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Ask Massively: Why tpyos matter


Whenever you sit down to read an article -- let's say it's an article about MMOs on your favorite MMO blog -- the author has a hidden persuasive advantage. Readers are inclined to believe what they read unless they have a compelling reason not to because believing is easier than not believing. In fact, humans have a hard time mentally readjusting if they hear a lie about a topic before they hear the truth, especially when the lie confirms comforting pre-existing beliefs. And like it or not, we grant a measure of authority to published articles, to what we see in print from people we presume are professionals.

But even a lowly games writer squanders that "authoritativeness bonus" when he can't even be arsed to press the darn spellcheck button.

Sharvis asked: If I see a spelling or grammar mistake in a Massively article, should I bother bringing it up to the staff? If so, is it best to comment about it or send it in via the "Tip Us" button or something else? At times I notice mistakes, and I feel like I'd just be nagging if I bothered to mention them, especially when the meaning is still easily understood.

Please, please tell us. Either let us know in the comments or use the tip us button (the latter is probably faster). We really care about these things. I am a certifiable stickler for grammar; in fact, that was why I was hired in the first place (go on, ask me about punctuating compound predicates -- I dare you!). I'm personally mortified when a typo slips into print. Every article on Massively has been proofread according to a formal style guide and strict grammar standards. But we work quickly, and we're only human, so mistakes are going to happen, and when they do, we want to hear about them so we can fix them immediately because we know they reflect poorly on the quality and credibility of our work.

That isn't a sentiment shared by some of our peers. Russ Pitts of Polygon fame tweeted the following a few months ago:

Dismissing the content of an article because of copy errors is like laughing at the first man on the moon because his fly is unzipped.
But that astronaut's fly hasn't got anything to do with the quality of his astronautiness. I expect an astronaut to be good at being an astronaut, not at remembering to zip up pants. I expect a hairstylist to have good hair; I expect an interior decorator to have a beautiful home; I expect a professional writer to have a solid grasp of his chosen language. The quality of an article has everything to do with the quality of the writing and the care or lack thereof put into the piece, as our own Justin Olivetti rightly argued:
These two things are not alike. And competence rightly affects how people perceive your efforts.
Not necessarily, declared's Bill Murphy:
[A] few typos don't completely hide away someone's thought[-]out content.
That's partly true. It's all still there, waiting to be read. But to a discerning reader, it's diminished. Clean copy is a proxy for whether a post is worth someone's time to read it. We're internet bloggers! Writing is the only face we show to the world -- would you go outside with egg on your face? Every typo or grammar trainwreck casts doubt on the rest of an article, depleting the authoritativeness bonus with which the writer began. After all, if you can't spell or haven't mastered basic grammar, why should anyone believe anything you write? If you can't communicate your ideas and opinions cleanly and effectively, why should anyone value them? Or, put in Massively's Managing Editor Jef Reahard's words, "if you don't take the time to proofread, why should people trust that you've taken the time to be factually accurate or honest?"

So yes, Sharvis and everyone else: Please tell us when we screw up. How we write is just as important to us as what we write, and both should matter to journalists -- even games journalists.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is there no edit button? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!

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