Typos: the online argument suckerpunch

Ayrton Lauw

There are countless times where we see that a controversial video on Facebook has sparked another intelligence war.

Perhaps it’s about everyone’s favorite commander in chief spewing some rhetoric or that one cute chihuahua that just jumped in a deep bed of winter snow and people are claiming that the owners are negligent.

Eventually all of the logic from each of these social media debates breaks down and the keyboard warriors turn to low blows as the pinnacle of the arguments go from refuting each other’s assertions to seeing who can type more accurately and coherently.

First, I’d like to address that philosophically, using typos in someone’s argument to as a means to refute their argument is a logical fallacy – an ad hominem to be exact.

Most online warriors that dabble in using typos to their advantage like to drop insightful claims or holes in their argument to focus on attacking a person’s character to be on the high road. However, showing off in the comment section by one-upping a person is not the way people should be winning arguments.

A very common and effective way to correctly disprove someone’s argument is to follow the handy-dandy four step refutation:

  1. Identify the claim you are answering
  2. Make a counter claim
  3. Use evidence to support your claim
  4. Explain the importance of your argument.

When there is use of an ad hominem, it bypasses these steps in the refutation process and uses the typo in question to label a person as less qualified than the person who can correctly type. In which, the person who can type the best is surely the winner of the argument.

Staged Typo Screenshot
A YouTube user calling out another user on a typo. Photo credit: Ayrton Lauw


However, its reasoning is absolutely baseless and it does not address the main part of the argument. The person who makes a typo in their claim doesn’t automatically lose the debate and now the argument is being redirected in a way so the audience can agree with the person who typed correctly.

To add, just because most of these heated conversations are dealt online does not mean we can allow to forget logic and not correctly refute claims.

Despite this, I do see the need that people that are higher in power should be triple checking their personal tweets. Otherwise another “covfefe” incident will spark an influx of memes and publications will paint them as fools.

President Trump’s infamous “covfefe” tweet originally posted on May 31, 2017.


Second, besides the actual fact that typos should not back up an argument – it’s just pitiful.

We currently live in a world where we abbreviate any phrase or word to further convenience our texting desires.

Anywhere from the classic “lol” or the more contemporary “lol u wild tho wyd” is used on a daily basis to casually chat among our online social circle, but if we’ve completely dropped most of the letters and just kept the first three letters of a phrase to turn it into one of the most popular phrases to text, what is okay to spell correctly online anyways?

To answer that, it shouldn’t even matter. If the message is read and comprehended as the author intended, then it should not matter if it has minor spelling or grammar errors in the first place. The typos should not discredit a person’s point.

From a person desensitized by poor arguments from the battlefield colloquially known as Facebook – I can guarantee that it has no effect on the person who made the typo at all. It doesn’t suddenly put someone on the chopping block if they’re called out on a typo, it just feels like cheap grade school trolling on a Minecraft YouTube video. Present an actual sound argument and win through better evidence instead of giving the low blow.

Going on the comment section to actively persuade people that another person is without a shred of doubt wrong because they use a typo is a sorry attempt to get an upper hand on someone. Typos are a daily occurrence – most might even go further to say that typos are just natural things that happen in most every message sent. Attacking a person’s intelligence evidenced by a typo is not only pathetic, it’s meaningless and it should stop.

If you are unfortunately one of these people that like to use typos to refute arguments, Fullerton College offers a wide variety of classes that can enrich your life through better argumentation practices. Check out the Philosophy & Religious Studies Department website.