The humble typo, the rise of the typosquatter and the words which fool the spellchecker

As well as creating and sharing content, I spend a lot of my time preparing and checking other people’s content before publication. So many of us are authors to some degree today – and whether it’s part of our job to write reports, press releases, company blog entries etc, whether we maintain a personal blog, or even if we just regularly participate in forums or Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn, the written word is part of all of our lives and should be treated with respect. So it got me thinking about the humble typo…

Beware the tiresome ‘typo’
It goes without saying that in an ideal world, our written communications would all be grammatically correct, well punctuated, and free of the dreaded typo. Originally, a typographical error or ‘typo’ referred to a mistake introduced during the manual type-setting process hence ‘typographical’ error. But today we use the word typo to describe any mistake introduced in the typing process, whether it be due to carelessness, bad typing or just plain old ignorance… You might think, who cares, it’s only a tiny error, get a life! And, in a quick text to your sister this is true, it’s the message that’s important, not the perfect spelling. But in business communications any typos will stick out like a sore thumb, they will ruin the flow of your text, and they certainly won’t make your work appear professional. Would you trust a business whose website or brochure was peppered with grammar or spelling mistakes? I think not.

The rise of the ‘typosquatter’
The huge number of typos keyed in to the internet each and every day has even led to the creation of the ‘typosquatter’, which refers to someone who purchases URLs similar to a real domain, but which include a common spelling error, transposed or omitted letters, or a variant of the original. A recent prosecution involved a fake Wikipedia at These ‘typosquatter’ sites are often made to look like the real thing, the user is then asked to enter their details, maybe for a competition when they will have to call, surprise surprise, a premium rate number which could end up costing them hundreds of pounds. If you are not sure of the exact URL then always double check. That tiny typo could end up costing you dear!

The spellchecker is your friend (but not always your best one)
Spellcheckers are a brilliant invention, and are great at picking up misspellt words, but not so good when you have mistyped one word, and in the process created another. Also MS Word helpfully autocorrects your typos for you as you type, but not always into the word you wanted…

People often transpose or omit letters when typing without noticing. Then when you read over your work afterwards, your brain is very good at seeing what it expects to see (especially so if you are the author) so it often glosses over the error. This is why, you should always use an extra pair of eyes before you publish your content, whether it be a friend, your business partner, or if you have the budget, an experienced editor or proofreader (like yours truly of course!). This is particularly important for printed content which cannot easily be corrected.

I have made a list of the most common errors I see when editing and proofing, so please pay extra attention when using the following words – as you are on your own… the spellchecker won’t spot these. I can honestly say that I see the first four errors in practically every manuscript I work on!

Top ten typos which your spellchecker won’t spot

being (instead of begin)
manger (instead of manager)
pubic (instead of public)
form (instead of from)
of  (instead of off)
you (instead of your)
its (instead of it’s)
quiet (instead of quite)
lose (instead of loose)
perfect (instead of prefect)

If you have any more terrible typos to add to my list then please add to my post.

Hope this was useful, until next time, Emma

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2 Responses to The humble typo, the rise of the typosquatter and the words which fool the spellchecker

  1. Usman Hasan says:

    Not all ‘typosquatters’ are premeditated ones. (based on the Arabic ‘Jameel’) were around for years but more recently found their business going through the roof, all thanks to the many careless typists looking for

    Oh, and my spellchecker reckons ‘typosquatter’ is two words!

  2. Susan Hoy says:

    Particularly relevant when applying for jobs. If you declare you have excellent attention to detail you need to make sure there are no typos!

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