An error in typing or printing, especially one caused by striking an incorrect key on a keyboard.
An atomic typo is a typographical error (usually involving a single letter) that results in a word different from the one intended--prostate instead of prostrate, for example. Spellcheckers are unable to detect atomic typos.
- Lessons in Proofreading: Typos, Orpahs, and the Little Demon Titivillus
- Top 10 Typos: Our Favorite Typographical Errors
- Cupertino Effect
- Grammatical Error
- Slip of the Pen
- Top Ten Proofreading Tips
EtymologyShort for typographical (error)
Examples and Observations:
- "A typo can charge the meaning of anything."
(Demetri Martin, This Is a Book. Grand Central, 2011)
"The Typo of the Year award went to Reuters for this in 2005: 'Quaker Maid Meats Inc. on Tuesday said it would voluntarily recall 94,400 pounds of frozen ground beef panties that may be contaminated with E.coli.' (Read 'patties,' presumably.)"
(Martin Cutts, Oxford Guide to Plain English, 3rd ed. Oxford Univ. Press, 2009)
"[Margaret Atwood] is also blogging and tweeting regularly about the tour, after seeing off two false Margaret Atwoods from Twitter. 'The person using my name--Margaret Atwood--and my picture on Twitter is not me. Please stop imperonating me. Thanks,' she wrote, adding six minutes later: 'You can tell Margaret Atwood really is me, because I made a typo--should be 'impersonating.' 'Imperonating' is pretending to be Evita."
(Alison Flood, "Margaret Atwood Takes to Stage." The Guardian, Aug. 19, 2009)
- "Typos . . . are earning Google $497 million a year, according to Harvard University researchers. About 68 million people a day mistype the names of highly trafficked websites, landing on bogus sites (called 'typosquatters') to which Google supplies ads, thereby hauling in a fortune."
("Good Week for Typos." The Week, March 5, 2010)
- A Pricey Typo
"Penguin Group Australia turns over $120 million a year from printing words but a one-word misprint has cost it dearly.
"The publishing company was forced to pulp and reprint 7,000 copies of Pasta Bible last week after a recipe called for 'salt and freshly ground black people'--instead of pepper--to be added to the spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.
"The exercise will cost Penguin $20,000, the head of publishing, Bob Sessions, said. At $3,300 a letter, it's a pricey typo."
(Rachel Olding, "Penguin Reprints Book, Peppered With an Error, Wants It Taken With Grain of Salt." The Sydney Morning Herald, April 17, 2010)
- "In the 9/11 Commission Report, they say it was Iran--not Iraq--that was helping al-Qaida. So apparently we invaded the wrong country because of a typo."
- A Literary Typo
"You can take it a step further and say, as [Robert] Herrick did, 'Gather ye rosebuds.' Go ahead, say it if you must. But know it's a typo. It was supposed to be 'Gather your rosebuds'--the 'ye' was an abbreviation for 'your' but with an 'e' in place of the 'your' in the second edition."
(Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist. Simon & Schuster, 2009)
- The Most Visible Typo of All Time
"Congratulations to the American newspaper Valley News, which covers the border of New Hampshire and Vermont. It perpetrated, if not the worst-ever typo in history, certainly the most visible. It was the paper's own name, spelt 'VALLEY NEWSS' last Monday. The editor's apology, next day, was suitably sheepish: 'Readers may have noticed that the Valley News misspelled its own name on yesterday's front page,' it read. 'Given that we routinely call on other institutions to hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, let us say for the record: we sure feel silly.' And the worst typo ever? Probably The Times's write-up of the opening of Waterloo Bridge by the Prince Regent on 18 June 1817, when, due to a stray vowel, the report claimed that 'The Royal party then pissed over the bridge.' The entire composing-room staff was (reportedly) sacked next day."
(John Walsh, "btw." The Independent, July 26, 2008)
- The Most Expensive Typo of All Time
"It was a simple clerical error, but it could be the most expensive typo of all time. In 1978 Prudential, the largest insurance company in the U.S., lent $160 million to United States Lines, a shipping firm. As part of the deal, Prudential got a lien on eight ships. In 1986 United States Lines went into bankruptcy proceedings and started selling off assets. Prudential said it was owed nearly $93 million, the value of the lien, from the ships' sale.
"Or so the insurance company thought. A close look at the lien documents disclosed that someone had omitted three little zeros, thus entitling Prudential to $92,885 instead of $92,885,000. The mistake loomed large this month when McLean Industries, parent firm of United States Lines, sold the ships for $67 million. In a settlement approved by a federal court last week, McLean agreed to give Prudential the proceeds from the sale of the ships--minus $11 million. That was the price McLean demanded for disregarding the missing zeros."
("Blunders: An $11 Million Typo." Time, April 4, 1988)
- CAPITAL TYPOS
"There are a couple of places where typos find cover. Blunders in type that's very large or in all caps can be all but invisible. For some reason, the bigger they are, the harder they are to see:
IT'S ESPECIALY HARD TO SEE TYPOS IN ALL CAPS.Did you see it (especialy) quickly, or did you need another look? If you've spent any time reading headlines, you're already familiar with this pitfall.
"It's also hard to spot a typo that results in a real word--the wrong word, but a real word nonetheless. Reading the familiar phrase there's a change is the air, you have to be wide-awake to notice that is should be in. And no bits-and-bytes spell-checker will ever see it go by.
"The only way to catch sneaky errors like these is to read word for word and character by character."
(K. D. Sullivan and Merilee Eggleston, The McGraw-Hill Desk Reference for Editors, Writers, and Proofreaders. McGraw-Hill, 2006)