The now vs. not typo

While they’re unfortunate, usually typos just have the effect of being a little jarring or distracting.  At worst they make you look sloppy.  However, there is one typo of which I’ve been aware for many years that is a particularly damaging one.  You want to stay vigilant to keep it from affecting you.

I’m talking about the now vs. not typo.  Quite simply, that’s when you mean to type one of these two words but your well-practiced fingers type the other instead.  Obviously this typo would only affect touch typists, but there are plenty of us in the world.

This typo is particularly insidious for many reasons:

  • It’s easy to make.  It only requires the substitution of a single letter using the same hand.
  • Spelling checkers don’t catch it.
  • Grammar checkers don’t catch it.
  • It can occur both ways (now to not and not to now).
  • It has the effect of completely reversing the meaning of the sentence.

This last point deserves a little attention.  Let’s say you’re a one-man development shop that creates apps for smart phones and sells them on the popular application stores.  You create an iPhone app called Zombiesquare.  It’s like Foursquare but with zombies.  Naturally it’s a big hit.  Next thing you know you have lots of requests to build a version specific to the iPad, which will take advantage of the larger screen to show the zombies in their full technicolor glory.  You go through the trouble and expense of creating an iPad version.

Now it’s time to promote it.  You quickly add some copy right up at the top of the Zombiesquare home page stating,

Zombiesquare is now available for the iPad.

However, what you accidentally post is

Zombiesquare is not available for the iPad.

Wow, that sucks.  You just took your very best set of target buyers and told them not to bother.  That’ll definitely cost you some sales.  All because of a stupid typo.

The other direction is just as possible and just as bad.  Think of how dangerous it is if your coupon is supposed to have mouse type that reads, “Not available in combination with any other offer,” but instead states, “Now available in combination with any other offer.”

So when I’m proofreading my own or others’ work, I always stop on the words not and now and take a beat to ensure they mean what they say.  I recommend the same to you.

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