“I don’t get no respect!” That was Rodney Dangerfield’s catchphrase.

I say this is terribly true today in the universe of electronic communications where, I point out, it is we that don’t give any respect. In our typing and our composition we are lazy, slovenly, careless, thoughtless, nonchalant — in short, downright disrespectful — and we don’t seem give a whatever about it…until we get no respect ourselves. Then we’re upset.

  • We misspell names of people and businesses.
  • We incorrectly name businesses and organizations.
  • We ignore capitalization of proper names and trademark names.
  • We misquote people, using incorrect words.
  • We type famous quotes, but attribute them to the wrong people.
  • We don’t check our sources to see if they are real or a hoax.
  • We post and publish incorrect links.

Yeah, yeah, so what? Who cares? You know, you know what I mean.

Businesses can’t be so cavalier. Their success depends on enforceable copyrights, brand name identification, proper use of product names, tag lines, quotes, successful SEO, correct URLs, etc.

To start with, misspelling someone’s name is just plain rude. Our names, our choice of spelling, our inclusion of middle names, initials, nicknames are an integral part of how we present ourselves to the world, and how we see, hold, and validate ourselves. When you misspell or incorrectly capitalize someone’s name you are directly insulting them. In my opinion they have every right to be angry.

A misspelling could mean a reader couldn’t find a volume, and an author doesn’t sell a book. A misspelling could mean an innocent person can be harassed for the financial dealings of some ne’er-do-well.

For bloggers and online authors, misspelling other peoples’ names can alienate those folks, and the important trackbacks, reciprocal links and mutual admiration referrals and recommendations may never materialize for you.

When someone reviews our Business Plan Pro product but calls it, say BizinessPro Writer, we lose customers. It can, and will happen to your product as well. When you refer to a product or company or website, check to be sure you are using the correct name.

Ignoring capitalization of letters in names can cause confusion, and possibly a loss of copyright protection. For instance, we all know that Twitter is the proper name of a social communication network, and twitter is a bird song. The soft drink is spelled Coke, but coke is a narcotic and a coal derivative used in making steel.

As another example, take jello. Jell-O [note the capitalization now, if you haven’t before] is the protected trade-name, but it has become a generic word for any type of gelatin-based dessert. Go to the store and you’ll see Knox, Royal, a local private label maybe, but to the customer they are all jello and they don’t care which one they buy. You can be sure that Jell-O cares.

Adobe’s Photoshop is well on its way to becoming an eponymous term. Now anytime someone makes a casual remark about manipulating pictures, they say they photoshoped it, regardless of which digital image editing software program they actually used.

It costs businesses billions annually in marketing branding efforts to keep their brand names visible, unique, known and purchased. But lazy, thoughtless, careless typing works everyday to negate the value of your marketing efforts.

No end of trouble, misinterpretation, bad feelings, feuds, lawsuits, destroyed public images and reputations have come about because of misquoting. Something as small as a single letter or two (could, would, should) can change the entire meaning of your business’ publicly made statement of concern to one of callous indifference, and the survival of your company.

Many quotes from literature and famous people from years past have slipped into our vernacular. They are often misquoted and misattributed. Brush up your Shakespeare by Michael Macrone has an entire chapter on popular phrases which people think came from the Bard, but did not. “The long and the short of it” “Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d” “Fool’s Paradise” are just few.

This problem is certainly not limited to age-old authors. “Play it again, Sam” – was a line never spoken by Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. “Houston, we have a problem.” This is a misstatement of the actual communication between the Apollo 13 astronauts and Mission Control in Houston. Your credibility suffers when you incorrectly quote, or assign the words to the wrong person.

Recently, the U.K. mainstream media was caught not checking their sources adequately. They printed quotes from an elegy for Michael Jackson, from a Twitter post ostensibly by Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. The tweet was actually by a Twitter impostor, a case of identity theft. A significant lapse in due diligence. It damaged the public position of the Foreign Secretary, and discredited the reputation and trustworthiness of those media.

Posting bad links is sloppy and unnecessary. At best, it irritates readers who get the 404 Errors, or end up on a page that has nothing to do with the original publishing. Worse, a bad link loses customers/visitors/business at the intended link. If the author gets affiliate or click-through revenue, publishing a link without checking its accuracy is like throwing money away.

It is time we electronic digital communicators put some polite respect back into our writings. Use spell checkers, proof read, double check and spell correctly the names of people, businesses and products. Don’t assume you’ve got it right. The power of the Internet is just a click away.

After all, if you expect to be respected, you have to show the same respect to others.

Steve Lange
Palo Alto Software

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