Terrible typos (and their avoidance)

ASKDid you know that the Academic Skills Unit (ASK) offer help and training for you to proof reading your work? While you need to speak to ASK For help with proof reading, the Library can help with other academic issues, like referencing.

Proof reading is not just a skill for university, it is a skill for life. 90% of legal documents examined by LexisNexis contained errors, despite supposedly being proof read. In important policy and legal documents, the smallest of typos can have catastrophic outcomes, as these tales will tell.

Tales of typos

Roger Casement was hanged for treason because the courts interpreted the original Norman French manuscript as containing commas, which completely altered the meaning of the act and meant he could be Convicted for crimes committed abroad.

Have you ever heard of Taylor & Sons? They were a successful engineering company until their CEO returned from a holiday to find his £8.8 million company declared bankrupt because a clerk in Companies House had accidentally recorded “Taylor and Sons” had become insolvent, rather than another company called “Taylor and Son”. That one added letter doomed Taylor & Sons.  Fiction fast became fact, and within 5 years the resulting loss of confidence in the firm caused it to fail. Taylor & Sons later successfully sued Companies House for £8.8 million in damages.

Numbers are equally prone to disastrous error.  One HR administrator working at JP Morgan accidentally offered a salary 100 times as big as it was supposed to be simply by putting the decimal point in the wrong place. An employee applied on the basis of the exaggerated salary and moved from the US to South Africa. There, he sued the company for a 100-fold salary increase.  The law suit was rejected but no-one knows the fate of the hapless HR administrator who made the original tiny mistake.

For more tales of typographical horrors of biblical proportions (literally – two of the most famous typos of all time were in print runs of the Bible, now destroyed), see this post from the Epilogue blog.

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