I Found A Typo In My Statement of Purpose After I Submitted!

 

You spent weeks outlining your statement of purpose. You worked through 7 different drafts this month, and even got feedback on it from your recommenders and a few friends. You made a few quick edits to polish it off just before the deadline submission, and BAM, it’s done. It’s not until a few days after the rush of the submission wears off that you go back to check your submission documents and you spot it: a typo in your statement of purpose. “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Once you’re done with the self-chastising, take a deep breath. Yes, a typo does convey sloppiness and lack of attention to detail. But all hope isn’t lost. It’s a typo, and unless it’s particularly egregious*, the committee’s focus will be on the content of the statement. Unfortunately this kind of mistake happens all the time, and every academic at one point or another has experienced this professional mishap. It’s disheartening, and you have only yourself to blame.

 

But there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s small comfort but rest assured, you’re likely to find the occasional typo even in multi-million dollar grant applications (seriously!). The reason is that at every academic level people are very busy, from the grad students on up to the department chair. When you’re constantly editing and re-reading the same sentences 50 times, you’re only scanning between the words, and you’re unlikely to catch the most subtle and insidious of the typographical errors.

 

Thankfully, just as funding agencies understand that even star professors might miss a typo in their grant, professors can understand that you, the applicant, might miss a small typo in your statement. They get it, because they’re humans too, and ultimately the content of your statement will matter a lot more than a small single typo. Let’s be clear — if you’ve been working on a 2-page statement of purpose for a few weeks, there’s little excuse to find a typo in it. [Note: typos and sloppiness in general rank high on reasons grants don’t get accepted, either.] But mistakes happen, so don’t sweat it. If this was one of your earlier submitted statements, take the time to go through the other ones carefully. Have someone with fresh eyes read through the document. It will be far easier for them to spot a typo or a missing word than it will be for your tired eyes. Take the time to do the same careful review of your CV and your personal statement. After all, you have only a few pages to make your case for a spot in that graduate program. So learn from your mistake, and move on positively!

*  Yeah, sometimes the typo isn’t tiny. Things like “[ref here]” or “resaerch” are bad but you can overcome them. If you’ve made the terrible decision to add personal, subjective annotations like “[stupid Science paper here],” that’s a pretty much unrecoverable mistake. Even worse are accidental mis-types when switching between your word processor, browser, and social media. So if you have a habit of work+non-work multi-tasking, do yourself a favor and really read through your document many times, because spell-check might not find that typo you don’t know is there!

 
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I Found A Typo In My Statement of Purpose After I Submitted!

March 25th, 2018
 

You spent weeks outlining your statement of purpose. You worked through 7 different drafts this month, and even got feedback on it from your recommenders and a few friends. You made a few quick edits to polish it off just before the deadline submission, and BAM, it’s done. It’s not until a few days after the rush of the submission wears off that you go back to check your submission documents and you spot it: a typo in your statement of purpose. “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Once you’re done with the self-chastising, take a deep breath. Yes, a typo does convey sloppiness and lack of attention to detail. But all hope isn’t lost. It’s a typo, and unless it’s particularly egregious*, the committee’s focus will be on the content of the statement. Unfortunately this kind of mistake happens all the time, and every academic at one point or another has experienced this professional mishap. It’s disheartening, and you have only yourself to blame.

 

But there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s small comfort but rest assured, you’re likely to find the occasional typo even in multi-million dollar grant applications (seriously!). The reason is that at every academic level people are very busy, from the grad students on up to the department chair. When you’re constantly editing and re-reading the same sentences 50 times, you’re only scanning between the words, and you’re unlikely to catch the most subtle and insidious of the typographical errors.

 

Thankfully, just as funding agencies understand that even star professors might miss a typo in their grant, professors can understand that you, the applicant, might miss a small typo in your statement. They get it, because they’re humans too, and ultimately the content of your statement will matter a lot more than a small single typo. Let’s be clear — if you’ve been working on a 2-page statement of purpose for a few weeks, there’s little excuse to find a typo in it. [Note: typos and sloppiness in general rank high on reasons grants don’t get accepted, either.] But mistakes happen, so don’t sweat it. If this was one of your earlier submitted statements, take the time to go through the other ones carefully. Have someone with fresh eyes read through the document. It will be far easier for them to spot a typo or a missing word than it will be for your tired eyes. Take the time to do the same careful review of your CV and your personal statement. After all, you have only a few pages to make your case for a spot in that graduate program. So learn from your mistake, and move on positively!

*  Yeah, sometimes the typo isn’t tiny. Things like “[ref here]” or “resaerch” are bad but you can overcome them. If you’ve made the terrible decision to add personal, subjective annotations like “[stupid Science paper here],” that’s a pretty much unrecoverable mistake. Even worse are accidental mis-types when switching between your word processor, browser, and social media. So if you have a habit of work+non-work multi-tasking, do yourself a favor and really read through your document many times, because spell-check might not find that typo you don’t know is there!

 
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