The real cost of spelling mistakes

30 Jul The real cost of spelling mistakes

I find spelling errors very annoying. Some of you may find that petty, but proofreading is my job and spelling errors are meant to get under my skin. I spot them from a mile away. And I am not alone …

In 2007, Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson travelled across America in search of typos. On their 2 ½ month journey they found 437 typos and were able to correct more than half of them. The Great Typo Hunt is the story of their mission. Worth a read.

Of course, you can be forgiven for not sharing this level of determination to rectify misspellings. Most people probably couldn’t care less if the name of the meal they choose in the restaurant is spelled correctly, and after a few glasses of wine they wouldn’t notice anyway.

For most people spelling mistakes are just funny. Like this one:

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 … or annoying:

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 The poor old apostrophe is so misunderstood …

… or frustrating:

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And then we wonder why our children don’t know how to spell …

But apart from making us laugh or shake our heads, spelling errors can be embarrassing, costly and in some cases they can have disastrous consequences.

According to Sean Coughlan, a BBC News education correspondent, spelling mistakes cost millions in lost online sales ( The main reason is that “misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility.” But not only do companies miss out on sales, their reputation gets affected in the process.

If you are still not convinced, do a Google search for “costly spelling errors” and you will find out that small mistakes can indeed have serious consequences. Some famous cases have been well documented. Here are a few of the best known blunders:

The most expensive hyphen

In 1962, NASA lost millions of Dollars after a hyphen was omitted in the computer code language used during the ascent, resulting in a change of course of the $80 million Mariner 1. The spacecraft had to be destroyed, costing NASA many millions of Dollars.(

The engraver’s nightmare

In 2008, 1.5 million 50-peso coins were released before a collector spotted, and reported, a spelling error. The word “Chile” was spelt “Chiie”. The embarrassing mistake cost the government millions and the engraver lost his job!


The expensive comma

But nothing beats the $2.13 million cost of a misplaced comma. The insertion of a pair of commas, instead of just one, resulted in an argument about the meaning of the contract terms. A clever lawyer analysed the rules of punctuation and won the case for his client. You can read the details of the case here:

It really pays to double check your document before you send it away. Hiring a proofreader may be a cost you wish to avoid, but you just never know how that same proofreader may save you thousands or even millions of Dollars.