A typo – in a resume, a document, an email – is often seen as a signal of a world ending collapse that indicates impending doom and destruction for the person responsible for such a horrendous mistake. “How dare you write a 200 page document and misspell one word!” People collapse in the street, pounding their fists as they cry out, “why, why?” The reaction to a typo conjures up images of royalty turning their noses with such contempt and disgust. “Away with you! We have no time for your ineptness.” It is amazing how righteous we become when we find a mistake. In fact, I have seen and heard some of the most outrageous stories when it comes to typos. My favorite is a senior leader actually stopping a conference call where the topic was a multimillion dollar project because one word was spelled incorrectly. “I am not your proofreader,” he said. “Reschedule when you are actually ready.” Slam. Down with the phone. Meeting over.
The typo represents our obsession with negativity. We could be presented with an outstanding piece of work and, rather than focus on all of the positive aspects of the effort and all of the hard work someone or a team has completed, we instead focus on a tiny, miniscule mistake and shatter the entire project. Yes, if the mistake was indeed huge and led to a medical mistake or a problem with an engineering design that affected people’s lives then the criticism is well warranted. However, most of us on a day to day basis do not deal with life and death situations that result is terrible outcomes if, for example, we type an ‘n’ instead of an ‘m.’
Imagine for a minute that when the United States Constitution was about to be signed someone proofread it and found some typos. “That’s it! Forget the whole thing. Shut the country down and reschedule the Convention until you are ready.” Well, guess what? There are typos in the US Constitution. Yup, it's true. The U.S. Archives writes that “As the members of the Convention prepared to sign the document, Hamilton took up a position beside the last of the four sheets, laid out for signing, and appears to have taken charge of the process as the delegates from each state came forward to sign. In this capacity, he wrote the name of each state at the left of the growing column of signatures. When he came to the largest state delegation, headed by Benjamin Franklin, he wrote "Pensylvania." And thus the parchment reads today.” (source: US Archives)
Since we are discussing important documents and literary works, how about we discuss the Bible for a moment. A version of the Bible printed in 1631 stated that “thou shalt commit adultery.” Imagine going to the library and opening up to that page. A life changer for some I am sure.
So, don't freak out the next time you see a typo. You are actually in good cmpany.