Can Typos Go Well?

Posted by John Cavanaugh in blog | April 25, 2016

As a copywriter and editor, my day is filled with the stress of trying to be perfect. Writing is an imperfect medium, so while I do my best to communicate as effectively as I can, I have no choice but to accept the feeling that everything I write can somehow be improved with just one more edit. The stress I feel often isn’t from selecting the words themselves, but from making sure the grammar and structure conforms to the rules set forth in the Associated Press Stylebook. Since it’s a compilation of agreed-upon grammar and spelling rules by experts in journalism, writing according to the book is typically as close as most copywriters can get to a definitive set of rules to the English language.

The daily stresses of misplaced or misused punctuation marks and misspelled words according to AP Style often have me half-fantasizing, though, what would happen if I made a mistake and everything turned out okay? Surprisingly enough, several companies have initially made typographical and grammatical errors in their own names and everything somehow worked out just fine for them.

Ski-Doo, one of the biggest names in snowmobiling, was originally a typo. The inventor, Joseph Bombardier, made a typo in an early brochure and didn’t realize until printing was over. Figuring it was probably easier to just roll with the new name than it would be to reprint an entire brochure run, he just rolled with it and became the owner of a company almost synonymous with snow vehicles. It’s a similar story with now-famous clothing and lifestyle brand Lands’ End. Their apostrophe was misplaced by accident in their first printed piece, and they couldn’t afford to reprint and correct it.

Perhaps the most notable naming typo in history, Google wasn’t originally supposed to be called Google. When founder Larry Page and Sean Anderson were thinking of a name for a massive data-index website in 1997, the frontrunner emerged as an abbreviation of googolplex, one of the largest describable numbers, verbally shortened to “googol.” Not being a perfect speller, Anderson typed “google” into the Internet domain name registry database and found it was available. The domain was registered, and one of the largest companies on earth was born.

Are these examples of how everything can sometimes work out all right, even with some mistakes? Absolutely. Are they justifications of why copywriters should stop trying to make their work as good as possible? They definitely aren’t. Outside of a few happy accidents, typos and mistakes will only result in worse work and unhappy clients. Improvement in writing and knowledge of AP Style is the constant struggle for a copywriter, so until I’m perfect, which I’ll never quite be, I’ll just be over here studying the newest edition.