This post was originally written by CJ Moore.
Whenever I read a book and come to a misspelled word, it takes me about 10 seconds before I can move on.
Books should be better than that. A publishing company has deemed that collection of words worthy for publication, worthy of a binding and a cover. There is just something special about books. They should be above mistakes. After all, doesn’t that copy go in front of many, many sets of eyes before I, the reader, see it?
Apparently, times are changing. Virginia Heffernan wrote on the New York Times’ blog on Sunday that publishing companies used to employ “battalions of full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes. Now, they are gone.”
A multitude of reasons explains this. There is pressure to publish books quickly – not a surprise, everyone seems to be in a hurry these days – and there is also the expectation that technology and word processors can catch many of our misspelling gaffes.
This made me think of the online world and how many misspelled words and grammatical mistakes I come across every day. Just today I was editing one of the sites that our company helped redesign and develop for a client and caught many misspellings. One that repeatedly surprised me was pleasure, misspelled as “plesure.”
Misspellings, to me, are embarrassing and reflect poorly on the writer or the product. Websites should hold themselves to the grand standard that I have always held books – even if they didn’t deserve it. That is why I proof all of our copy. I don’t catch everything – I am only one man! – but I catch a lot. Spell check should not replace an editor, as not every spell check is going to tell you if you should use ‘chose’ instead of ‘choose’ or which there/their/they’re to use.
A recent BBC article suggests that misspelled words are costing companies millions of dollars. And if that doesn’t convince you to employ an editor, consider this: The Almighty Google frowns upon misspelled words.
Google Spam-buster Matt Cutts wrote a blog post about just this topic back in 2006. Cutts did not say that Google will penalize you for misspellings in this particular post, but he did say that it just makes good business sense to have a site free of errors.
Many SEO experts believe that Google penalizes poor spelling, especially the black hat bozos who misspell words on purpose in an effort to rank high on search terms that are regularly misspelled. For example, maybe I want my furniture site to rank high on the search term “furniture.” With all the competition, I have no chance of cracking the first page, but I figure out that a lot of people search for “furnature” by mistakes, so I sprinkle “furnature” into the copy of my site. Now, my site is on first page for any searches for “furnature.”
This offense is worthy of Internet purgatory, as far as I’m concerned. Google, Bing and other search engines should not just bury the offending sites’ page rank; they should quit crawling those sites altogether. Let them advertise in the Yellow Pages.
So please, please, PLEASE proofread your copy and then have someone else proofread it as well, as it’s easy to read something the way that you meant for it to be read. Publishers should know this, and they should start employing more editors and proofreaders again.
As for online publishers, don’t try to cheat the system. Big Brother (Google) is watching, and he’s equipped with a dictionary.