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When in a group meeting with a projector on, if someone's making notes or typing out minutes for everyone to see, I'd occasionally point out typos to do with internal acronyms and terms. I try not to do it if the word processor has picked it up and highlighted it as it's too obvious then.

How acceptable is that? I feel it's important that items are recorded properly and to me obvious typos really stand out in a bad way but I worry that other team members may be irritated by that (especially if I were to do it to a senior colleague).

I'm careful with my tone and I do try to do it in a light and casual manner ('Oh, I think that term might be spelled incorrectly') but again it's difficult to judge how this is coming across.

EDIT: Just to clarify that the meetings in question are casual in nature as it's come up in the answers.

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    To the downvoter: could you please explain why you felt the need to downvote it? Is it a duplicate or off-topic by any chance? – Nobilis Sep 25 '14 at 10:54
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    I didn't downvote, but one might read this as mean-spirited. What's the intention of pointing out typos? Are these documents that potential customers or senior management will see? If so, they'll thank you for not letting them look bad. If not, they could be annoyed that you're not focused on business and instead seem to be interested in making them look bad in front of your coworkers. – Aaron Hall Sep 25 '14 at 14:58
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    @AaronHall But it's a valid question about whether this behaviour is right or wrong. I think the downvote should be on whether the question is formatted properly is off-topic etc., not on whether you agree or disagree. People who feel that what I describe is not good practice have let me know in their answers which I think is the whole point of the website. I'm basically asking 'Is it a good thing?'. Not 'It's good, innit? High five.' But you have valid points that I think the posters below have addressed. – Nobilis Sep 25 '14 at 15:05
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    Actually, if it's irreparably formatted or off-topic, they should flag it or vote for it to be closed. Votes are simply to help rank the quality and usefulness of your question, and are completely up to any individual we've allowed to do so (up at 15 rep, down at 125). Be happy, your question is now probably in the top 90% of questions on the site, and you've earned 50+ rep for asking it. Cheers! – Aaron Hall Sep 25 '14 at 15:17
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    I'd take such corrections as a burning desire to become the new note-taker. – Kik Sep 25 '14 at 20:09
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In most cases, let it slide entirely in that it never needs to be brought up.

If the presentation is being given to peers, but is likely going to go 'up the ladder', make notes and give them (with other constructive feedback) after the presentation. Obviously, balance the urgency of that feedback with the expected presentation to higher management.

You should only point it out in the meeting if there is imminent confusion as a result of the typo. For example, chemical names can often differ by a single character, and adding the wrong chemical to a formula could be costly, illegal and dangerous. Sales figures change dramatically by adding or removing a zero, or fat fingering a 1 into a 4. If a stock price is given as $104.32 a share when it's really $104.21, let it go. If the stock price is given as $104 a share when it's really $1.04 a share, bring it up.

Just like any other correction, question, or any diversion or interruption in a meeting, you need to ask yourself if the benefit of interrupting outweighs the cost. You wouldn't interrupt a meeting to tell your buddy your thoughts on the game last night, would you? Well, in most cases, doing that and doing what you describe contribute exactly the same to the meeting you're attending: zero positive contribution and precious seconds/minutes of peoples' time.

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    Absolutely. If you notice a significant error in the figures that needs to be addressed, address it immediately before bad figures get out there. If you see a figure that was rounded down to the cent instead of rounded up, you have to weigh that risk. I mean, buying a few million shares with a penny difference means a lot, while the 20-minute delayed stock ticker on the company website being off by a penny probably doesn't matter much. It's all about weighing risk and acting with that foot forward. – corsiKa Sep 25 '14 at 19:11
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How acceptable is that? I feel it's important that items are recorded properly and to me obvious typos really stand out in a bad way but I worry that other team members may be irritated by that (especially if I were to do it to a senior colleague).

The acceptability of interrupting a meeting for spelling or grammar corrections depends on the nature of the meetings, the culture of the company, and the finesse you use.

At least in my company, it's far more important to get the meeting done than to remove all typos from the minutes. The meeting itself is what is important. The minutes are far less important.

In my company, constant interruptions like this would be completely unacceptable. Folks here would find your actions extremely annoying, and counter-productive. If I were running the meeting and you interrupted this way, I'd stop the meeting, ask you to write down your "corrections" in a note, and send it to me later. If you worked for me, I'd have a private conversation with you, telling you not to do this during meetings.

So apparently nobody has told you to stop doing this so far. That's probably a good sign. But still you say "it's difficult to judge how this is coming across". That's a problem. If you aren't able to judge the impact of your actions, you could be headed for repercussions down the road.

You might wish to talk with a trusted colleague. Ask how your interruptions/corrections are coming across. Learn from the feedback and decide if you need to adjust your actions - perhaps sending your corrections in a follow-up note after the meeting, directed solely to the minutes-taker.

You might also try to ponder why you aren't able to judge people's reactions yourself. Sometimes we need to improve our observational skills. Sometimes we might have conditions that prevent us from "reading" people well. The ability to judge how you are coming across in business situations can be an important skill to develop.

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    Thanks for the detailed answer, I probably should have noted that it's more of a casual habit than a constant one but I do appreciate your feedback and it'll definitely make me think twice about how I come across in future meetings. We have a fairly relaxed and laid back culture which for me makes it difficult to judge people's reactions as I think a more formal tone is easier to navigate than a less formal one (sometimes what I might see as light and okay to bring up in a light setting may not be seen by others that way). – Nobilis Sep 25 '14 at 12:47
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    @Nobilis: specifically the thing to watch out for in a relaxed/informal/tolerant setting, is that you might be doing something counter-productive, but your colleagues will tolerate it indefinitely anyway just because it seems important to you. So although Joe says "you could be headed for repercussions" I don't think that's necessarily the problem. If you want negative feedback for things that are slightly bad, but don't get that feedback because your colleagues are intentionally relaxed about it, that's slightly bad too. So you'd have to demand criticism :-) – Steve Jessop Sep 26 '14 at 9:39
  • @SteveJessop An important point, thanks, I think people can be a little too tolerant at times, especially in the IT industry. – Nobilis Sep 26 '14 at 10:34
  • @JoeStrazzere I meant that perhaps colleagues could be sometimes tolerant of unwanted behaviour, something that perhaps irritates them but only mildly. Maybe they do find such interruptions irritating but perhaps not so much that they make a fuss. Which is what kinda prompted me to ask the question as it got me thinking that perhaps they do find it slightly annoying but won't point it out. And an outsiders' perspective (as in this case) could be very useful. – Nobilis Sep 26 '14 at 16:07
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Comments regarding typos on slides should not be mentioned once the meeting is started, the focus should be on the things at hand. It might look bad for you as you might come out as a smart ass who has needs to express that and it might annoy the presenter, better not.

Feel free to note down the typos and politely give your notes to the presenter, once the meeting is over.

If the text itself is being written while the meeting is going on, then go ahead.

Sure, there might be some people open to being constantly harassed with comments regarding typos while presenting but it's really not helping as long as you deliver the message, just no need to do it in front of everyone.

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    Sorry, should have clarified better that it only concerns meetings in which something is written down as the meeting progresses. I do understand that during a presentation those are best kept for after but thanks for still pointing it out as it's a good point. – Nobilis Sep 25 '14 at 9:14
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    I see. Politely pointing out typos while someone is writing a text should be fine, especially if it's going to presented to someone. – Jonast92 Sep 25 '14 at 9:28
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    I usually wait a few seconds before pointing out the typo, to give the person writing the text a chance to notice it themselves. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Sep 25 '14 at 10:30
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    Does it interrupt the flow? Does it add anything to the person making notes? I'd say it does not matter if it is from a presentation or someone making notes, only point out if it makes a difference. Notes can (and normally will) be tidied up before going "up the chain", giving you time post meeting for you to bring up the typos. – mlk Sep 25 '14 at 11:09
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Don't unless the typo can be cause the notes to change the meaning. You are now slowing down the meeting for everyone in the room and only two people care about your point. However I take a very hard line on going off-topic on meetings, but then I spend most of my life in meetings. :(

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Here is a question that you've not answered: Does the change you are proposing fix a typo that could potentially cause confusion down the road?

You've mentioned that you point out "typos to do with internal acronyms and terms". And in some cases I can see the importance of correcting a typo. If there are two internal acronyms, ABC and ACB and someone in the meeting uses the wrong one then potentially(if there is no context perhaps) this could lead to confusion. But honestly?

This part of my answer will be split into two parts. The first involves meeting notes that are meant to be post processed and distributed or involving communication outside your team and work. The second involves internal, 'meeting minutes'.

Let's go with the first. If a group in a meeting is working together on a document that will be released externally than everyone in the room should be on point in catching and alleviating typos and poor communication. These materials are unique because, ultimately, they will represent the organization to the outside world. There is a responsibility, in this case, to speak up about any ambiguity or mistakes. In this case you, and everyone else in the room, is absolutely in the right to correct, gently if possible, any mistakes.

The second? Well the second situation is where you kind of come off looking like a jerk. Internal, informal meeting minutes for casual meetings are just that: informal, internal and casual. Things that do not accurately represent the meeting should be called out. Say if the meeting agreed to do XYZ and the meeting minutes say "By consensus the group has agreed NOT to do XYZ" Otherwise? You're showing off whether you realize it or not. Whether it is your intention or not you are attempting to show how much more you know/notice/etc than the person taking the notes. If it bothers you that much? Take the notes yourself.

Is anyone else in the room suggesting fixes for typos? Really think back over the last few meetings - how many times has everyone in the room spoken up? Of that, for each person, roughly what percentage was to correct typos in the meeting minutes? This is how you can guage how your regular 'corrections' are being taken. There is an important lesson all developers and IT have to learn eventually and that is the lesson of 'Good enough'. You are, absolutely, putting your working relationship with other people in the room at risk every time you recommend a 'correction' and for what gain? Do these notes live on forever, being referenced back constantly? Or are they like most meeting minutes where they get dumped on a network drive, emailed out or on a sharepoint in order to show that, yes, things happened in the meeting? What is the real benefit, other than scratching your typo itch, that these corrections provide?

Imagine, for a moment, if you were working in a room and every time you made a minor, unimportant, mistake a specific person called you out. You open the cmd instead of the server console or something minor, unimportant, otherwise unnoticeable and, immediately, this other person calls you out. "You're doing that wrong!" How would you feel about that person? Especially, perhaps, if there were others in the group who did not point those things out? Some folks who read this may be adamant that they would be thrilled to have their mistakes pointed out but, let's be honest here - no one likes to be called out. No one likes to be called out on minor, unimportant things. No one likes to be put on the spot(typing in front of a group) and called out on minor, unimportant things on notes that may never be seen again.

You have a couple of possible solutions here. First - if the typos bother you so badly why haven't you volunteered to take the notes? Be polite, even joking: "I'm super particular about typos, do you mind if I take the notes?" You may be unaware of the challenge of actively participating in a meeting while taking public notes. Or, alternatively, suggest spreading it around. Let everyone take the notes. If, for whatever reason, that isn't a possibility take a break on commenting on typos and watch other's reactions to those typos. See if other's feel they are important enough to comment, see how they do so, get a sense of the culture of correcting others in your group.

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  1. The meeting is casual

  2. The tone of the meeting - presentation and Q&A - is light

  3. The colleagues are open to interruption

If these three conditions are met, then you should be free to interject your correction - I use the word "should" because even though the colleagues, as a group, are open to interruption, you may run into the colleague whose presentation you disrupted because you broke their train of thought with your interruption. On the other hand, as other answer providers have pointed out, some interruptions are necessary and critical in terms of content and not pointing the error or omission in real time does a disservice to the group. I'd say, most corrections are not critical and can wait until the presentation is over and the Q&A begins.

If the meeting is formal, the top management and/or the customers and/or heavyweight visitors are attending, then let the presenters make their own mistakes no matter how critical(*) and point out the mistakes to them when you get a chance to speak to them one on one - It's the presenters' responsibility to reach out to the group and transmit the correction.

(*) Would you say, disrupt the US President's State of the Union address?

  • Thanks for you comment, should add that the meetings are casual in nature. If I was meeting with managers of the board of directors in a more formal setting then yes, the tone of the situation would obviously make it clear that unnecessary interruptions are, well, unnecessary. – Nobilis Sep 25 '14 at 11:37
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There are at least two ways to correct typos in someone else's minutes or notes:

  1. point it out as it occurs, and get them to correct it immediately
  2. copy-edit afterwards.

I would say that (1) is usually not appropriate in a meeting since it very visibly occupies the time of everyone present, whereas (2) is also available and only occupies the time of one person. (2) might also be straight faster, in that editing a document to correct a simple error is usually quicker than describing the error to someone else to correct.

In fact, the person writing the notes might have spotted the error themself but already have decided to favour (2) over (1), and therefore will not slow down to fix it because they'd rather press on with their "rough notes" now and fix them later. If that's the case then you wouldn't be providing any benefit at all, you're just fixing something that would have been fixed anyway.

If you're "that person" in the company who spots every spelling mistake and typo, then you can offer to spend time copy-editing, but you shouldn't make that offer of time on behalf of everyone in the meeting unless the meeting is generally agreed that it's worth it.

If the purpose of the meeting is to give final approval to a critical document then sure, correcting every little thing as you go might be entirely appropriate.

I'd also say that if there's a persistent typo that people keep making with an internal name (for example if people keep on writing "KMDFM" in place of "KMFDM") then it might be worth mentioning. It becomes not just about correcting the error at hand, it reduces the number of future errors by raising awareness of the persistent error. This is more valuable than merely correcting a one-off typo.

As for tone, personally I would rather hear "it's KMFDM, you typed KMDFM" rather than "oh, sorry to interrupt, but I think you might have made a very slight typo there. I think where you've written KMDFM it's actually possible that you meant KMFDM instead". But this can be very specific to the culture and the individual. Some people appreciate others being brief and confident in pointing out clear mistakes. Some people prefer to have the area of the error highlighted (especially when it's by a junior) so they can check it and make their own determination whether it's really a mistake. Some people require that their juniors never point out their mistakes in public under any circumstances, regardless of wording. It's also specific to the kind of error - if the person you're correcting isn't embarrassed by typos then they might welcome a direct contradiction even if they'd prefer you be more equivocal over matters of judgement.

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If it's really important, I will speak up.
If it's a minor thing, I will contact the person who provided the info directly and privately. I have, however, had the unfortunate experience with a web content editor who became very nasty when I pointed out as gently as possible (privately, in an email) her mistakes on a web page. You won't always get positive responses but smart people will appreciate the intent.

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