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Grammar and spelling don't matter - try telling NASA

by: Romany Howes (20 October 2014)

Arthur C Clarke called it the most expensive hyphen in history which ultimately cost NASA over $80 million in 1962. The error occurred when the organisation tried to launch the Mariner 1 to probe Venus. Ten years of planning were brought to an abrupt end within two minutes of take-off when the probe mission was hastily aborted. Years of subsequent enquiry led back to one simple cause . . . a single missed hyphen in the computer code when it was entered.

That may have been over 50 years ago but it seems we haven't learnt much in the meantime: four years ago, an Australian book publisher released The Pasta Bible, recipe book. One recipe, tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto, called for "freshly ground black pepper" . . . some lazy (and one would imagine now redundant) proofreader used spell check: the recipe went to print as "freshly ground black people"! The mistake went global losing the publisher $20,000 and irretrievable damage in reputation. My favourite is from the 1980s, a simple but ultimately devastatingly expensive typo in the now defunct Yellow Pages: Banner Travel Services, a small agency specialising in "exotic holidays", decided to run an ad. But "exotic vacations" became "erotic holidays" and the subsequent lawsuit cost The Yellow Pages millions of pounds in compensation.

So the bottom line is, use a proofreading service like www.writeitclearly.com. We check documents manually, we do not rely on spell check or complex software. Sometimes spelling mistakes DO matter!

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Comments...

Ref: 119 Clear and accurate language, including correct spelling, punctuation and grammar are musts to avoid all misunderstandings and ambiguities. It's scary that such far-reaching errors do occur...
Marilyn - 11:00 20-10-2014
Ref: 118 I have long written and still write computer code. It's unforgiving - one error and it won't work. Good grounding for proofreading!
Garry - 09:36 20-10-2014

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