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Do The Typos In Your Profile Spell Disaster?


You get one chance to make a good first impression online, but do bad grammar and spelling lower your chances of finding love? One grammar goddess says, well, not always....

By Diane Mapes

s a writer, a reader and a bookworm, I’ve always pictured myself with a fellow word nerd. But after receiving an online missive from a charming, funny and hopelessly dyslexic bachelor, I got to wondering: Do poor spelling, punctuation and grammar always spell disaster for romance? Or can language lovers and language flubbers find common ground?

Here are a few points to keep in mind as you decide
"He was so adorable, I tossed my rule out the window.”
whether spelling is the be-all and end-all when it comes to love.

First impressions are key.
Just as you’d have someone proofread your cover letter before sending it off to a potential employer, spelling-challenged singles need to make sure their online profiles are letter-perfect. But don’t just run it through a spell-check program; there are too many language loopholes for that. Have a word-nerd friend, family member or colleague read it to make sure you haven’t accidentally inserted a homophone (a word that is pronounced the same as another but spelled differently, such as there, they’re and their) or thrown in a few pairs of unnecessary quotation marks (a favorite source of mockery among spelling and grammar geeks).

Maureen, a 48-year-old woman from Pleasant Hill, CA, says she won’t even respond to a profile if she sees misspellings.

“It shows someone who’s not careful,” she says. “It says the things that are important to me are not important to that person. Plus, there’s too much chance for miscommunication.”

Maureen speaks from experience. She once began corresponding with a guy she met through a personal ad and was intrigued when she got a note saying he’d “got down her number.” Great, she thought. He resourcefully looked up my number, so I’ll be hearing from him soon. But the guy never called. She finally wrote to him and was surprised that he had been waiting to hear from her.

The root of the confusion? His bad spelling.

“He’d actually misspelled the word ‘jot,’” says Maureen. “When I told him, he was offended and wouldn’t go out with me. But that was fine, because I wouldn’t go out with him, either. I’m not going to date someone who can’t spell a three-letter word.”

Keep in mind that bad spelling and grammar can affect more than just a first impression.

“I know spelling isn’t a complete indication of intelligence, but it does pertain statistically to how well read you are, how educated you are, how literate you are,” says Albert, a 24-year-old entrepreneur from Irvine, CA. “I can’t help but think what would happen if I were to marry someone who couldn’t spell and she had to help me with my business or represent my company to clients.”

Charm counts, too.
Kelly, a 32-year-old copywriter from Oakland, CA, says whenever she used to think of a bad speller, she pictured “some Southern California party boy who spends all his time on a Jet Ski, drinking beer with his buddies.” So the former spelling-bee champ was totally unprepared for Alan, a 33-year-old neuroscientist who was short on spelling skills but long on charm.

“He was dyslexic, and the subject line of his ad said ‘I’ll buy you a drink for every typo,’” says Kelly, who began dating Alan three years ago. “I always thought of myself as one of those ‘bad spelling is a deal-breaker’ types, but he was so adorable, I tossed my rule out the window.”

Poor spelling can be a stumbling block (particularly for online daters), but it doesn’t have to stand in the way of romance, especially if you have other qualities that balance things out, such as humor, charm,
I’ve dated great spellers who were giant jerks.
sincerity or, say, dazzling good looks. Even plain old honesty can count for a lot with people (like Kelly), although it may be too much to expect that your typos will be overlooked if you simply say you're not a good speller.

“You’re not off the hook,” says Judy McGuire, author of How Not to Date. “Remember, you’re trying to impress this person, so you should be at the top of your game in every way. It’s like showering and shaving before a date.”

But McGuire, who’s been seeing a spelling-challenged swain for the past few years, is quick to add that just because someone’s a good speller doesn’t mean he’s a good match.

“Good spelling is nice, but it’s like blue eyes if you love blue eyes,” she says. “It’s superficial, and you can get over it. If you’re attracted to a person, you can forgive a lot of sins — even bad spelling. I’ve dated great spellers who were giant jerks. There are more important things than being a good speller — there’s being a good person, being smart in other ways.”

Final word: Nobody’s perfect.
What should spelling and grammar snobs keep in mind when it comes to finding a mate?

Christina, a 25-year-old copy editor who fell for Jesse, a whip-smart botanist who struggles with spelling, says to check your biases at the door.

“I think that a lot of the time, people will use something like bad spelling as a justification for reading in their own biases,” she says. “They’ll think it means that person is stupid or lazy or childish, but we only cheat ourselves when we judge quickly.”

Christina says her current beau may misspell various words and capitalize with reckless abandon, but he is also a brilliant storyteller who is able to name every variety of flower, tree and shrub.

“What attracted me when we met five years ago was the fact that he was obviously smart. Plus, he was a plant nerd, and that was exciting to me,” she says. “I guess I’m all about content.”

The bottom line? For some, mangled language skills are the ultimate deal-breaker, and it’s probably just as well that the two camps don’t mix. The constant corrections would get old very quickly. For others, poor spelling is just a handy excuse to hit the back button on the browser.

“It’s scary to date and it’s scary to open yourself up, so we rule people out for all sorts of things,” says McGuire. “But you have to give people a break. And keep in mind that you probably have something weird wrong with you, too. Maybe you’re a great speller but you’ve got a lumpy butt. If we were hung up on people having to know math or physics, I’d be single for the rest of my life.”

Yes, we all have some weird quirk or bad habit that can keep us from romance, present company included. As it turned out, I never did get together with my charming dyslexic bachelor.

After I mentioned that I played the accordion, I never heard from the guy again.


Diane Mapes is a freelance writer based in Seattle and the author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World. She’s a regular contributor to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where her column “Single Shot” runs every other Friday.
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