The mistake in the Trump Administration’s State of the Union tickets overshadowed the president’s big speech. Here’s how to save face after a grammatical error.
Typos can spell big trouble – especially at work.
President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night was an opportunity to celebrate his accomplishments in the first year in office. Unfortunately, the speech got somewhat overshadowed by a glaring typo on the tickets to the State of the “Uniom” address. And the error wasn’t even his fault, considering the Sergeant at Arms office was responsible for printing the tickets.
Is it possible that "President Donald Trump" is also a typo?https://t.co/EF0i817pZ1
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) January 30, 2018
Mistakes happen. Hofstra infamously misspelled Hillary Clinton’s name as “Hilary” on passes for the first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump in 2016. And a 2013 CareerBuilder survey found that 58% of resumes have typos.
Scott W. Johnson, owner of WholeVsTermLifeInsurance.com, told Moneyish about the time years ago when he sent an email to his general manager, Mirjana – but the spell checker had changed her name to “Marijuana.”
“The blood drained out of my face. I was going to be fired six weeks into the job because I called my boss an illegal drug!” he said. But he immediately confessed to his supervisor, who assured him that the GM was more likely to call out his sales over his typo. “I later learned how to add her name to the spelling dictionary,” he said, “and I did one day become one of her very best salespeople.”
But misspellings and grammatical errors can still wreck your workplace reputation if you don’t mitigate the damage quickly. Take those too-common resume typos; 61% of recruiters will reject a resume or CV because of them.
“Spelling really does matter when it comes to the business brand, and also when it comes to your personal brand,” Ladan Nikravan Hayes, a career adviser at CareerBuilder, told Moneyish. “Grammar, spelling and punctuation represent your outward image to the world, and the person reading it is getting a message about you, your authority and your attention to detail.”
Or lack of. That’s because research shows that such errors make readers perceive the writer or business as being less intelligent, less trustworthy and less conscientious.
Good grammar spells success. A 2013 Grammarly survey of 100 native English speakers’ LinkedIn profiles found that those with the fewest grammatical errors received more promotions and attained higher-level positions than those whose profiles showed more mistakes. U.K. analyst Charles Duncombe found that online sales were cut in half if a brand’s website contained just one spelling mistake. And a Global Lingo survey revealed that 59% of potential customers said they turn away from a company that had errors on any of its sales and marketing materials.
To err is human – and to ‘fess up and fix it is divine. Here’s some tips from career experts and workers who have learned from their on-the-job grammar mistakes.
Assess whether it’s worth addressing. Not all mistakes are created equal. A misplaced comma on a resume, or a minor coding error, isn’t as glaring as misspelling the name of the potential employer, giving the wrong sales price in an advertisement, or publishing the wrong date for an event. “It may not be necessary to call attention to a missed comma or period,” said Hayes. But you will need to issue an apology and a correction for something that spreads confusion or misinformation.
Keep the apology professional. Don’t respond with “OMG I’m so sorry,” or stressing that you’re “so embarrassed” and “this never happens.” With an error-laced email or newsletter, simply send a response with “Correction,” “Oops” or “We Apologize” in the subject line so that your audience knows why they are getting a second message, and highlight the update: “A previous version of this invitation listed an incorrect address.” Similar rules apply to a social media post; make the edit, highlight the correction and briefly apologize for any confusion the mistake may have caused.
But make a more personalized gesture if you’ve truly offended someone. When publicist Robert Barrow addressed a sales rep by the wrong name, she took it to her boss, “which made it even more embarrassing,” he told Moneyish. “I profusely apologized and sent her some flowers.”
Confess before you’re called out. Career coach Heather Monahan has caught plenty of resume mistakes after two decades working as a hiring manager. “I have seen countless typos and errors that never go addressed in hopes that I wouldn’t notice. Those are typically the candidates I pass over immediately,” she said. So send the hiring manager a clean copy of your resume — ideally before she’s had a chance to read the first one — writing something like, “Here is an updated version of my resume. I sent out the wrong copy earlier.” This illustrates that you’ll own up to your mistakes, correct them and communicate honestly.
Fix it ASAP. Try to get your corrected copy out as soon as you can. The beauty of online content like social media posts or website code is that it can often be fixed within a few minutes, so it doesn’t have to be wrong for long. And if there’s time to send out a new batch of corrected invitations, or to reprint charts or materials for a presentation, it’s worth the added stress and expense to make a good second impression.
Creative and marketing director Rodney Brazil was luckily able to catch a huge mistake on a press release for HomeWetBar.com — which the spell checker had let slip through as HotWetBar.com – before it went to a larger distribution service. “Luckily, I was able to send a revised version to local media, and update the press release before sending it to the distribution service. Two of the outlets responded, thanking me for the prompt follow up, joking that they had been guilty of publishing awkward typos, too,” he told Moneyish. “I learned a vital lesson about taking the time to carefully check every single word of each and every document, even if you are in a rush to publish.”
Use humor where appropriate. Monahan once realized that an incorrect graph was placed in her PowerPoint presentation just as she was walking into a client meeting. “When I got to the slide with bad information, I asked the room what they thought about the data,” she said. “The room was very unhappy and making negative comments, and I responded, ‘Actually, this slide is wrong, but I knew if we lowered expectations for a moment, you would feel that much more excited about our real numbers. Let me explain them to you.’ The tension in the room broke, and I even got a few chuckles.” It humanizes you, and reminds the audience that you are not the first person to make a mistake – and you won’t be the last.
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