September 27, 2017 8:12 pm
Updated: September 27, 2017 8:20 pm

Will spelling and grammar mistakes hurt Bill Smith’s campaign?

WATCH: Mayoral candidate Bill Smith is answering to the grammar police. His recent campaign ad includes spelling mistakes and is making the rounds on social media. Bindu Suri with how big of an impact small mistakes can have.


A full-page ad in a Calgary newspaper outlines all the reasons Bill Smith thinks he should be the city’s new mayor, however instead of focusing on his platform bullet points, people are focusing on spelling and grammar mistakes.

The ad from the mayoral candidate’s campaign team ran in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Sun. It’s made its rounds on social media with users pointing out a number of spelling mistakes, including “council” spelled “coulcil” and “whether” spelled “wheather.”

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Smith’s campaign communications director has taken full blame for the errors, saying he was under the weather when he proofed the ad.

“I was doing the Neo Citran and I was in a Neo Citran haze,” Rick Donkers said Wednesday.

“What I realized very early on was that I couldn’t focus on the copy.

“It went out… and I have to bear ultimate responsibility for that because ultimately that falls under communications.”

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Melanee Thomas, associate professor at the University of Calgary says politicians don’t ever want this kind of thing to happen as it suggests a lack of organization in their campaign.

“It does suggest that there’s a lack of competence somewhere, and in elections like this for a mayor, where there’s no explicit party labels, the candidates themselves are going to be evaluated by the voters on their character and on their competence.”

“Character usually matters more, but the competence also matters as well and so this is a direct hit at… I think for some, perceived competence of a campaign.”

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Thomas also said she felt “uneasy” about the fact that Smith himself hasn’t addressed the ad, only his communications director.

“Taking somebody out from the back and saying, ‘they’re responsible for this mistake,’ is kind of like the candidate abdicating responsibility for their own campaign,” she said.

Now, though, she said it’s likely too late for Smith to address the error as it’s already made the rounds in the public eye.

Thomas, who previously ran for the provincial NDP, said for many people already supporting a campaign, a mistake like this would likely be overlooked as a one-off. For voters who already know they won’t support the campaign, they may be critical of the error.

However, for undecided voters, Thomas said the campaign error might not have as big an impact as something like him coming out this week against the rapid transit zone in the southwest, but it could have some impact.

She added most people don’t use social media for politics, so for the most part, the people who will see the criticism are other Twitter users engaged in politics.

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Donkers said the campaign has more ads planned in the future, and said the campaign may even try to play off this error in future ads, something Thomas said could run the risk of further criticism.

“It might be good for an inside joke, but as a voter engagement strategy, there are some challeges with it that would make me hesitant to use it.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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