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Study Finds Spelling Mishaps Can Cause Problems in the Office

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  • June 14, 2019
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  • Among respondents, 65% said typos were unacceptable in their industry.
  • Business support and logistics was the industry most likely to say typos were unacceptable.
  • On average, respondents earned a 75%, or a C, on a spelling, grammar and punctuation test that was included with the survey. 

Whether through e-mail, text messaging or the litany of social media platforms available today, people can instantly communicate with anyone regardless of where they are. While this technology is useful for building both personal and business relationships, it leaves those of us with less-than-stellar spelling and grammar skills at the whim of our mistakes. A recent survey examined how those errors can not only be embarrassing, but can change the way people look at you.

Released earlier today by Signs.com, the survey tested 1,000 Americans from the academic community Prolific.ac on their general education, as well as their spelling and grammar acuity.

Without the protection of those ever-helpful red squiggly lines to warn respondents of their written transgressions, researchers said they learned not only what words tripped people up the most but how those mishaps affected their lives at work.

Misspellings in the workplace

If you use technology to communicate at work, chances are you’ve sent an e-mail or pinged someone on Slack with a spelling or grammar faux pas. Those mistakes are irreversible once sent and can leave you wishing you could undo the mistake. Among the entire group of participants, 65% said such mistakes were unacceptable, with only 18.6% saying the opposite.

While spelling errors and grammar flubs can happen to anyone, some survey respondents said spelling and grammar mishaps are a problem in their industry. The industry where typos were found to be the most unacceptable was business and support logistics at nearly 88%. Both marketing and government industries followed at approximately 71%.

Respondents also told researchers that the biggest critics of their typographical errors would be their bosses. According to the survey, nearly 76% said their boss’s response to an error would range between “slightly annoyed” (40.8%), “fairly annoyed” (26.6%) and “it would be a major problem” (8.2%). Only 24.5% of respondents said their boss “wouldn’t care at all.”

Typos are even worse for anyone trying to make their way into a new workplace. Nearly 80% of respondents said they wouldn’t consider hiring someone with a spelling or grammar mistake in their resume.

Americans have average spelling and grammar skills

Along with studying how spelling and grammar errors are perceived in the workplace, researchers tested respondents on their skills. When asked what subjects from school they were the most apt in, both men and women felt they were well above average in reading comprehension, spelling and grammar.

To put respondents’ confidence to the test, researchers asked them 13 spelling, grammar and punctuation questions. What they found was that the respondents were actually quite average, earning  75%, which would be a C grade in most high school English classes.

Broken down by industry, advertising and marketing respondents had the highest scores. Entertainment and leisure, telecommunications, finance and nonprofit workers rounded out the industries with the top five highest scores.

Researchers also looked at test results based on the respondents’ generation and whether they attended public or private school. What they found was that there was nearly zero correlation between these two criteria. Looking at the test scores from a generational angle, baby boomers (70.4%), Generation X (74.6%), millennials (76.1%) and Generation Z (74.1%) all scored similarly. There was even less difference in scores when comparing private school (75.5%) and public school (75%).

Commonly misspelled words

It may be a good idea to keep the following words and phrases in mind when double-checking your work, as researchers said they found common misspellings among respondents.

Calling it a “moment of cruel irony,” officials said 1 in 5 people incorrectly spelled “misspell,” but the word that tripped up the most people was “accommodate,” with just 52.8% getting it right. Other words to look out for include “hypocrisy,” “receive” and “apparently.”

Considering how often people talk about the generation born between 1981 and 1996, researchers also found the word “millennial” to be a problem, with just 57.5% getting it right. That being said, millennials and Gen Xers got it right more often than their older counterparts.



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