How companies lost millions due to spelling mistakes and typos
What if I told you missing out a hyphen can lead to catastrophe? Or if a misplaced comma can cause damages worth millions of dollars for your company?
Many people often think of grammar errors as a mistake for which only their high-school English teacher cared about. And why wouldn’t they be? It might have had marginal impact on their grades. But in business and legal matters, stakes are high. And a grammar mistake can turn your growth upside down.
Let’s see a few examples of how typos and spelling errors ruined many companies.
1) Taylor and Sons Ltd
The Mistake: Omission of letter “s”
The Impact: Company was dissolved in 2014 and had a loss of $40 million
A symbol of hope in Superman’s world turned out to be a weapon of destruction for Taylor and Sons Ltd—a Welsh engineering firm established in 1875.
In 2009, Mr. Philip-Davison Sebry, MD and co-owner of Taylor and Sons, was enjoying his vacation in Maldives when it came to an unhappy ending with a phone call. The caller from Corus (now Tata Steel) asked why has his company gone into liquidation and was furious.
Of course, he was shocked.
He returned immediately to find that the Companies House, the organization in UK which publishes official notices about companies, had issued a notice about this company’s liquidation.
On further enquiry, he found that the Company House had mistakenly written ‘Taylor and Sons Ltd.’ instead of the Manchester-based ‘Taylor and Son’ which had actually gone into liquidation.
Although the error was rectified within 3 days with the Companies House compensating them with $17.2 m legal bill, the damage was done.
The false credit information was also sold by then. The company lost its credibility among its suppliers. They lost Tata Steel, their best customer, which was worth £400,000 a month. Employees also started demanding their salaries and were leaving the company in huge numbers.
5 years later, the company was finally dissolved. Mr. Sebry is now building a business from scratch. We all know how tough is that.
This is not a story of Taylor and Sons Ltd…but a story of missed ‘S’ and what it can do for your business.
2) Lockheed Martin
The Mistake: A misplaced comma
The Impact: Loss of $70 million!
Missed commas are probably the most frequent errors in English. If only Lockheed Martin officials knew that before this happened…
In 1999, the aircraft manufacturer signed a sales contract with an unnamed army of the Hercules transport plane used by air forces around the world. In the contract, one of the official misplaced a comma by one decimal point in the equation that adjusted the sales price for changes to the inflation rate. (Commas are used instead of periods to mark decimal points in Europe)
Consequently, the aircrafts were sold at a rock bottom rate.
Later, James Blackwell, president of Lockheed’s aeronautics division, said, ‘That comma cost Lockheed 70 million dollars.’
I’m sure Mr. James must have learnt a lot about punctuations from this lesson.
The Mistake: An omitted hyphen
The Impact: Damages worth $80 million dollars in 1962
A hyphen can be really costly. Don’t believe us? NASA does!
In 1962, US launched the Mariner programme set out to explore and seek experimental data of other planets. Mariner 1 was the first out of the 10 unmanned aircraft made for exploring Venus.
On July 22, 1962, the rocket was launched with high ambition. But…just after 4-5 minutes of flight, the mission was aborted. Everything was alright except that the rocket was blown into pieces!
Richard Morrison, a NASA official, told the House Space Committee investigating the incident that the missing hyphen caused a mathematical miscue leading to this catastrophe of $80 million.
“[The hyphen] gives a cue for the spacecraft to ignore the data the computer feeds it until radar contact is once again restored. When that hyphen is left out, false information is fed into the spacecraft control systems. In this case, the computer fed the rocket in hard left, nose down and the vehicle obeyed and crashed. “told, Mr. Morrison.
An organization known for researching and finding celestial objects missed out on a hyphen leading to such a blunder.
Taylor and Sons Ltd, Lockheed Martin, and NASA got their lessons, didn’t they?
It’s just three examples, there are many businesses who’re losing money owing to spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. You can read this BBC article on how spelling mistakes are costing online sales. Or how these hackers nearly lost $1 billion due to spelling errors.
Note for businesses: Double-check your spelling…and make sure all your employees are able enough to do so.