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Do Resume Typos Matter?

28 February 2018

PG asks an additional question – Do typos in indie-published books matter?

From Fast Company:

A few months ago, I posted a question on LinkedIn: “If someone who is not a professional writer has a couple of typos in their resume, why does that speak to anything more than being human?” 1,270 comments later, it’s abundantly clear to me that people have some pretty strong opinions about this.

The reason I brought it up is because I’ve read thousands of resumes while hiring for my company, and every so often I’ll catch a typo, which plenty of hiring managers and recruiters have told me is a pretty big red flag. For many, a single typo is an automatic veto. If someone isn’t going to pay attention to details here, the logic goes, where else won’t they pay attention?

“It’s a total disqualifier for me,” one user wrote. “I am always interested in candidates who are willing to put that degree of effort into the detail of their work.”

“Warrants a giant red X,” declared another.

“I asure you that I have the rite skills, kwalifications and ecksperience to add valew to the bisiness,” a third cheekily weighed in.

After reading through hundreds of the comments that poured in on LinkedIn–including plenty that were more generous-minded than these–I’m still not convinced that a resume typo is as a big a deal as it’s sometimes made out to be. Let me explain.

. . . .

Looking for a job is a daunting task. You usually have to apply to dozens of jobs to get a single interview, but you’re also told that every resume and cover letter has to be personalized to each company. And that’s just table stakes. This means that in between your current job (if you’re lucky enough to have one), you also need to think and perform at the level of a professional writer while looking and applying to open positions.

You don’t have to bemoan that challenge as categorically “unfair” (which I don’t, by the way) in order to see hiring managers’ one-strike policy as a little extreme. “[Typos] are unacceptable,” one commenter averred. “They create an impression the applicant does not care.”

But is that impression accurate?

. . . .

This might’ve made sense around 1985, but we’re now in a world where much of our work output is digital, where websites and even social media posts (Twitter being a silly exception), are editable. The ubiquity of the “edit” button is a humane concession to life in an attention economy where attention spans themselves are fleeting. It’s an acknowledgement that speed and the ability to multitask are the most critical skills.

Being responsive–and knowing how and when to revise or update your work–is the better test of someone’s “attention to detail” than getting everything perfect the first time.

. . . .

The fact is that not everyone has the money or time to spare to give their applications an expert-level polish–but they’ll almost certainly be competing against candidates who do.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG notes that in 1985, he was using WordPerfect (may it rest in peace) in his law office. He is pretty certain that a separate spell-check program was necessary in the WP 4.0-4.1 era and checking for spelling errors was definitely part of PG’s workflow for creating documents.

With automatic spell-checking programs available (even unavoidable) everywhere in 2018, PG thinks a typo (which was a no-no that required retyping a résumé – by hand – in the 1970’s) may say something about a contemporary job applicant’s overall tech savvy and social awareness in addition to the applicant’s basic writing skills.

The OP says, “The ubiquity of the ‘edit’ button is a humane concession to life in an attention economy where attention spans themselves are fleeting.” But doesn’t a typo indicate a problem with recognizing the need to use the edit button which is something other than making a typo and quickly correcting it?

What are you hiring an applicant for? Is a keyboard involved in the job?

Is the applicant’s attention span important for her/him to do the job?

Is there a reason why the applicant would have been unable to use one of the ubiquitous spell-checking tools in creating the résumé?

(PG will admit that, while he still likes to see the accent marks in résumé, the absence of those characters on a contemporary English-language keyboard make resume an acceptable substitute. Résumé would give an applicant a couple of bonus points if PG were involved in the hiring decision, however.)

Perhaps PG (who works in a profession where a single word can make a big difference) is being too picky. He can certainly imagine applicants for some jobs with excellent talents beyond writing (artists and some types of engineers, for example) who shouldn’t be automatically excluded by a typo in the résumé, but it would not be possible for him to forget the typo during an interview with that applicant.

However, back to his question at the top of this post – Does a typo in an indie-published book matter? If an author gets 79,999 words right and one word wrong, is that acceptable? Ten words wrong? Twenty? Will references to it show up in Amazon reviews?

Or is it something readers will not care about or overlook?

Books in General

43 Comments to “Do Resume Typos Matter?”

  1. I’ve found typos in nearly every trad book I’ve read, especially since ebooks became a thing. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying the book. And I know my own books have occasional typos – I have a few readers who aren’t on my ARC team and who alert me to typos that slip by. They still buy and review all of my books. They’re not usually the first to download, so others are reading books that have occasional typos. My reviews always say the books are clear of typos, which means most readers don’t even notice the few errors. And I still make a living off my books, so… I’m inclined to believe that if the editing is good and typos are few and far between, readers won’t notice or care about the occasional error.

    And on the topic of resumes… my father-in-law wasn’t getting bites on his and sent it to us for commenting. Before we had a chance to let him know there were a couple of grammar errors, he got an offer for a position that pays very, very well. He still works there several years later, so obviously that hiring person didn’t care.

  2. One thing I’ve realised about myself over the years is that if I notice typos in a book, it means that Im not enjoying the story, the book hasn’t pulled me in.

  3. I’ve been a professional resume-writer for 14 years so I’ve seen quite a lot of “before” resumes. One of the worst typos was a person who had, as one of her early entries, the job of “Shift Supervisor” at a coffee shop. Except she had left out the “f” in shift. I can’t promise I’ve never sent a resume to a client with a typo in it, but avoiding them is certainly a very high priority for me.

    • Leaving the “L” out of Public in Public Relations is a bad one, too.

      Errors that create a new word are a lot harder to catch.

  4. Typos in indie books matter. How many, what genre, and how egregious they are all affect the reader. In principle.

    I was asked to review a new thriller on a list I belong to. The writer had a horrible problem with pov, and kept describing (the narrator described!) men as ‘handsome’ and ‘young.’ For a guy to do that just felt weird. He was completely closed to the concept of editing his work (he said it had been ‘edited’ four times already), and the book was published. I couldn’t get through Chapter 1.

    He had a bunch of 5* reviews on Amazon, all of which said they loved the book, and looked legitimate.

    Maybe indie thriller readers don’t care.

    • How on earth are “handsome” or “young” words men can’t use to describe other men? Those are pretty neutral, fact-based descriptors.

  5. Since moving exclusively to ebooks in 2010, I find myself noticing typos on a fairly regular basis. especially for older, traditionally published books that were likely scanned into ebook format, leaving some scan artifacts.

    I considered Anon’s observation that one’s observed typo rate may correlate to a less enjoyable reading selection; but my current thinking is that something about the increased page turn interruptions needed by a typical ebook device (especially for older eyes with larger fonts) might be allowing more time to consciously notice typos outside the immersive reading experience.

    • Interesting idea. I hardly ever notice typos. I mostly read paper. (Except I do a lot of audio, and a typo in an audiobook is SUPER obvious. I’ve heard examples where a line of dialogue is attributed to the wrong character, but the narrator does his best to cover for it by reading it in the correct character’s voice.) I just got a spanking new Kobo, so I’ll have to see if I start noticing typos more reading that way.

  6. When a carpet maker weaves a carpet, he will build in an imperfection because:

    Only Allah is perfect.

    – There was a short story that had a weaver do a perfect carpet. The design came to life and stepped from the carpet.

    I have not published the book yet, but this is running gag in my stuff.

    I have a Story where Trad books have deliberate typos placed in the book to ensure that the Story does not “come to life”. There is an Order of Women who are copy editors ensuring that typos exist.

    – They can be identified by a small pin with the paragraph symbol that they wear.

    This is the whole purpose of Trad publishing. What seems like bumbling incompetence is actually deliberate, and for the safety of us all.

    The problem is, you now have Indy writers, who if they actually did produce a perfect book — with no typos — could have their story or characters come to life.

    Luckily, that has not happened, yet. HA!

    BTW, Please feel free to have the Order appear in your stories. The more that we spread the truth about them, the more we can protect ourselves from perfect “typo free” books.

    Here is a fun example of a typo:

    – The files buzzed above his head.

    That could be a typo “files” instead of “flies”, but if this were Harry Potter “files” is correct.

    I’m having too much fun with this.

    • “This is the whole purpose of Trad publishing. What seems like bumbling incompetence is actually deliberate, and for the safety of us all.”

      LOL. I like it.

      And the “files” made me immediately think of a Ministry of Magic employee. 🙂 (Though IIRC, I think they use scrolls more than files in folders, don’t they?) (/nerd)

    • What “Order of Women” do I mean?

      “Order, Order!” The Judge pounds the gavel.

      “I’ll have a Ham on Rye,” says Groucho Marx.

      – Oh, yes. I did go there. HA!

      If you stumble across the books I publish, look for the Women of the Sacred Order of Hamonrye, from the Island of Nomanisan, that lies off the coast of Malta. It is an ancient Library that still has books on loan from the Library of Alexandria, and they have no intention of returning them. The late fees would be crippling. HA!

      As I said, feel free. We must protect the world from perfect “typo free” books.

    • The Quakers, and also the Amish, I believe, will deliberately put something in their quilts that isn’t perfect, because they believe only God can do perfection. It’s an interesting concept, and could make for a good story if this is done by some secret society for all things, so as not to offend God.

      My typos are purely unintentional, however. Mea culpa.

      • That concept drives many stories, and there is room for many more. Run with it. I certainly will. HA!

        I can’t remember the Fantasy novel, but the character tracked down a magic book. When reading through, he found a sentence that was unreadable, as if the letters in the sentence had been crushed together into an ink spot. The eyes would glitch over the sentence seeing that there was a problem, yet not seeing.

        – He realized that the page had a spell on it. Once he lifted the spell, there was a complete paragraph hidden away telling him what he needed to know.

        On my stuff, I have fun thinking of the story as a “chain” and each typo/glitch shows where a link in the chain has been added or removed. I can revisit that story, and tell it completely differently by adding new links to the chain/story.

        The Matrix – Deja vu

        Think about it. When you post here on TPV, and you use cuss words, the systems changes those words. That is happening all the time, right before your eyes.

  7. During my career, I read thousands of resumes, hired hundreds of people, mostly engineers, but also project and product managers, marketing people, admins. I saw resumes with perfect spelling grammar, spelling, and format, and many that were not so perfect. I don’t think I ever called in a candidate for an interview whose resume was a mess, but I never passed over a resume with an occasional typo, formatting irregularity, or grammatical solecism that described a qualified and promising candidate. I was much more likely to pass over someone who included cluelessly irrelevant history, the suggestion of spotty performance, or being unable to cope with a demanding environment.

    When choosing books for myself, I am quite a bit fussier about typos and formatting because I find typos and bad format distracting. Over-elaborate format is as bad as bad format.

    I asked the acquisitions librarian in our library system what she thinks about typos and format. She doesn’t like to see typos, but she would not reject a book for an occasional typo– one or two in a chapter might still get an acceptance, but the book had better be desirable for other reasons. They reject books without page numbers, flimsy bindings that won’t survive a few lends, spines without author and title.

    They are most tolerant of local authors, especially local history or books with a strong local setting or other attachment.

    They still acquire about 10 paper books for every digital book, but that is evolving as more and more customers want digital. If an indie has both paper and digital, they tend to acquire paper first, then add digital.

  8. Newer writers say that most readers don’t care if you get a fact wrong, or misspell a word, or any other error. I always reply that a reader gives you a dollar worth of trust when they pick up your book. Anything that the reader is unhappy about will take away some of that dollar until the dollar is gone and they toss away what you have written. The biggest problem with this is that you don’t know if that reader will toss the whole dollar of trust away because of a single minor mistake so you’d dang well better get as much right as you can because small errors will sneak in despite your care.

    As anal about writing as I am, I’ve learned to get past small errors like the vocative comma which not even copy editors seem to know these day, but I refuse to buy a book where the author hasn’t even bothered to spellcheck their book description.

    And I miss Wordperfect, too. It was the best writing software I’ve ever used in the thirty odd years I’ve been using computers.

  9. It took me 3 books (of 10) to figure out my editing process and it was one of several reasons my early work isn’t my best. I recently changed the book cover for book #2 as I just didn’t like it, and so I thought I would re-edit it as well. OMG, there were some bad errors – like I called a hospital by two different names within 2-3 pages. Since I fixed the cover and the grammar & typos, my Goodreads average has increased and I can’t wait to watch where it goes. So there you have it – proof that typos matter for my books.

  10. We once had a supervisor whom we all hated. He brought his resume in one day and asked us to look it over. He’d spelled “designer” three different ways, plus had a number of other typos. We were so torn about telling him, unable to decide whether we preferred to see him suffer rejection or see him leave for another job.

  11. It is incumbent on the professional writer of fiction to do his level best to avoid/catch/correct any typos. However, and maybe more important, it is also incumbent upon him to write a story that is so engaging that even if a typo occurs, it doesn’t pull the reader from the story or otherwise dissuade him from continuing to read. My two cents.

  12. P.G.—Hi. Just an FYI: WordPerfect will NEVER Rest In Peace knowing there are thousands of us still hyperventilating and raging through MS Word.

    OK, sorry, back to the topic.

  13. A typo here and there has never bothered me. What does bother me, in paper books, is when some uptight ijit takes the time to put a line through a misspelled word and then neatly print their ‘correction’ above it. Guaranteed to get my attention, that is!
    I figure there will be at least one typo in every document, and I’m comfortable with that.

  14. I must’ve hired 150 people in the course of my career. I always divided them into two groups re: résumé errors — the native English speakers vs everyone else.

    I was extremely forgiving of the non-native speakers (this was in tech industries), but pretty severe with the native speakers. This was their calling card, their one chance to present their most polished self. I could forgive youthful boasting, naive optimism, and all the rest — but if they couldn’t devote a small amount of time to perfection, they were likely to be a problem down the road.

    What does it say about a programmer, after all, if he fails in attention to detail? Or someone in marketing, who can’t handle grammar well enough?

  15. Back when I read résumés — in the late Pliocene Epoch — to fill a position, HR gave me 200 a day. I had to go through these before I could do any billable work. On first pass, I looked for any reason to reject an applicant. A typo on the résumé put that applicant in the circular file. The best day I ever had I kept five résumés for a full review.
    As for typos in books, I recently encountered ‘dual comls’ in the Kindle version of Robert Heinlein, Friday. I turned to the Heinlein Facebook group for help. I quickly got the answer that ‘comls’ was an OCR misrendering of ‘controls’. Never would have guessed.

    • When the publisher ran Thomas Sowell’s _The Vision of the Anointed_ through the OCR, it changed 90% of commas into periods, and read some f characters as t and vice versa. Dr. Sowell ought to introduce the guilty party to the clue bat, firmly applied.

      • Argh….

        I wrote a solicited editorial for a newspaper once and sent it to them in electronic form via email attachment.

        Rather than copy/paste it into their electronic publishing software, someone apparently printed it out and gave it to someone else who typed it back in, adding four typos in the process. That’s about one per paragraph.

        Very frustrating, especially when my name was prominently displayed so everyone would assume I’d written it that way. I never sent them anything else to publish.

  16. I can’t help it, I’m a critical reader. Misspelled words, punctuation errors, incorrect word choices, incorrect tense – they all knock me right out of the story. I can and will be generous for the occasional error, but too many mistakes put that author on my “never again” list. There are no perfect books that I’ve ever found, but I see no purpose in paying for stories I can’t enjoy reading. Résumés with errors affect me the same way. Why would I want to hire someone who won’t even use a spell-check program?

    • Terrence OBrien

      Why would I want to hire someone who won’t even use a spell-check program?

      Because he may have an excellent track record of achievement?

  17. Terrence OBrien

    Does a typo in an indie-published book matter?

    Each consumer makes that decision for himself.

    I use one standard for reading a prospectus or contract, and another for reading a novel.

  18. I’m a little confused. I thought resumes were about your past working life/academic record whereas the covering letter was supposed to be the ‘topical’ part of the application, i.e. the bit where you show an interest in the prospective employer’s business.
    I can understand the odd typo creeping into the covering letter – after all it does change with each application – but the resume?
    Word has templates for resumes [yes, I hate it too], plus a spellchecker and a grammar checker. Surely anyone requiring a resume for their job application is capable of composing a ‘clean’ one!

    • IMO you should tailor each résumé to the position and company. That is, if you apply to three different companies, write three résumés.

      Most people misunderstand the purpose of the résumé. The one, the only purpose of your résumé is to get an interview.

    • Your CV is your entire work experience, publications, professional memberships, and so on. A résumé is what antares described. I have a CV for academic things and a resume for outside-the-Ivory-Tower things.

      • Not sure if this is a cultural thing but here in Australia, this applies:

        “In Australia, most employers ask for a CV so make sure you don’t send a single-page resume or you might miss out on an interview. Instead, it’s usually a good idea to include a cover letter which basically fulfills the role of a resume. (That way, they don’t have to wade through your entire CV to see if you’re an appropriate candidate.)”

        While I recognize that CV and resume are not same, we do approach their use in different ways.

        While on the subject of differences, I should point out that for us and the Brits, US spelling is all wrong. -cheeky grin-

        • At least in the US, you use a CV for academic and medical jobs, and a resume for “normal” jobs, tailoring each to the position sought, as well as having a cover letter and any other paperwork. *shrug* We’re probably just strange that way, for reasons that made sense way back when.

        • Terrence OBrien

          A cover letter, CV, and resume are all tools. Some customize them to meet specific needs. Others don’t. OK.

  19. In all the decades that I’ve helped people with Office programs like Word, the common problem with misspelling, was that the person did not think the word was misspelled, so they overruled the spellchecker.

    Word has the feature that when it indicates that a word is misspelled you have the option of “Ignore All” or “Add to Dictionary”. The text editor I am using now has “Ignore Spelling” or “Learn Spelling”.

    Each time that I would see a letter on the screen, full of misspellings, I would point out the problem. The person would then say, that everything is spelled right.

    As far as their “corrupted” spellchecker was concerned, they were right.

    Think about it.

  20. It depends on how many errors in a book. The odd one here or there, I can live with. Repeating errors? Oh, no. One thing I’m seeing more an more are sentence fragments where the author either doesn’t know any better, and substitutes a period for a comma, or they think it’s more dramatic to use chopped up sentences. That don’t have subject/verb agreement. (See what I did there?)

    In a resume (apologies for not bothering to put in the accent marks), I expect there to be no errors.

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