Updated for 2022
You may have heard the story about how a minor edit made the difference between a family dinner and the disappearance of grandma. If you haven’t, then I will explain in a minute why editing is important, whether you run a business or you’re looking for your next employer.
Minor typos can financially impact your business or professional reputation.
Just look at the difference between “Let’s eat, grandma” and “Let’s eat grandma.” Most people would rather enjoy a meal together with grandma than have her on the menu. And all it takes is one comma.
Some typing or grammar mistakes are small, but other errors can have an immense impact.
How big of an impact can it have? The cost can be as severe as $620 million to the deaths of several people. Something this disastrous is rare, but the point is that careful editing can make you look smart and professional. Let’s look at some specific examples.
Never Underestimate the Power of Minor Errors
If you have a hole in your sock, it’s a small detail that makes you look careless. If you have a hole in your boat and you’re at sea, you’re taking a risk. It’s the same with minor errors in your writing, whether online or in print: your web page copy, emails, proposals, or reports make a statement about you.
At the very least, spelling and grammar errors can sabotage your first impression with your clients. Common errors include incorrect use of your and you’re, and their versus they’re. These typos create the impression that you write carelessly… making potential clients wonder if you handle your business in the same way.
At most, these tiny typos can also have an immeasurable financial cost. It’s a strong case for why editing is important.
For example, Mizuho Securities Co meant to sell single shares for 610,000 apiece, but a typo resulted in selling 610,000 shares for 1 yen apiece. The company lost nearly $340 million in less than a day.
Companies that work with a lot of numbers need to take extra precautions to check that their numbers are correct. A small typo can cause a huge financial loss.
In other cases, the effect can cause confusion or frustration, such as the reference “See Figure 8 on page 123 for the supporting data,” but there is no Figure 8 on page 123. It’s actually on page 133. Not everyone is enthusiastic about hunting around for information.
But that’s not all that can happen when there is a minor error.
A Letter Can Change Your Reputation
Spelling mistakes can range from disastrous to confusing. Some of the most common misspelled words, recieved (received) and seperate (separate), are also very commonly used words. Editing is essential when it comes to advertising or guarantees.
For example, during the production process for an ad, a typographical mistake resulted in substituting the “x” for an “r,” so that “exotic travel” became “erotic.” Because of the misprint, the travel agency suffered irreversible damage to its professional reputation and lost nearly 80 percent of its customers.
Also, assuring your customer that you will do everything to complete the project on schedule is slightly different than ensuring that you will do everything according to schedule. In the latter case, it’s best to have a lawyer on hand in case you are late.
It Does Not Take Much to Cause Disaster
The previous examples show that chaos can ensue over a minor omission or typo. You might even be able to relate to these stories. It’s even happened to me before, even though I consider myself extremely careful.
I was rushing through a reply in a conversation and realized to my horror, that I missed the word “not” in the sentence. What a big difference!
The following example is an extreme case that drives home the point of why editing is important. The result of cases like these can be financially catastrophic or can even cost lives.
For instance, the omission of a single hyphen resulted in the detonation of the Mariner probe spacecraft and a total loss of $620 million from the accident.
Similarly, a minor clerical error in which a “C” became an “O” meant a rescue crew was dispatched to the wrong location, postponing rescue, and costing the lives of six fishermen.
Your typos may not be as costly as these examples. But minor spelling and grammar errors do come with a price!
Bad Editing and the Cost to Business
If you’re still in doubt about the importance of editing, consider what could happen to your business if you lose the trust of your customers. Or what could happen if your business couldn’t be found.
The correct use of spelling and grammar is one of the primary variables a search engine analyzes when categorizing and prioritizing websites. Spelling errors for keywords can affect search engine optimization, preventing potential customers from locating specific products and services.
One example is an e-commerce website that misspelled their product as “tihgts” instead of “tights.” The mistake resulted in a decline in sales until the error was fixed. Fixing the spelling resulted in an 80% conversion rate. In this case, details do matter.
Great Resources to Improve Your Editing
“A brand that disregards the details by underestimating the importance of proofreading could be a keystroke away from disaster.”—Six Degrees.com
Fixing typos can be low on your list of priorities if a deadline is looming or you are overwhelmed with several important tasks. There is any given number of valid reasons. So what can you do to cut down or eliminate spelling and grammar disasters?
One solution to prevent typos is the use of technology. Word processing programs with built-in spelling and grammar editing features can help to reduce the frequency of some of these types of errors.
It is even possible to create commands to check for specific typos, particularly if you have a habit of misspelling “definitely” wrong …. or forgetting if “between you and me” or “between you and I” is correct grammar. Or you can check if you’re making these common grammar mistakes.
You can look to some great online resources such as Grammar Girl or Owl Purdue to help you out. To use an analogy, it doesn’t matter if you spent hours digging through your closet for the perfect outfit or hours fixing your makeup. If your appearance catches looks of approval, that’s what counts: the final result.
However, nothing replaces having a copyeditor or proofreader to do a final check for typos and number errors. Some stubborn mistakes are acceptable to a grammar editing program, but not a fresh pair of eyes. An editor will check every detail for accuracy and consistency.
Final lesson: check, check, and double check. A thorough edit is worth your time!
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