The Power Of A Typo: Amazon’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Amazon Web Services recently experienced an outage due to a simple typo. It's just another reminder of how important proofreading is to your brand and your business.

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Pobody’s nerfect.”

The simple logo of a hat in an otherwise forgettable moment of “The Simpsons” has always stuck in my mind as a reminder of the fact that anyone can make a mistake or a typo. No one is infallible, and mistakes do happen, but those mistakes can sometimes mean a world of problems.

The most notable case in point is last week’s outage of Amazon Web Services that took down some of the biggest names on the internet. Servers that were responsible for hosting services that people rely on for their day-to-day work like Trello and IFTTT came crashing down during the incident, with services suspended for the better part of a workday. The incident affected all sorts of businesses large and small that relied on or worked with the internet as part of their daily workflow.

The kicker? It was all brought down by a typo.

As The Verge reported, during routine debugging work being done to address a problem with Amazon’s billing system speeds, an employee of the company’s team proverbially zigged where he should have zagged, mistyping a command and triggering a series of events that took a sweepingly large number of servers offline instead of just the intended few. As a result, the internet as a whole lurched and work slowed, stalled and even crashed entirely for hundreds of thousands of people.

That is the power of a typo.

Typos don’t have to be quite so dramatic to have an influence, however. Even small typos and grammar mistakes can seriously impact your company, website, and marketing efforts.

Typos, Typos Everywhere

Typo Proofreading

A misspelling, a wrong word, a mistake in your data entry or email subject line – any one of these can mean the difference between a successful campaign and a complete disaster – and a costly one, too.

Have you ever manually entered an email list or updated a database of email subscribers based on inbound forms or other data? How many times while doing that did you make a mistake, transposing letters or entering the wrong bit altogether due to poor penmanship? Odds are at least once or twice, and when you compound this across a large volume of business, those few small mistakes add up quickly. In fact, Business 2 Community recently reported that businesses in the United Kingdom spend £220 million per year on emails sent to bad addresses or incorrect subscribers.

That is only considering email databases. Think about all the data you manage or input every year. Stray typos can add up quickly, potentially leading to errors in your CRM system or email lists, costing you money every time you send an email to a bad address or try to dial the wrong phone number. Plus, you’ll lose face if you call the wrong client or need to get information again that you should already have but entered incorrectly.

Emails or Efails?

Typos are particularly baneful when it comes to email subject lines. Like headlines for messages, your email subject is the first thing that a recipient will see after the sender’s name and your first opportunity to make an impression. Misspell “teh” or “offre” and it throws the success of your email into question.

Boomerang recently published a study that showed an error in an email significantly impacted its response rate – and also proved once again how awful Mondays are. According to Boomerang’s results, emails that were sent with error-free titles received responses approximately 5 percent more often than emails with errors – 34 percent versus 29 percent, respectively. Relatively, comparing all response rates, that represents a 14 percent decline between perfect email subject lines and those with errors. The study also showed that emails sent on Mondays tended to have the most errors, so maybe wait until Tuesday – or at least make sure you’ve had a full cup of coffee before writing and sending your email.

Copy, No Paste

None of this even considers the fuller scope of where typos live – within the copy itself. Whether it’s the static content on your website, a new blog post or the copy written in your social media posting, errors happen. Personally, I work almost exclusively in Word when writing blogs and page content, which means the red and green squiggles and I are quite familiar with one another. It also means that if I’m in a hurry, I can occasionally miss one of them trying to get my attention or – more pernicious – not have had it give me the heads-up at all.

Typos tend to happen naturally through typing too fast and hitting send or submit without proofreading. I know I’m guilty of trying to elide “with” and “the” on a regular basis while writing, often resulting in one of the words being dropped through autocorrect. In on-site copy, these errors – both in spelling and in grammar – can deter someone from your page and damage your brand’s credibility.

Think about going to a website that sells pure-bred puppies. The company has a long-standing tradition of healthy animals, is highly reviewed and well recommended by friends. However, when you get to the home page, you see that “dogs” is misspelled. Then you see “puppies” misspelled. Now you’ve developed an instinctual impression that if the content has been poorly put together, they must also pay poor attention to their work and therefore aren’t as good as you’ve been led to believe – even though none of that is true!

Your online copy is a huge factor in your perceived credibility and can make or break a first impression. ConversionXL cites BJ Fogg’s four types of credibility, one of which is “earned credibility.” Typo-riddled copy or grammar problems in your on-site copy directly impact your brand’s earned credibility. It’s the turned-up nose phenomenon – you see something that disagrees with you and turn up your nose to it. It can be a plate of Brussels sprouts or some bad page content – either way, it stinks and you want nothing to do with it. And that can be driving away your customers.

Typos can lead to serious errors, and even staggeringly expensive ones. Just take a look at some of these prime examples compiled by Six Degrees to see for yourself. With that in mind, always take a moment to proofread – whether do it yourself or use an editor – before you hit send or submit. Clean, quality copy can improve your bottom line and even save you money, so those extra moments you take to dot the I’s and cross the T’s are worth every second. Keep your copy clean and let it do what it’s supposed to do – speak for itself and make a good first impression.

Typo Content Marketing

About The Author:Ryan Yaeger
Ryan is a lead content editor in Mainstreethost’s Content Department. Beyond writing blogs and content on a range of topics from alcoholic drinks to Zaire tourism, he’s a rabid fan of the Bills, Sabres and Blackhawks, passionate about all things Apple, and spends his spare time playing board games and taking orders from his cat, Dude.