Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Should I Point Out Your Typo?

Let's Face It: We make mistakes.

I make them.

You make them.

Even She makes them.

And in this online world of POST-IT NOW, mistakes abound. But whenever I see one, I always pause. Should I mention it?

Now, I know that if I have a typo, I'd want to know about it. Just don't insult me when you point it out. That's kind of rude.

But not everyone wants their mistakes pointed out. Some would rather not know about it. Maybe they can't fix it because it would mean contacting the webmaster, finding the page THEN the paragraph THEN replace it with the correction. And that's just too much trouble.

On the other hand, there are some corners of cyber space where you are kind of expected to be free from typos. Like if you are a publishing guru. Or a big brand business. Or a literary agent.

OK, I just read the last paragraph and I want to be clear. I'm not talking about style choices that can be construed as typos. I know exactly which rules I broke back there, and believe me my left brain (which was drilled by my high school English teacher) is screaming at me right now, "Fix it! And that one! And don't quote me in fragments!"

No, I'm talking about actual typos, such as when someone meant to use one word and instead typed another. Or if they have a question mark at the end of a statement. Sometimes it's hard to tell if it is a typo or just a style choice. You have to be really careful not to insult people when you point out typos. You don't want to seem rude.

Others, though, are very open to typos being pointed out. After all, copy-editors get paid to point out typos (my dream career). And acquisition editors will reject queries on a typo (my other dream career). But that doesn't mean I should point out every typo I see, even to those would want me to. As long as the intended idea is conveyed, typos found in instant posts, such as comments, texts, tweets, don't necessarily need to be fixed.

So I have a mental list I go through before I point out a typo:

1. Would the author want me to point out a typo? For most people the answer is usually yes. As long as I'm not rude while doing it.
2. Is it stationary enough? For websites and online articles, the answer is usually yes. For everything else, it's usually no.
3. What's best approach for pointing out the typo?

This is a really hard question to answer because it's not the same every time. Sometimes I can PM or email the author. I like that way best because it's the most unassuming and un-embarrassing. But I can't always do that. So, Do I leave a comment below the article?
When I answer yes to this, I have to be doubly careful, because now I'm pointing out a typo in public.

It's kind of like saying, "your fly's down." If you can't take them aside, how do you tell them without causing an embarrassing scene? There's no easy answer to that.

So what I try to do is put it in a friendly, so-not-rude way, and hope that it's okay. 

Wow, have I been rambling today!... Do I have any typos?