GrammarPhile Blog

Acceptable Number of Document Errors?

Posted by Conni Eversull   Nov 9, 2010 4:30:00 AM

We recently received the following question from one of our readers:

"Recognizing that humans aren't perfect, is there an acceptable percentage of errors for a published document?"

Before you read Phil Jamieson's answer below, I thought I'd ask you to think about this question. What percentage of errors, if any, are you willing to accept in a document? Does your answer differ based upon the type of document (for example, web page versus hard-copy printed brochure)? Do you agree with Phil's response?

We'd love to get your comments and thoughts! 

Here is Phil's reply:

Thanks for writing, and for asking your question.

Our immediate answer is NO. Upon thinking a bit further, our thoughtful answer is still NO. Hopefully, if we were to take another year to answer, we'd still say NO.

People say "Well, nothing's perfect."  Yet in an arithmetic test, if I ask you two questions ("What is 2 plus 2?" and "What is 10 divided by 5?") you can achieve a perfect score by providing the two perfect answers (at least for our world): 4 and 2.

There - that's perfect. So why can't one write a perfect sentence? And then a perfect paragraph? And on to a perfect page? Chapter? Book? It can be done, and it is done many times each day by careful writers. I have a copy of "Gone With The Wind" (all words are capped in this title, per the original publisher) that is over 500 pages long, and there is not a single error in the entire book.

Now, a parallel contemporary question might be, "Do people care if there are mistakes in a published document?" In this age of dumbing things down, lazy teachers addicted to entitlements, lazier parents addicted to television, and television itself preaching to the lowest common denominator, the answer to THIS question is probably, "Not as many as in yesteryear." And that's too bad!

It's too bad for the country. It makes us more third-worldish. 

It's too bad for schools. They lower their standards.

And personally it's bad for my business at But fortunately, many still do care and they are our customers.

Our bottom-line answer to your question is NO, there is no acceptable number of mistakes for any published document.

Topics: errors, published documents

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all