In a world where our fingers are hitting keys almost as much as our vocal cords are put to use, the spread of typos (and the battle against them, for that matter) is a serious subject, but have you ever paused to wonder what a typo really is? And on top of that, does it really matter if you’re a serial offender?
Typo, a definition
Aside from obviously being a distant relative to the punctuation or grammar mistake, it’s equally important to note that in many cases the typo is also different to a common misspelling.
Short for typographical error, the typo stems directly from our involvement with the keyboard, meaning if your messing up you’re tenses or getting confused with homophones, you’re falling into the bracket of grammatical errors (calm down, I did that on purpose). If you’re placing that pesky comma, where it shouldn’t be it’s a matter of punctuation (that one too).
On top of these however, spelling mistakes that exist in your head rather than in your interaction with the keys can be classed as misspellings rather than typos. For example, if you’re often having trouble with the amount of c’s and m’s in the word accommodate, this is probably not a typo as the problem wouldn’t be alleviated by writing on paper.
It’s not me, it’s my brain
Anything which stems from a true typing error can be considered a typo. Double spaces, missing letters, inserting a capital where it shouldn’t be, we’re all guilty of it every now and then, we’ve all sent an email with a ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’ before. In fact, typos generally occur when your brain is working too fast for your fingers to react. We often put less effort into simple things, such as putting letters together to make words, to save space for more complicated tasks, such as conveying complex ideas by stringing sentences together. So don’t worry, that random ampersand floating around in your email doesn’t make you stupid (it might even mean the opposite), but how important is it to make sure you get rid of it before clicking send?
Your spell checker and you
In this age of tiny keyboards, spell check and chubby thumbs, the constant battle between technology and typo can leave one wondering whether there will ever be a time when double checking one’s work is really necessary. For now, it seems as though spell checkers still can’t detect some of the most basic human errors. Obviously in a lot of cases, these mistakes aren’t the end of the world. No one’s going to call you out if you slip a space in before a full stop when you’re texting a friend after a few drinks.
On the other hand, there are some infuriating human errors that can cost you dearly and where a spell checker is useless. Have you ever mistyped your name when booking a flight? That can be a pretty expensive typo. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you should take the time to re-read whatever it is you’ve typed, always remember the “most expensive hyphen in history”. In 1962, NASA’s Mariner 1 spacecraft exploded within minutes of taking off. Why? A single hyphen inserted into the code instead of an overbar. The damage: 80 million dollars.
Despite the apparent efficiency of your spell checker, in most cases it is always worth taking the time to inspect whatever you’ve typed when you’re finished, whether it be a blog article, an email or simply your own name. After all, according to Microsoft, the backspace is the third-most used key on the keyboard.