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Covfefever: When Co-workers Criticize Our Writing

Everyone is talking about the president's mysterious, and seemingly incomplete, overnight tweet. One word: #covfefe.

The president deleted his "covfefe" tweet. Soon after, he asked us to have fun figuring out what he meant by it, which had the immediate effect (not affect, ahem) of sending Twitter into a total, complete frenzy.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that "covfefe" is a word that people close to the president will understand. Bqhatevwr, covfefe is already a meme. We need to deal with the co-workers who will jump all over us for writing "here" when we meant to write "hear"!

You Spell Potato, I Spell Potatoe
Most of us will feel chagrined when we meant to write "duck" but hit the "f" instead of the "d." These two letters are uncomfortably close to each other on the keyboard, after all. Oops.

Maybe we did (or didn't) use an Oxford Comma in the latest quarterly report. Maybe we meant to write "public" in an email to the CEO, but forget the "l." Maybe our toddler took our smartphone and added a few "sentences" to a client text. The spelling error possibilities are endless, really.

Suddenly, we feel like a Yahoo Answers of the working world, wondering how babby is formed. What I find most interesting is how colleagues will react to our spelling and grammar snafus. Will they say something, or not?

Here are the five most common responses at work when what we write somehow isn't right:

1. Your colleague says nothing. Wow, it's like your major spelling error in that email never happened! Is your colleague incredibly polite, or did the spelling error go unnoticed? You quietly wonder, but you're never going to ask. Either way, this co-worker is now one of your favorite colleagues, and you will choose to overlook his inability to use Excel correctly. It's quid pro quo on the grammar, bro.

2. Your colleague thinks it's funny. Your spelling error has made a co-worker (or two) laugh out loud. They think it's hilarious! Ouch. The good news? They'll quickly move on, and you'll live it down. Remember, it could be worse. At least this colleague forgives your unforced spelling errors, and may even reveal her own past writing mistakes as she laughs at yours. On that note...

3. Your colleague points out the mistake. This co-worker circles your spelling error in pen, or responds by email with "It's spelled 'dessert' not 'desert'!" (Translation: Grow a brain, morans.) The workplace is full of frustrated English majors who are here/they're, there, their/and everywhere. Every time they condescendingly highlight your writing errors, ask them to solve for X. They will never bother you again. (You're welcome.)

4. Your colleague is offended. Four-letter words can happen (see the "duck" problem above) and your spelling error has upset a colleague. Approach this colleague in person, or over the phone. Say that you hit the wrong key by mistake, and didn't notice the error before sending. Apologize for the oversight. That's it. There's nothing more you can do, except to triple-check all future messages before sending.

5. Your colleague forwards it. These days, people forward many things without thinking, but forwarding can feel like a form of grammar shaming in select instances. You might need to spell out for these colleagues that you do not appreciate their itchy forwarding finger. You may not be the world's best speller, but you deserve a respectful work environment.

Protip: as often as you can, let a message/status update sit for a few minutes before sending while you work on other things. Circle back to re-read the message. You might catch misspellings, unclear sentences and cadence issues. I know this is a big ask in the immediacy of the internet age, but it could save you a few headaches with highly-important written communications.

Even the founding fathers had their spelling and grammar issues: the U.S. Constitution confuses "its" with "it's" in one passage. There, feel better now?

With any luck, this blog post doesn't contain spelling errors. If you find any, however, please consider them to be both highly ironic, and utterly intentional.


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