How to Ruin Your Writing Without Even Trying

FACT: Everybody makes typos. The writers at WhiteSmoke make typos. Language experts and journalists make typos. The Queen of England, if she uses a computer (or even a typewriter), probably makes typos.

The CORRECTION of typos is crucial in order to save your writing; not bemoaning the fact that they exist. Because whether we like it or not, typos are here to stay . . . until computers replace our brains and human error ceases to exist. All we can do is learn from our mistakes, correct them, and move on. I'm talking about typos, here. :)

What is a typo?

The term typo is an abbreviation for typographical error. We like the definition provided by : "An error while inputting text via keyboard, made despite the fact that the user knows exactly what to type in."

How They Are Caused

Mechanical Failure (technical malfunction of keyboard, computer, or mouse)
Ambivalence/lack of interest (writing quickly without paying much attention)

How They Affect You (If Left Unchecked)

Low grades in school / Writing not taken seriously by readers

Common Typos

Typos are spelling "accidents".

Fortunately, many Word Processors automatically correct some common typos. (Microsoft Word automatically converts "separetely" into "separately", based on your program settings!)


However, some typos include contextual spelling errors, which spell-checkers (such as Microsoft Word) simply do not catch, since they are words spelled correctly, but used incorrectly. WhiteSmoke's spell checker can correct contextual spelling errors, too.

What We Meant to Write / What We Sometimes Actually Write (Common Typos)

the / teh
know / no
*contextual spelling error : writing no instead of know by mistake

two / to / too
*contextual spelling error : writing to instead of too or instead of two

from / form
*contextual spelling error : writing form instead of from

Typos of Catastrophic Consequence

An article titled "When is a typo like a veto? When it thwarts a vote" was published in the June 25, 2009 issue of The Daily Sentinel, a Texan newspaper.

The article described America's voter registration process, and how typos can have potentially devastating effects on one of our country's basic foundations as a democracy.

When a voter registers in his/her county, identification information is recorded (i.e. first/last name, driver's license and/or passport information, date of birth) and entered into county databases, resulting in the issuance of voter registration cards. These cards enable voters access to polls on election day, and are crucial components of the voter process, for record-keeping purposes. Typos committed by the clerks who enter voter registration forms (i.e. entering a person's driver's license, birth date, last name or passport number incorrectly) result in discrepancies between the voter's actual identification information, and what appears on his/her registration card. This means when a voter appears on Election Day to vote, he/she is not permitted a vote, because the voter registration card was not properly processed, resulting in the denial of an American citizen's right to vote.

Learning From Our Mistakes

Just like we all mess up certain parts of our speech - if we're preoccupied, nervous, distracted - we all occasionally mess up parts of our writing.

Raising awareness of the importance of typos is only the first part of this enormous world-wide problem (second only to global warming). For continued protection against typos:

  • Check your work. When you have finished a paper or even an e-mail, read over it carefully.
  • Use a spellchecker
  • Get a second set of eyes to look over your work, to spot things like contextual errors you might still be missing. (Note: WhiteSmoke Software contains a reliable contextual spellcheck component.)