Your Typos Don’t Bother Me, But Your Whining Does

Written from the Most Relaxed Setting Possible — Please Excuse Any Typos

First there was email. Then there was texting. Then emailing from devices. Then the perhaps inevitable final step: the e-disclaimer, the disavowing of any responsibility for typos that frequently appears at the bottom smart phone emails.

When the first iPhones came out, I noticed that factual but ultimately haughty signature at the bottom of my friends’ messages: Sent from my iPhone. No denying the truth of it but ultimately a reminder that they had one whether I did or not; I would even snarkily add at the end of my email responses to them (lumberingly typed on that dinosaur of a machine, the laptop) ‘Sent from my iPhone’. They must have chuckled with embarrassment for me at my lame attempt to assuage my obviously bruised ego.

Then came the ability to change that signature. Not many took advantage of it early but, with the ubiquity of smart phones, and rise in acceptance of the pidgin of e-communication, the disclaimer signature is a favorite replacement: Sent from my iPhone — Please excuse any typos. This pleasantly worded request of course gives the typer license to use whatever garbled excuse for English his or her flying thumbs can create; the recipients of such code now can no longer (even mentally) criticize the writer because they know that it was sent from a Smart Phone and, because of those tiny little keys and our oversized human digits, who can be expected to hit the correct key every time; and of course the delete key must be broken.

The audience of course is the key. For casual communication with good friends, the imperative for correctness is practically nil. Just as good friends see all sides of our personality, so too will they see the worst of our e-penmanship. And, because they’re good friends, they won’t care. On the other hand, if I’m emailing a prospective employer, certainly I will take more time to ensure that my message is typo-free. As with most issues, however, it’s the middle ground that becomes problematic. Where do you draw that line between the need for speed (and the concomitant forsaking of correctness) and any sense of how you might appear to someone as the author of such drivel? What if you’re emailing that prospective employer’s secretary? Or the coach of your child’s team? Who makes the cut for your I’ll-edit-my-emails team?

And that of course is where the signature comes in. What an elegant solution! It is automatic, it says what needs to be said, and it can be invoked or ignored at the reader’s discretion. Need to whip off a quick conformation [sic] on the go to a prospective employer about your interview but that thumb of yours hit ‘o’ instead of ‘i’? No problem. Disclaimer invoked. ventng to yr rm8 abt trafic n the wy to tht interview? No problem either. Disclaimer ignored.

But here’s the catch. I don’t have a problem with the code that passes for e-communication. People have different standards in different areas, and I don’t begrudge people those standards, as I hope they don’t begrudge me mine. (As an Italian-American, I have high standards for Italian food, but my friends wince at the excuse for Chinese food that I will profess to enjoy.) My problem with the disclaimer signature is what it (probably unconsciously) says about the writer: that they are so busy that they don’t have time to check their messages. That their lives are so on overdrive, that a quick message from a smart phone, mistake-free or mistake-ridden, is the best they can do in what limited time their 80 hour a week job, five kids, huge house to take care of, and social life to try desperately to cling to, allows them.

This is where the insult in the disclaimer signature appears: in the implication that those of us that care about how our writing sounds and appears in electronic media (as, gasp, we do in other media) have nothing better to do than languidly read and reread our emails and texts looking for the slightest mistake or imprecise nuance. My independent wealth allows me to have only a 60 hour a week job, my three kids are much easier to handle, I have a maid for my huge house, and my social life is rockin’. Thus, my e-syntax is perfect. Maybe if I were busier, I would have to sacrifice the only thing I can: correct syntax, spelling, and punctuation in my e-communications.

But ultimately, like everything else, time is not, as so many people would have us believe, outside of our control. We choose what to devote time to and what not to: ‘I don’t have time for that.’ Actually you do. You just choose not to make time for that. Your flying fingers that hit the wrong key every fifth letter are simply an indication that you don’t choose to devote time to edited e-communication. And that’s ok. No one is asking you to.

So here’s some advice: get rid of that ‘Please Excuse any Typos — Sent from my smart phone’ signature. I will excuse your typos, but I won’t because of your drippingly pathetic imprecation. In fact, your typos annoy me considerably less than your signature asking me to excuse them. The recipients of your messages should know where they stand with you. If you make a typo to someone important, they’re not going to excuse it because you asked them to. If you make a typo to a good friend, they’re not going to care one way or another. So make your typos, use ur shtcts, but stop whining about me having to excuse them.