use_poo.html

    • I like the URL for that: “I won’t hire people who use poo…” Hah! 🙂

      • Not only is that funny, it is a good business practice. 

        • I noticed that too. I figured he was trying to multitask. 

  • As a consumer, the little things matter a lot. I want to tip the waitress or waiter, who serves me with a big smile and keeps me in their mind as they pass to see if I need anything, well. If I get a big smile and a thank you from the cashier at a store, they will see me again.

    As a writer, cake decorator and mother, the little things mean a lot. I want to see the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, as well as all the roses in the right place on the cake.

    Little things mean a lot.

  • Mollianne

    I’m searching for excellence. Searching to observe it across different venues and professions. Searching to see it, recognize it and then emulate it. The typo bothers me. I believe if we attend to the little things in life the bigger things will work themselves out. 

    • Melanie Fischer

      My Grandmother used to always say “take care of your
      pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves”. Mollianne, I like
      how you have a similar motto that relates to life in general.

  • K A Unsworth

    Oh boy does it matter, when I discover I have a type error it eats away at me until I fix it. I feel like if it were one of my paintings it would look like a giant dob of the wrong colour paint has just ruined my masterpiece. We need to care I am happy when other people inform me of my mistakes, we all make them.

  • Wow. Yikes. Yeah, I’m pretty much at a loss.

    I did notice the typos (both; I’ve got an eagle eye for mistakes in everybody’s work but my own apparently.). Typos and grammatical errors grate on my nerves to a ridiculous extent, but since I’m also prone to making those same mistakes, I keep my initial urge to shake the messer-upper like a ragdoll under wraps (a strait jacket). Nobody’s perfect. Just gotta keep on trying.

    Good eye opener, Jeff, as usual. 🙂

  • Kent Faver

    I’ve been burned by dessert twice in the past 6 months.  Doh!!  Yeah, I said desert and didn’t think a thing about it!  Fortunately it was on fb and not one of my websites.

  • Typos make me nuts when I see them (especially from a book by a big name author) but I still make them. Luckily I have a grandma who loves to email and let me know 🙂
    I think the small things do matter. When I miss them out of passion, it is one thing. Laziness is another. Small things in life all add up to what really matters

  • James Frost

    Yes, they matter. If you think not, read something you wrote over a month ago but didn’t edit. If you’re like me, if your fingers are in a different gear than your brain, you’ll find enough to embarrass you, enough to convince you that “its” and “it’s” do matter.

  • Anyone can make a typo or grammatical error. It happens. What I can’t believe is that when the author of the ad realized his mistakes, he did not feel the need to correct them!

    I constantly tell my kids to do everything to the best of their ability, even if it is something that does not matter or something that they don’t like. Everything we create is a relection of ourselves so why would we not make it the best that we possibly can?

  • I think typos do matter. You’re and your, it’s and its, plurals and possessives: these are things taught in elementary school! Typos in text messages and on Facebook are one thing, but a blogger who seeks anything more than keeping a diary, for instance, really ought to write using proper grammar and spelling. Great post, Jeff.

  • Demian Farnworth

    How many typos are we talking about? Two in a decent 1,600 word essay? Ten, eh, maybe. One hundred, absolutely not. The people who think two are inexcusable are nuts. They’ve gotten lost in the trees and are missing the forest. 

    • right. good point. i agree with that. someone else made that point. it depends on the density of mistakes.

  • As I read this I laughed and thought; “I wish my time were so incredibly valuable I couldn’t give ten minutes to edit a mistake.” The individual who made the mistake must have a very high standard for what he spends his time on. 😉

  • Demian Farnworth

    I’ll also argue that utility alone is a bad way to justify doing something.  Your abusive parent troll comment leads me to believe you don’t believe this, though. 🙂 

  • Yes, typos matter, and yes, we all make them. Most of us cringe when we see them later because we care about what we are doing and we want to do it right. Not caring about typos is equivalent to saying that you don’t care about your work. If you don’t care about your work, you probably don’t care about your clients, customers, etc. 

  • I think whether he meant for it or not, he’s getting some great exposure. Some good, some bad but people are talking about it which will lead to conversions. Interesting

    • hmmm…

    • When I worked for an ad agency a while back, one of our clients intentionally ran a full page ad filled with typos in a regional magazine. Headline, etc was all jacked up. End result, they received more attention off that ad than anything they had done previously. Do the ends justify the means? In this case, perhaps… since it was a college promoting an English  course. : )

  • disorganised

    As a very junior apprentice, one of my tasks was to stencil office notices by hand.  Obviously a long time ago in a departed era.  Occasionally, I would make a small spelling error and depending on whether or not I; or my supervisor: noticed this error, the notice would either be scrapped or posted.  I discovered that the notices which contained spelling errors and had slipped through the approval process and were actually posted, were read by everyone in the building. 

    While I am of an age where correct spelling is a must, I suspect that the occasional “typo” can be an effective tool to draw attention to an article and will also help in passing the article round when one reader says to one of his/her friends, “Did you read this?”

    However, the “typo” should be used very sparingly if one is going to use it as tool.

    Inability to spell correctly is of coarse another question alltogether.


    • love the subtlety of this.

    • adm123

      Of coarse it is.

  • disorganised

    One also has to be aware of the differences between written English and written American English.

  • DS

    I think it’s begging the answer a bit.  Of course it’s worth it to pursue excellence and doing it the right way.  That’s why the public and media have been outraged over lending practices, and legislative maneuvering.  People still want high quality and high ethics. 

  • Kay Thornton

    I am about to release a cartoon book (Funny Horse Cartoons) and have released bits and pieces on Facebook.   I have decided to mostly go with American spelling just because most of my audience is American (I’m Australian and we spell like the English), but this of course outrages my English and Australian audiences!  The dilemma!

  • adm123

    This simply serves as a reminder that small details are a big deal…
    and can make the difference between something normal, regular, and
    expected… v. something memorable and extraordinary.

    I still so
    well remember the small pieces of candy at our bedside on one of our
    first wedding anniversary escapades at a classy bed and breakfast. What
    was the cost for the chocolate? Maybe 5 bucks. Maybe less. Do I remember
    it? Actually, it made enough of an impact that I am writing about it

    It helped round out the ‘experience.’

    SMALL details do matter. A few letters misplaced do matter.

    amazing the importance of each little letter. How well I remember when I
    worked at a printing company and a book or other printing project was
    printed, bound and completed… only to discover that ONE letter was


  • Meg R

    “If I take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves”.  That is what your blog reminded me of; its very good to have such an example of other ways of seeing this adage.  

  • How you get things done really, really matter. I don’t believe for one second that the end justifies the means. You may think you’re cheating people, but who you’re cheating is yourself, your character. Your values. For each careless act, you hack away at the discipline instilled in you over time until one day nothing’s left and true value doesn’t matter to you anymore. It’s not just for the sake of the other person that you should maintain good values and intentions, but for yours as well.

  • I think it depends on the person in charge and/or the situation. Your example demonstrated a miniscule grammatical error. Yet for those who noticed, they immediately formed an opinion about the advertisement and the person who created it. The fact is, people will judge anything and everything. So the question is not so much does that little typo bother YOU, it has to do more with whether or not you will be bothered by other people ridiculing it and sharing it on the internet.  asateenwriter.blogspot.com

  • Hilarious thread!  I think we should care…but only upto a certain point. When we hide behind perfectionism and fail to ship, it’s a sad! 

  • fireflytrails

    Of course everything matters. BIG things and small things alike. Once you let go of worrying about small things, everything becomes a small thing. So then, what matters?
    And I believe there are two typos in the ad, right?

  • Tom Bentley

    Jeff, editing is part of the way I make a living, so I’m biased. But it is clear that seemingly trivial errors with your bean-based public declarations can make your audience think you don’t care beans about their sense of composition and expression. Those little things project an air of sloppiness or incompetence, which is a big thing. 

    Count those beans and make them add up…

  • Fully agree with the overall premise of this article. We
    should care (even if it’s details that others might not see so obviously).
    Details are often what sets us apart…. and, I might add, effective marketing
    is not one thing anyways… it’s hundreds of little things done well. 
    What I personally struggle with though is the spelling / grammar thing. I think
    there is a HUGE difference in intentionally cutting corners and cheating
    someone or the system versus making a simple error unintentionally. Grammar and
    spelling are not my strong points but effective marketing is. I’d choose
    shipping with a minor typo every day over not shipping. Does that mean I don’t care
    about the details? Absolutely not. It means that I know my weakness and even
    though I try to compensate for it, I will not let it stop me from moving
    forward (even if it riles up the grammar police every now and then). Almost
    every book that is published from a major publisher has many typos and they go
    through rounds of editorial reviews before they are printed. If they stopped
    shipping with every typo or if they recalled every copy printed after finding a
    typo, they’d never publish a book. For daily email, most social media posts,
    etc. I’m okay if a typo happens to slip in. There’s probably a few typos in
    this comment I am writing. : ) I try not to but when it happens I don’t sweat
    it, especially when typing from an iPad or mobile device. If it’s a bigger
    project or something with more life to it, then I run it by one of my excellent
    editors but even then… sometimes, despite the best efforts, errors still
    occur. For me, progress with the best intentions are what I am after. The
    intent of excellence but yet a knowing that perfection is a myth so I won’t let
    an irrational pursuit of it stop me.

    • Right. So here’s the question: Would you overlook an error if you knew better, because nobody seemed to care? If someone pointed out a mistake you’d made, would you keep going forward without any regard for correcting it? That’s what we’re talking about here.

      • I think that depends. If it were an easy fix, like a blog post, I would fix it instantly. If it were a FB image post that already had a lot of traction and in removing it I would lose all that traction… then it would depend on the severity of the typo.

  • In marketing, there should be no room for typos. In a 100,000 word novel, there’s a little wiggle room, but it’s probably at 0.01%. 

  • Asoden

    So good, and relevant. Funny too, as I found a small “typo” (aka missing word) in an electronic publication that went out this morning.
    In my eyes, it matters, it all matters. Not for perfections sake, but because when we give our best, our all, it provides a richer experience for those on the receiving end. And if they have a richer and fuller experience then it’s worth the extra “ten minutes”. 

    • Lucinda

      I hate finding those typos AFTER the fact!

  • S. Kim Henson

    Great question. I remember reading something similar to this years ago and it made such an impression. The writer asked if we’d return a shopping cart to its rightful place if no one was watching. Every time I shop, I think of that. And I always return my carts to where they’re supposed to be, even in the pouring rain, because I think it matters. Along with all the other little tiny details of life. 

    I believe life is a series of choices and every one of them adds up to a life well lived or not. 

  • I learned long ago that if seomthing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. My dad taught me that growing up. I also learned that it usually takes less time to do it right the first time, then have to redo it later. 

    The same thing applies here. You are building a brand. Not fixing typos (ESPECIALLY when you know they exist) demonstrates that you are lazy. I’m not going to trust you if I believe that. I call it the “clean bathroom theory”. I don’t care how clean the place looks where I’m eating, if the bathroom is dirty, I assume the whole place is nasty.

  • As a person who believes keyboards and pens misspell words not people, I too have to agree with you it’s an integrity issue. If no one ever knows you did something wrong its still wrong in secret just as it would be in the light. I run everything through multiple proof readers so if you see a mistake I’ve made it was truly in error not purposeful omission. Good insight, thanks, Tim

  • Really, the guy couldn’t spare ten minutes?

  • Of course the little things matter. For this guy, if he can’t pay close enough attention to details to A) not make that mistake in the first (I question his level of intellect) and B) not care about his own work, then why should I trust him with mine?

    I think you nailed it Jeff, as always. Details matter. We can’t get bogged down in the them, but they can have a significant impact on how effective we are. 

  • Ok, I was aghast at the above speech bubble.  So, for me, the little things matter, but mostly when it comes to grammar and punctuation.  I loved my scrapbooking company’s motto from a few years ago – “Done is better than perfect.”  Meaning – get the memories documented; don’t spend precious time on whether you should use the pink ribbon or the white.  So…I also have a foot in that camp.

    • Totally. I agree: “Done is better than perfect.” But if you CAN fix something that’s wrong, wouldn’t you want to? That’s my beef. Thanks for sharing, Beth. I think we agree with each other.

  • Lance

    Of course the details matter.  If a company isn’t going to get the small things right in an ad, why should I trust them to get the small things right in their product?

  • As one prone to perfectionism – which is a curse – I do believe the details matter. My challenge is to not lose the thought of what I’m writing as I attempt to edit the boo-boo’s in real time. I’m training myself to blurt it out while it’s fresh and go fix it later.

  • Oh the irony … I just received a confirmation email for a free snippet from a book and there is a typo in it …

  • Mgmichlein

    When I present something to the world outside of me, it is in my image and likeness. It is what I think, not only of myself, but the community to which I present it. It is “I” in relationship to the world. It demonstrates respect for those to whom I created it and to whom I presented it. The creation demonstrates the respect I have for myself. Whether it sells or not is of little import.Whether it represents me as I am, as I was created and create, as I discover truth and display it … is of utmost importance. The process is the “I”, the ego, the energy of the spirit that relates to the people and things in the world I have been given and shows the respect  I have (or not) for me and all outside of me. It matters.

  • I’m with King Solomon on this one… “There is a time for details, and there is a time for ditching the details”. 

    If you know something is wrong and can change it without hurting the mission, should you? Probably. 

    On the other hand, I see a lot of missions jeopardized by nit-picking when decisive, imperfect action is called for. 

    I once did a lead gen letter that pulled in a million bucks – but had two typos. I would have fixed them if I’d seen them. But neither I nor clients team caught them. Oops. 

    As someone who doesn’t even see those little details, some of my biggest failures have come from over-looking them. (My wife now catches them for me.)

    But I also see business teams get tied up in knots when the detail Nazi’s come out of the wood-work and swarm a new initiative like termites. What’s left often isn’t too appealing. 

    So, some times and situations call for the master craftsman. Others call for a maniac with a machete.  

    • ha! what translation is that?

    • Robert Stover

      The Stover Amplified Force-fit-your-conclusion version (SAFYCV).

      You should try it 🙂

  • To those who know better, sloppy spelling and mechanics often do raise a trust question. Those who don’t know better won’t care. Who is this guy trying to sell to? If he’s trying to sell to the group who doesn’t know better, and he has several other pressing concerns, ten minutes really might be better spent elsewhere. It’s hard to say without having all the facts. 

  • Margaret Feinberg

    We are only human, but we should take the time and effort to invest in our work. Makes for funny reading though. 

    • 🙂

    • Clearly, though, in this case the time and effort would have been wasted. The clue is in the “beans and rice budget”. The audience for this stuff is people who want low quality work, fast, and cheap. Not high-end contracts who’ll fuss about the quality and efficiency of the work.

      If anything, I actually think that improving the writing would reduce conversions. Why?It acts as a filter. Larger organisations and high quality writers will generally have a larger budget for this sort of thing than smaller/lower quality counterparts. They’ll also generally have a lower tolerance for other people’s mistakes, so they’ll see this and ignore it.

      So what happens next? Well, only the people who are going to be genuinely interested in the advertiser’s services are going to click the link. The idly curious looking to *maybe* shave a few dollars off their budget, who I suspect will convert poorly to what looks like a low quality and relatively ineffective service, are put off by the atrocious grammar. The desperate and those with no choice will click the link from necessity, and convert well. Costs go down, conversion rate goes up.

      That’s my quick theory.

  • Lawrence

    You make an intelligent, and (in my opinion) correct observation. It definitely encourages me to pay close attention to any writings that I might write, and others may read.

  • jorgeacevedo

    Correct spelling has to be a way of life for a writer. I agree with you. By the way, beans and rice are on the menu often at my house but it’s a ‘puertorrican thing’, not a budget one.  

  • Great thoughts, Jeff. Whether you’re creating content or making widgets, the details matter. It’s important that we are diligent without bogging down in perfectionism. Thanks for the insight!

  • To me typos are embarrassing at best, and misleading at worst. I’m not immune to them, but if I catch errors in the content that I put out there, I fix them immediately.  

    Needless to say, I’m part of the “outraged” group, and I find it–for lack of a better term–outrageous that the ad is converting just fine. (REALLY?!)

  • Tim Sunderland

    I fear that self-publishing is going to eventually make us more tolerant of typos, formatting errors and imperfect manuscripts. In just the last month I read a decent self-published crime novel that had a decent amount of typos. Then I read some self-published chick lit that was really clean, but did not have a whole lot of zap. 

    As I research literary agents I notice that many of them have advanced degrees–masters and even Ph.D.s. These folks are not going to be tolerant of typos and lapses in verb tense that should have been caught.

    Yeah, typos matter. 

    Tim Sunderland

  • While publishing and/or marketing should be worthy of extra care in the editing process I think to compare a typo to stealing or bullying is ludicrous. Typo’s rarely are intentional and most likely are mistakes. Which – Hello! we are human. When I see someone take the time to point out a typo on a FB status or post my first thoughts are not about how pitiful the poor person is who made the typo but how arrogant and prideful the person is who felt the need to elevate themselves better than another because a word, comma or apostrophe was out of place.

    • Yanguardino

      Exactly my sentiments! well said Karen.

  • Jeff Franz-Lien

    The errors in the example aren’t so much typos as ignorance. Those in the communication profession should take the trouble to learn the language. Also, it certainly says something about the character of the advertiser if he scorned feedback. If all he cares about is conversion rate, how much effort would he devote to little things like post-sales support?

  • The ultimatum you presented, that we must care about everything, intrigued me. I think it would be better expressed as caring about everything we do, and that is hard. My mind immediately started poking it and looking for solutions, and I’ve decided that if the alternative is to care about everything we do, then we should only do things that matter.

  • Katharine Trauger

    A lot depends on for whom you work. Some Bosses demand faithfulness in the small matters, as a prerequisite for greater trust. 😉

  • I think little things like typos tell a lot about the writer.  I don’t mind the odd mistake now and then (I make plenty myself), but I think you should always strive to do the best that you can.  If you write, you should make sure to check over what you have written, as that reflects you.  

    I think it’s even more important if you are selling a product or a book.  I would certainly be put off if a book had typos on its cover, as I would expect the rest of the book to be littered with them.

  • TJ

    Jeff, you’re my new hero, writing guru, and all things positive about this “thing” we all appear to have a love/hate relationship.  I’ve started and stopped a letter to you a few times.  My good friends and prayer partner lives in your area and I think you two should meet.  Should I send you and email via FB? 

    Thanks for sharing your gifts with us.  I look forward to thanking you in my first published book.  You’re helping TJ find her mojo! 

    Continued Blessings,