Lessons In Twitter Etiquette – Is It Okay To Remove Typos And Spelling Errors From Retweets?

This is potentially tricky. Particularly so for brands.

Somebody – let’s call them a potential customer – mentions your brand or product favourably on Twitter, either openly or in a linked review. You want to retweet to thank them, but there’s a problem – their tweet contains a stinker of a typographical error, and the Grammar Nazi purist in you can’t bring yourself to retweet without a little creative editing.

But is this the right thing to do?

Of course, if you’re using Twitter’s internal retweet system, you have absolutely no way to edit the tweet, and everything goes out entirely as is.

However, if you’re a little old-school, and like to use the original retweet method, then this does present a dilemma. And it’s not just for brands, either. Tons of great links on Twitter are accompanied by really lousy prose.

So, what’s the solution? What’s fair? It largely depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Some people don’t pay much attention to the quality of their prose, spelling and grammar, and likely wouldn’t notice (or care) if you made a minor correction to their tweet.

Others will notice, and might take offense. This could potentially hurt your relationship. After all, they’ve said something nice, but it seems that all you care about is that they used ‘there’ instead of ‘their’.

Others still care WAY too much about the quality of tweets, taking it to vigilante levels, and crazy as this might seem, if you don’t show an acceptable level of care in what you allow into your timeline you risk impacting those relationships, too.

Here’s my tip – if in doubt, it’s better to change everything than just one thing.

What I mean by that is if you want to retweet something and give the original poster the proper credit (as you should), but there’s a grammatical or spelling mistake in there that physically brings you pain, then

  1. Seek medical help, but first
  2. Rather than just fixing the one or two words they screwed up (thus risking an emotional retort), rewrite the entire headline copy from scratch and simply credit them as normal at the end of the message (perhaps with the via hat-tip, which is my personal preference)

People do this all the time, so nobody is going to object if they see you doing this. You’re still giving credit, and that great link is now getting more attention. However, if your only visible change is to remove an unnecessary apostrophe from it’s, you should be aware that, silly as it may well seem, the original poster might take offense. And perhaps with good reason.

PS. Almost without fail, the absurdity of a typographical error in a tweet is always directly proportional to how many times it has been retweeted before it is noticed. Happens often enough to me that they might as well call it Bennett’s Law. Still, it can’t hurt to try and make everything perfect.