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This Typo Cost $1.4 Million Dollars

In the age of writing emails on the phone and text language infiltrating formal communication, it feels like typos are more prevalent than ever.

Typo-ridden emails and documents are unprofessional and make a bad impression. In some cases, though, the damage can be much worse.

There are countless examples in history where a misplaced comma or additional letter have cost millions of dollars!

Help students understand the importance of accurate typing by sharing these stories of costly typographical blunders.

Most Expensive Typos of All Time

NASA’s Missing Hyphen
Total Cost: $80 million

In 1962, NASA attempted to send an interplanetary probe called Mariner 1 to explore Venus. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. Due to a single missing hyphen in the code that was used to program the speed and trajectory, the probe exploded a few minutes after takeoff. This is undoubtedly the single most expensive hyphen in history.

NYC Department of Education’s Slipup
Total Cost: $1.4 million

In some ways, it seems ironic that the department of education was responsible for this error that cost New York City over a million dollars. In 2006, the comptroller of America’s largest city accidentally inserted an extra letter in a document that was consequentially misinterpreted by the city’s accounting software. The outcome? The Department of Education unintentionally doubled its transportation spending costing the city $1.4 million. That’s a lot of extra school buses!

A Pricey Antique Ale
Total Cost: $503,996

When an eBay seller posted a 150-year-old beer on the auction website, he mistakenly left out one letter. His rare bottle of Allsopp’s Arctic Ale went mostly unnoticed by collectors because it was listed as Allsop’s Arctic Ale. One detail-oriented bidder hit the jackpot when he bought the bottle for $300 and turned around and resold it for $503,300. Careless and ill-informed is not a good combination for selling antiques.

Airline Blunder
Total cost: $7.2 million

Imagine buying a first-class plane ticket from Toronto to Cyprus for just $39. Almost 2,000 lucky travelers scored this deal in 2006 when Alitalia Airlines mistakenly posted the $3,900 tickets at 1 percent of their cost. Stuck in a terrible bind between losing millions of dollars or infuriating customers, the airline eventually decided to honor the ticket price in order to save their reputation.

Japanese Stock Mixup
Total Cost: $340 million

Likely the costliest typing blunder of all time occurred in 2005 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Mizuho Securities Co. was selling shares of a recruiting company that were valued at 610,000 yen apiece. Instead, a careless typing error led to 610,000 shares being sold for 1 yen apiece. Needless to say, the person responsible had a pretty hard time explaining this one.

A Very Expensive “s”
Total cost: $14 million

When the company Taylor & Son was accidentally entered into a database as Taylor & Sons, that extra “s” ended up costing millions. Taylor & Son Ltd. in the UK was facing liquidation, but due to the typing mistake, the 124-year-old engineering firm Taylor & Sons ended up having their reputation ruined overnight. Within a matter of weeks, the firm lost most of their clients, creditors, and contracts forcing the firm into bankruptcy. The British High Court later held the government responsible for the $14 million in damages.

One Costly Comma
Total Cost: $40 million

Typos are by no means a new phenomenon. The Tariff Act of 1872 accidentally wrote “foreign fruit-plants” as “foreign fruit, plants” in a list of items exempt from the tariff. This minor mix up required the United States Treasury to reimburse the money paid by fruit merchandisers until Congress could correct the mistake. The $2 million price tag for the mistake was about .7 percent of the national budget at the time.

Preventing Typos

Kids likely don’t realize the repercussions that careless typing can have. Even if a mistake doesn’t cost millions, typos are still unprofessional and could have negative impacts (not getting a job offer or college acceptance, for example).

Typing.com helps students avoid typos by incentivizing accuracy. Students get alerts when they mistype letters that help them get into the habit of striving for perfection. Additionally, students can earn accuracy stars for completing lessons with near perfect accuracy.

Hopefully practicing to improve accuracy while the stakes are low will save them making one of these billion-dollar blunders.