Of course sometimes it may be funny –and even rewarding– when someone else misspells a word and you find it. You spot the error, you open your mouth so as to express surprise, but laughter comes out instead, and a “must-tell-someone” eagerness arises. But have you ever thought that the unfortunate error may actually cost a fortune to someone? Or that a misspelled word may even destroy someone’s reputation? Or cost lives? It would not be that funny then if that happened to you, right?
Last year, the American politician Mitt Romney launched an iPhone application that gave users the chance to post pictures of themselves under different slogans, with one of those slogans featuring an incorrect spelling of the word America: “A Better Amercia.” Though this error may not have had a direct impact on Romney’s campaign, some may still be wondering what happened with that application developer and his/her job.
In late 1962, the United States made the first attempt to send a spacecraft to Venus. The spacecraft –known as Mariner 1– experienced some difficulties shortly after launch that made steering impossible and directed it toward a crash. According to the Post Flight Review Board, the omission of a hyphen in coded computer instructions in the data-editing program allowed transmission of incorrect guidance signals to the spacecraft, causing the computer to swing automatically into a series of unnecessary course corrections with erroneous steering commands which finally threw the spacecraft off course. Total research, development, launch, and support cost for the Mariner series of spacecraft (Mariners 1 through 10) was approximately $554 million.
While sometimes spelling mistakes may cause someone to lose their reputation or job, it may give others the chance to make money at the same time. In 1995, Argentina issued a series of one-peso coins with the word “PROVINCIAS” (‘Provinces’ in English) spelled wrongly: “PROVINGIAS”. Since then, people have been hoarding these coins in the hope their value rises, while some are already selling them online for over twelve pesos (way more than their actual value). A similar mistake was noticed in thousands of coins issues in Chile in 2008, where the country name was spelled as “Chiie”. Still, these mistakes resulted in a good number of people losing their jobs.
An analysis of website figures made in 2011 by Charles Duncombe, an on-line entrepreneur, shows a single spelling mistake can cut on-line sales in half. So no wonder why a spelling mistake may turn into a tragedy. Duncombe says that sales figures suggested that misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility and that –believe it or not– poor spelling is a serious problem for the on-line economy.
No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes – I know I do. However, proofreading should be a must for anyone publishing. In the end, there is always the possibility to spell-check twice or three times, while businesses, reputations or lives may not get a second chance.
How about you? Do you spellcheck everything you publish (your social network content and comments, information you share in social and professional profiles, your e-mail messages?)
Do you know any other famous spelling mistake?