Once upon a time, there was a happy little writer. She spent her days sipping on caffeinated beverages and typing madly away on her keyboard, publishing news and editorials to highly trafficked websites. The internet loved her, her clients loved her, and she was a sensation.
Then one day, without her knowing, her pinky slipped on a key. It wasn’t intentional; it’s just that her little pinky finger was so overworked and tired and it just tripped over one key and landed on another. The writer, so intent in her work, failed to notice her pinky’s mishap, and proceeded to finish her latest masterpiece. She then hit publish, leaned back satisfied, and then slipped away to make herself a little sandwich.
When she came back, to her horror, she found the first comment – and the second and third and fourth – had discovered something in her writing so terrible, so horrible, it could only go by one name.
She hastily made to fix it, but the damage was done. She had been called out for her lack of spelling, her inability to run spell check, mocked for her lack of editor to catch this horrid beast, and ridiculed beyond repair. Her subscribers began unsubscribing. Her traffic dropped. Everyone teased her on her future articles, and eventually, she lost her clients – left to be poor enough to not even feed her caffeine addiction. Unable to recover, she eventually took a job at the grocery store, pretending that she loved her job as she scanned milk, eggs, and bread for the rest of her life.
. . .
Alright, let’s be honest: a typo is not the end of the world, even when the public catches it. I’ve made my share of typos; in fact, I’m not even great at spelling. I’m confident that the English language has it out to get me. Many times, a reader has caught my typo and made it out to be the most horrid thing in the world a writer can do. I’ve been personally insulted, had my clients insulted, and all sorts of manner in between just for the simple accidental omission or inclusion of a letter.
I’ve never understood the fascination with calling out a writer for a small typographical error. Certainly, burn me at the stake if I show a lack of understanding or respect for the language I claim to command; but if I accidentally forget the ‘s’ on a plural word, it doesn’t indicate my IQ is below 100. Writers actually catch each other’s mistakes all the time, and usually just simply leave a little note: “PS, you have a typo in the third paragraph (“Oinons”).” Why readers cannot offer the same kind of gentle nudge seems beyond me.
Well, perhaps not. After all, we are these distant people touting facts and opinions and prose of all sorts, and there are few ways for them to interact with us except the comment section. To the reader, the writer dwells in an ivory tower: they don’t exist in the real world. So being able to knock down someone for any small reason, to cut them down at the very thing they are supposed to be a master of, is an enticing task indeed. It often comes from the person who themselves does not have a mastery of the language, and either wishes to or resents those who do; perhaps one of those people we call out once in a while for typing “u” instead of “you” or for not using the right version of their/there/they’re.
Don’t take the bullet to the heart. Smile, dust up your letters to their proper fixations, and thank the reader for their keen eyes. Charm is an easy silencer.
And if you do ever run into that happy little writer, tell her she can come back anytime.