Is it fair that typos count against you? Is it a good thing that ideas are placed second to punctuation, grammar and spelling?
I don’t know and I don’t care. Neither should you. If you have typos in your scripts (or your letters, emails and notes to industry contacts)…you are damaging your career. Typos are that important.
Because you are a writer and, like it or not, you are held to a higher standard. Every reader, agent, and development exec in town knows he or she is safe to pass on a script that includes typos, bad spelling and usage errors. “Poorly written, derivative work riddled with typos.” That could be the coverage analysis of your script.
So, then, why in the hell are there so many typos in your work? Most of the emails I receive have glaring errors. Today, I got one mistaking “right” for “write”. You’re a writer; you should know the difference. And the problem is getting worse, with emails and text messaging seducing us into relaxing proper spelling and grammar. Just remember, your screenplay is not a casual communication. One script sale can launch your career and permanently change your financial status. In addition, you are asking a studio to invest $50 million or more into producing your writing. That’s not play money to a studio any more than it is play money to you. The jobs and careers of the people making these decisions are on the line. Do you think it’s easier for them to say “yes” to a script with spelling errors and typos or one without?
It is very hard to rid your work of typos, spelling errors, improper usage, and grammar problems. I am not impervious to these errors; no one is. But you must set a zero tolerance standard. If you can’t do it by yourself, enroll the help of a well-read friend. Just get it done.
Enough. Go write.
NOTE: I am not suggesting all sentences in a script be grammatically correct. Screenwriters are notorious for the liberties we take. I am suggesting, however, that while a liberty you decide to take for dramatic effect is acceptable, a sloppy grammatical mistake is not.