Typo_typing error

Five typos with dramatic consequences

Proofreading doesn’t just save your text; it can also save entire governments, piles of money, or even lives.

Here at Supertext, we’ve known for a long time that with a single wrong letter, you can soil everything – but there can also be worse consequences. Much worse. Here are our top five most far-reaching typos.

Death by typo

1985, a courtroom in California. It was the case of Bruce Wayne Morris (who – apart from the name – had very little in common with Batman). He was accused of murder, and the jury’s options were clear: life imprisonment or the death penalty. In his statement to the jury, the judge wanted to emphasize that the defendant would not be released early if serving a life sentence. He forgot, however, to include that key little word ‘not’.

The jury decided on the death penalty out of fear that the murderer could be roaming free just a few years later. The result: the litigation continued for over 10 years and through every level of court, until it was finally proved that Bruce Wayne had been sentenced to death because of a typing error.

The antique brrr

Allsopp’s Arctic Ale is probably the world’s most expensive beer – as long as you spell it right. This rare hops scotch was specially brewed for Sir Edward Belcher’s Arctic expedition in 1852, making it worth a tidy sum of money – and leading one eBay seller to his downfall. He advertised the beer in 2007 as “Allsop’s Arctic Ale” (missing one p), meaning that it didn’t draw the attention of the hoped-for hordes of collectors. A resourceful buyer finally paid USD 304 – and sold it on shortly afterwards for the incredible sum of USD 503,300.

Basta un Sì

A more recent example: on December 4, 2016, Italy voted in a referendum on constitutional reform. The “yes” committee supporting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi targeted the almost four million Italians living abroad, sending out bulk mail with the catchy slogan “Basta un Sì” (Just a Yes) and with just one small error – the URL for further information was incorrect. Countless Italians clicked through to bastausi.it, where the opposing committee naturally set up their own website. It was a bitter pill for Renzi and his campaign, particularly because many felt that Italians living abroad would tip the scales of the referendum.

Google vs. Googol

Have you ever wondered where Google got its strange name from? Larry Page (one of the company’s two founders) naturally has a flair for mathematics, So “Googol”, the American term for the number 10100 (or one plus 100 zeros), was the favorite contender. When checking if the domain name was free, they mis-typed it – and so spontaneously decided on the nonsensical name Google for what would become a billion-dollar empire. Although it’s not so nonsensical any more, since to google something has become universally synonymous with searching online.

Typos, a source of strength

Spinach contains a lot of iron, which is why it’s so healthy. At least, that’s the general opinion used to try and make this leafy vegetable seem tasty to millions of children. The rumor stubbornly continues to spread, mostly because of scenes like this –

so it’s a shame that it’s complete nonsense. The mistake goes back to a German study from 1870 in which the iron content of spinach was shifted one decimal place to the right, making it seem ten times greater than in reality. In fact, watermelons are on a par with spinach – and taste a lot better to children.

Image via Flickr: Typo – Mark Mitchell (CC BY 2.0)

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