Bad spelling and typos: now the crooks are cashing in

It’s not just your street cred that can suffer due to bad spelling and other mistakes, according to this BBC News article – crooks are cashing in on online spelling and punctuation typos and potentially raking in fortunes at the goofers’ expense.

The article outlines research conducted by the information security think tank Godai Group, into what they call “domain typo-squatting.” The research points out that “By creating web domains that contained commonly mistyped names, the investigators received emails that would otherwise not be delivered. Over six months they grabbed 20GB of data made up of 120,000 wrongly sent messages. Some of the intercepted correspondence contained user names, passwords, and details of corporate networks.”

Surely typos and spelling mistakes don’t matter?

As you’ll see if you read the BBC article, such innocent errors can open up a number of different cans of worms, all of which could possibly cause companies to hemorrhage thousands or even millions. And that’s not the only potential cost to business of bad spelling, grammar and punctuation.

There’s more. A few months ago in another article of mine here on HTWB I quoted a certain Mr Charles Duncombe of  JustSayPlease Ltd who had spoken out in an earlier BBC News article. According to him, “it is possible to identify the specific impact of a spelling mistake on sales. He says he measured the revenue per visitor to the tightsplease.co.uk website and found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected. ‘If you project this across the whole of internet retail then millions of pounds worth of business is probably being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes.’”

So if typos and spelling mistakes now have a price on their heads, where next?

That’s a good question. In my previous article on the subject I list some tips which can help, and when I Googled “improve spelling for adults” just now I got nearly 11 million results. Obviously there is help out there if you really want and need it.

However I firmly believe the vast majority of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes are made not out of ignorance, but out of carelessness – hence “typos” which are accidental goofs. So many people laugh and tell me “oh, my fingers can’t keep up with my brain when I’m writing, so I make loads of mistakes. Never mind, the spell checker deals with those.”

Trouble is, spell checkers aren’t psychic and don’t always know what we mean when we make a typo (a.k.a spelling or punctuation mistake.) And spell checkers don’t know whether someone spells their name “McGregor” or “MacGregor” … if a URL contains the words “AcmeSteel.com” or “Acmesteal.com” or even if someone “has spoken to them” rather than “has spoke to them.”

Aren’t we forgetting good old human power here?

With our ever-increasing dependence on electronic devices to do everything from adding up our grocery bills to keeping our hearts pumping, it’s easy to imagine we can type away on our keyboards or keypads and assume the technology will clean up after our goofs like some sort of digital dustpan and brush.

Perhaps it’s only now, then, when typos and spelling mistakes are beginning to cost us money that we can be bothered to stop and check back what we’ve written. I know it’s unfashionably low-tech, but to proofread your text doesn’t take long – and won’t just improve your street cred; it could also save you and your organization a lot of money.

Keep your writing on the successful straight and narrow:

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

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  2. […] who, and these are only a few from a longer list. (Check out this article of mine for yet more reasons why writing mistakes can be embarrassing – and expensive.) And if […]

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