With increasing use of social media, the public communications disseminated by government authorities reach out to global readers. This means such communications have also come under unprecedented social media scrutiny. Social media users of Nepal have increasingly pinpointed typographical errors, generally referred to as typos, creeping into the public communications. Recently there have been several examples of negligence even on the part of academic institutions to live up to the writing standards and the objectives when it comes to typos. This article discusses consequences of some of the typos before summing up how typos in general also reflect the working environment in the public and academic offices, which is perceived to be getting laxer when it comes to compliance to writing contentions.
The typo littered communications most disapproved and made fun of by social media users quite recently are more than funny and embarrassing. A reader cannot help chuckling upon going through the public service advertisement (PSA) published in Nepali language in a newspaper against trafficking in persons. The PSA reads “trafficking in person is our duty and intent.” By the purpose of the PSA, the typo has a disastrous result. A public notice displayed in a Hindu temple premises reads “we are in underground of seesee camera” to inform the visitors that they are under CCTV surveillance. You cannot help laughing them off. Similarly, a statement issued by the Public Transportation Office apologizing for service interruption due to electricity mistypes with an embarrassing result. The word written to refer to “link” is mistyped as something that refers to phallus in Nepali language.
A newspaper publishes a news report that reads that a “hospital safely impregnated a woman who tested positive for COVID-19” instead of reporting that the “hospital safely delivered a baby of a woman who tested positive for COVID-19." When a ward office of the local government releases a public notice littered with boatload of random typos severely twisting the message meant to convey, it of course becomes a cause of concern. When an individual awaiting report of the PCR test for COVID-19 receives a report in which his/her age is mentioned as 999 years old, it simply winds up humorous at first but raises questions in the meantime on the reliability of the test result. These instances of typos make the readers end up disparaging the communications as they seemed to have been made public more due to slapdash working practice than other circumstances.
To our great dismay, even academic practices are not devoid of typos. For instance, multiple occurrence of typos crept into the test paper of Nepali subject of grade 11 administered in June 2019. It had triggered a big concern that the paper seriously contravened the language convention by negatively affecting performance of students in the exam. In March 2019, students appearing in the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) got flustered as their test paper for Compulsory English was littered with errors. The Tribhuvan University was criticized for its negligence as its test papers of Bachelor’s degree on Creative English exam of 2018 were a sheer example of negligence-induced typos. The test papers were erroneous by punctuation marks, capitalization and also by multiple instances of factual inaccuracies.
A press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Nepal’s head of the state’s message of sympathy and grief to Indonesian President Joko Widodo had a serious typo. The disastrous typo that occurred in the release--“Sent a message of congratulations” on “the loss of many lives”--caught social media users’ attention instantly and the ministry had to correct the press release urgently.
This scribe had jointly conducted an intensive research in 2013 also with an objective to find out the status of typos in Nepal’s school textbooks. The study had reviewed a total of 55 textbooks of grades 6-10 published by the government and private publishers. The research report concluded that school textbooks were full of typos requiring due attention for revision and effective monitoring on quality control by the government authority concerned.
More than being merely the howlers on themselves, typos are costly--the explosion of the rocket that launched American interplanetary probe Mariner 1 in 1962 just minutes after take-off due to a missing hyphen being the best example. Personally speaking, this scribe also lost Rs 400,000 a decade ago when a formal letter issued by the Office of Vice Chancellor of Tribhuvan University and undersigned by a professor was rejected by a government office of the United Kingdom on the ground that the letter contained a typographical error. The rejection letter said clearly that “even if” was typed in the letter instead of “although.”
We fear now that quality control and compliance aspects of the public authorities have eroded over the years when it comes to disseminating written messages publically. Typos that creep into important messages basically due to carelessness not only reflect modus operandi of the institutions concerned but also pose questions on their quality control mechanism. Such erroneous communications indicate lax quality control practice on their part. Broadly, these point to the reality that our system has been gradually undermining the possibility to orient ourselves toward promoting perfectionist value of the society. Undoubtedly, negligence-induced typos have been attributive to further eroding public institutions’ credibility.
Typos generally are the result of carelessness. Failure to pause and check before hitting the ‘enter’ and ‘send’ buttons or total disregard to details is the problem. Content automation has not been a practice yet neither having the final drafts of communications reviewed by more than a pair of professional eyes. Typos on social media indicate that intellectual practice is failing among bureaucrats and politicians. Even the academic institutions are disregarding the core purpose of communicating.
No one is infallible. Popular dictum has it that to err is human. Written texts with occasional typos are, therefore, bearable. Even the typo nerds disregard them. However, communications littered with multiple instances of typos are a big problem as they convey merely the half-formed thoughts failing to meet the purpose of messaging. They are reducible so can be detected and corrected before making important communications public. Modern typing devices do not fail as they are created to be more accurate and mechanical than humans. Typos occur because fingers fail but brain and honest efforts can correct them if a writer believes in the set standards and makes every effort to minimize them.