Why Proofreading Is Important – 13 Epic Typo Fails

"No Regerts"

We all make mistakes. Sometimes big ones, sometimes small ones.

But the ones we remember most are the embarrassing ones.

Typos are no exception.

At best they can make us look silly, at worst they can be so deliciously ironic they go viral – for all the wrong reasons.

Just ask Rishi Sunak…

1. “Join The Campiaign!” – Rishi Sunak

If you’re running a campaign to be the next UK Prime Minister, you might want to make sure you’ve spelt the word “campaign” correctly.

Rishi didn’t.

When asked what his weakness was – that most beloved of job interview questions – he told the world it was his attention to detail.

Yet he didn’t notice the sign behind him urging people to “Join The Campiaign!”

Video Source: The Independent

And in the end, of course, the job of Prime Minister went to Liz Truss.

How it could have been prevented: Turning his head more than 90 degrees

“Two er is humin” – Alexandar Pop

2. “Student’s For John McCain” – John McCain

Just one student? No wonder he lost!

Campaign trail typos are far from a British phenomenon. Case in point; these promotional pens for US Presidential hopeful John McCain.

Incorrect apostrophe usage, thus confusing plurals with the possessive case, is one of the most common grammar mistakes people make.

We’ve all done it from time to time, maybe firing off a quick email reply at the end of a long, exhausting day – oops!

These mistakes also have a nasty habit of sneaking past spell checkers unnoticed.

But for an entire campaign team not to notice? And run by students, no less?

Well, they clearly weren’t A students.

How it could have been prevented: Asking a primary school student

3. “God Bless Amercia” – Mitt Romney

Can we blame the students? Or maybe it really was just that one student’s fault?

Either way, John McCain lost the 2008 presidential race to Barack Obama.

Four years later it was Mitt Romney’s turn. He lost too.

Of course, it might have helped if he was able to spell the name of the country he wanted to become president of.

Did this typo really hurt his chances of becoming president? It certainly didn’t help.

How it could have been prevented: Running a spell checker 

4. With Great Power Comes Great “Responsibilty”

We must all learn to take responsibility for our actions.

And if there is one institution you want exercising extreme levels of responsibility, it’s your country’s central bank.

After all, these are the people who control the national currency, steer the economy and print the money.

And at the very least, they should be checking for typos before printing it.

But the Reserve Bank of Australia wasn’t looking hard enough when they printed a huge batch of new $50 notes with the word “responsibility” spelt wrong.

Yes, the typo wasn’t immediately glaring – the text itself was tiny – but the same typo appeared multiple times on each note.

And they ended up printing millions of them.

How it could have been prevented: Running a spell checker 

5. Want To Be A Technincian?

Central banks aren’t the only esteemed institutions that ought to be proofreading their work.

Given their importance in our society as places of higher learning, universities should be doing it too.

Failure to do so can result in the wrong sort of publicity, like when Cincinnati State printed billboards advertising a “Biomedical Technincian” course.

So is that like a biomedical ninja technician maybe? Or was that same McCain-supporting Student’s fault again? 

How it could have been prevented: Running a spell checker 

6. M-I-Double-S Why?

Full Disclosure – I’m not American. So I had to double-check the spelling of Cincinnati. 

For that same reason, I always make sure to double-check the spelling of “Mississippi”. 

There’s an easy way to do that, of course, just Google it. 

How did the rhyme go again? “Mi..double S…” 

Nevermind Never mind – Google will correct you. And it’ll only take a second. 

So why didn’t this guy do it? 

How it could have been prevented: A two-second Google search 

7. “Two Easy For Kids” – NBC

Proper proofreading isn’t just important for print journalism. TV news should be doing it too, as this NBC affiliate demonstrates:

I think this one might be my favourite pick of the bunch. 🤣

How it could have been prevented: Hiring a kid

8. Shop Smart

Retailing giant Kmart also believes in the value of education. 

Attention Kmart shoppers – this is not how you spell “supplies.”

How it could have been prevented: Running a spell checker 

9. Edutainment 

Another educational own goal here…

Knowing the difference between their, there and they’re might help them sell more educational software.

How it could have been prevented: Asking the kids 

10. “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” – Sega

Geeks of a certain generation are sure to remember this one. Especially those who grew up enjoying software of a less educational nature. 

The famous line, “all your base are belong to us” was the result of a botched translation of the Sega game Zero Wing from its original Japanese into English. The result was one of the most popular internet memes of the early 2000s.

Baffling translations were commonplace in the 1980s video game industry – Donkey Kong’s obviously not a donkey for example – but this is without a doubt the most famous example.

How it could have been prevented: Hiring a professional translator. 

11. “Perfection Has It’s Price” – Stella Artois

Another great piece of signage here from the Rishi Sunak school of perfectionism.

The “its and it’s” error is another one that often slips by spell checkers but again, its it’s such a common grammar mistake people don’t always notice. So I’m going to try make it’s its life hell.

Try as it might to hide, I’m betting that its it’s now going to jump out at you even if you’re currently enjoying enjoying a beer or two.

How it could have been prevented: Avoid doing any copy-editing after 15 cans of Stella.

12. “Erotic Adventures” – The Yellow Pages

You’re advised not to rely 100% on spell checkers to check your content.

A simple, seemingly-innocent typo can sometimes cost a lot of money.

Back in the 1980s, before the internet, if you wanted customers it made sense to advertise your services in the business telephone directory – provided they advertised the right services.

When the Pacific Bell Yellow Pages accidentally advertised a travel agency as providing “erotic adventures” instead of “exotic adventures” it proved disastrous.

A Freudian typo? Perhaps. But a costly one.

The travel agency in question didn’t see the funny side so they sued. The whole debacle ended up costing the Yellow Pages company $10 million.

How it could have been prevented: Having a second pair of eyes checking each ad. 

13. It’s Not Rocket Science

1962 – the height of the Cold War. 

America is determined to win the Space Race but the Soviet Union has the lead. National pride is at stake and there’s no room for silly mistakes. 

And yet… 

Later described by sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke as “the most expensive hyphen in history”, a single typo in a line of code scuppered the launch of the Mariner 1 probe to Venus. 

Shortly after launch, the rocket carrying the probe began to veer off course. Realising the potential danger, Mission Control triggered the rocket’s self-destruct mechanism.

Fortunately it was an unmanned mission but the total cost of this error was $18.5 million, or $166 million adjusted for inflation. 

How it could have been prevented: Less political pressure, more coffee. 

Typos Can Cost Your Business Severely

The “Campiaign” is over

From PR disasters and viral internet memes to expensive erotic misadventures and a humble hyphen that almost destroyed the American space programme. The lessons here are plain to see.

Lost trust, lost respect, lost honour, lost revenue – just some of the dangers of not proofreading.

Each of these disasters could have been prevented.

The responsible parties just needed to stop rushing, take a step back and get at least one other pair of eyes to check things over.

The Simple 5-Minute Copyedit 

Follow these simple steps to help catch typos before it’s too late.

  1. Make sure to use the correct language settings on your Word Processor or editor – i.e. using US English or UK English where appropriate – and don’t rely 100% on spell checkers.
  2. Use writing aid software like Grammarly to catch common spelling, grammar and style errors but make sure to also use your good judgement.
  3. Read your text aloud – in fact, read it a couple of times.
  4. Now walk away, come back later, go for lunch or leave it for first thing in the morning, then read it again.
  5. Once your you’re satisfied with the results get at least one other person to look over you’re your work. 
  6. Repeat steps 3-6 a couple more times if necessary. 

And most important of all…

Don’t Stress

We all have certain writing errors we make without realising them. Like many people of my generation who came age in the 90s, I had a habit of writing “never mind” without a space, because of the Nirvana album Nevermind. 

It was lurking in my subconscious for years before a co-worker pointed it out to me one day. We ended up having a memorable chat about music, so I never made the same mistake since. 

So if someone points out mistakes in your writing see try to see it as valuable feedback and make sure to take their criticisms on board for next time. Make notes of any common typos you make and keep them handy so you can check for them again the next time. 

That way, with a little practice, care and mindfulness, you can avoid making costly mistakes before hitting that all-important button – be that the print, publish or rocket ignition button. 🚀 😉

Sources & Inspiration:

https://www.impactplus.com/blog/15-big-brand-grammar-mistakes-marketing-advertisements
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48210733
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/whats-the-worst-way-to-pr_n_423330
https://www.boredpanda.com/funny-spelling-mistakes-errors-fails/
https://www.wired.com/2009/07/dayintech-0722/

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