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Does Trump make Twitter spelling mistakes on purpose?

Posted on May 24, 2018

 

Through his heavy and boisterous use of the platform, US President Donald Trump has possibly become the first person most of us associate with Twitter.

With 52 million followers, Trump is currently the owner of the 18th most followed Twitter page, sandwiched between those of Colombian singer Shakira and his nemesis news station CNN. However, his use of the microblogging platform gets him as much stick as it does support, with his poor spelling and grammar often notable.

In August 2016, Trump managed to make three spelling errors in one tweet. Nine months later, his tweets were becoming so garbled and incoherent, he was even making up new words. The mysterious word “covfefe” appeared in one of his May 2017 tweets – a gaffe he has never lived down and a word that still has people debating its meaning.

Could it be, though, that Trump is actually smarter than we think? Are these “mistakes” not so much careless oversights, but rather carefully engineered ploys to enhance the controversial president’s reputation? And is he individually responsible for all of them?

A Boston Globe article from this week suggests that there is actually a team of Trumps behind the @realDonaldTrump account, and that not all of the tweets we see on it were directly tapped by the billionaire-turned-politician himself. The article says that two anonymous people close to the White House tweeting process claim that social media staff members actually propose tweets written in Trump’s usual style, and the 71-year-old then selects the ones he wants to go on his account.

In a quest to replicate the Trump tone as closely as possible, tweets tend to be less than grammatically perfect. Trump protégées will often capitalise words incorrectly and punctuate wrongly, making liberal use of his favourite character – the exclamation mark.

There may, however, be deeper forces at work here than simply mimicking Trump’s style. The article speculates that misspellings could be part of a plan to drive engagement on tweets and strengthen Trump’s position among his supporters.

With a 2016 study suggesting that people who constantly point out grammatical errors have “less agreeable” personalities than those who don’t, could it be that Trump is trying to drag academics and elites into quibbles about spelling, thereby cementing his own standing as a president of the American people?

The theory of Trump having a social media team is not an outlandish one. Many politicians have other people controlling their Twitter accounts, including DUP leader Arlene Foster, who came clean when a tweet went out from her account last November congratulating the wrong prince on his engagement.

To actually insert errors on purpose, however, seems a dangerous game and increases the risks of it all ending in a spluttered apology like the one Foster found it necessary to give.

John Murray
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