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Friday, April 09, 2010

The Public/Pubic Pitfall and Other Non-typo Typos

Lyrissa’s post yesterday about typos yesterday hit home with me, since I’ve fought a lifelong, and often losing, battle against them in my professional and personal writing.  My ally in this battle is the spellchecker, of course, without which my writing would be even more typo-ridden than it currently is.

But spellcheck can generate a false sense of security by convincing one that work is typo-free while failing to eliminate a particularly pernicious category of error:  the misspelling that happens to result in  a legit word.  E.g., I often write “form” when meaning “from,” and while this is a misspelling of the word I intended, “form” is a perfectly valid English-language word, regardless of intention, so spellcheck leaves the wrong word in.  I call this pernicious and persistent nemesis the non-typo typo.

The most salient, and embarrassing, example of this arose in an article I wrote a few years back about government speech.  The article invoked the idea of the public a lot, but I apparently have a tendency to leave out the letter “l” when speed-typing, hence I submitted an article that occasionally referred to, e.g., “pubic law”, “pubic discourse”, and most immortally, “the pubic function of speech in American democracy.”

So.  Have any other lawprofs out there been victimized by the non-typo typo?  Is there a solution to this I’m overlooking (besides, of course, careful attention to detail, which never quite seems to work, at least not all of the time)?  And are there other examples of non-typo typos out there as mortifying as the public/pubic pitfall?

Posted by Dave_Fagundes on April 9, 2010 at 06:11 PM in Odd World | Permalink


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shirt happens!

Posted by: Eye | Apr 10, 2010 3:43:32 PM

This is my favorite typo of all time: http://www.legaljuice.com/disc%20surgery.pdf

Posted by: Gregg | Apr 10, 2010 3:33:27 PM

Word's autocorrect at one tme changed "Baylor" to "Babylon".

Posted by: Rick Bales | Apr 10, 2010 9:05:38 AM

Not nearly as embarrassing, but I routinely type discreet when I should type discrete. And then I have to go back and figure out where I have it wrong.

Posted by: Kaimi | Apr 10, 2010 3:27:14 AM

Unless you write in areas like rape law, I suggest setting the autocorrect feature of Word to automatically change "pubic" to "public." The number of times that you actually mean "pubic" is likely to be small compared to the number of times it is a typo. A similar change is "statue" to "statute." This solution works for most instances of this problem ("form" and "from" is an exception).

Posted by: TJ | Apr 9, 2010 10:34:28 PM

On one occasion, while researching late at night, I found a perfect quote from a SCOTUS case for my article. Only after publication did I realize that the quote came from the opinion's syllabus rather than from the actual opinion. Whoops. Luckily the quote was buried in a parenthetical in a long string cite, but extremely embarrassing nonetheless.

Posted by: andy | Apr 9, 2010 10:01:27 PM

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