Typos, misspelled words, grammatical errors, and punctuation mistakes are common in today's technology-driven communication. Many people assume it doesn't make any difference to their image if they tweet things like "I think my gramma got die of beaties," but if you're a professional of any sort, it would be wise to consider honing your grammatical abilities. Otherwise, you just might be the next poor employee to cost a company millions of dollars and potentially end up on the unemployment line. Below are the top five most expensive and, therefore, worst punctuation mistakes of all time.
1. An NYC Department of Education typo cost taxpayers $1.4 million.
You may expect more from a department that should pride itself on grammatical knowledge, but an accounting typo ended up costing New York taxpayers a lot of money. An added letter prompted bookkeeping software to double the department's transportation fund from $1.4 million to $2.8 million—an error that went unnoticed until it was finally discovered in an audit in 2006.
2. One misplaced comma cost Rogers Communications $2.13 million.
Back in 2002, Rogers Communications signed a support structure agreement with a fellow communications company, Bell Aliant, for the use of Bell's transmission poles at a contract price of $9.60 for each pole per year. The agreement was for a five-year term, set to expire in May 2007. Two years later, Bell Aliant's parent company, NB Power, decided to regain control of the transmission poles and raise the rates to $18.91. To do so, they used a misplaced comma in the original agreement:
[This Agreement] shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.
The court ruled that the second comma in this sentence allowed Bell Aliant to terminate the agreement with only one year's notice to Rogers, with a calculated additional cost to Rogers of $2.13 million.
3. A 1980s advertising typo in the Yellow Pages cost the company $10 million.
In the 1980s, Banner Travel Agency placed an ad in the Yellow Pages for exotic getaways aimed at an older clientele. The resulting advertisement instead promoted "erotic adventures." The travel agency sued the Yellow Pages for $10 million and won, almost putting the now well-known company out of business.
4. A typo bankrupted a 124-year-old engineering firm and cost the UK government £8.8 million (about US $13 million).
All it took was one missing letter to spell the end for a well-established Welsh engineering firm, Taylor & Sons Ltd. In 2009, the firm found itself listed as bankrupt by the UK government's registrar of companies—which was news to Taylor & Sons. A typo had caused the well-off engineering firm to be mistaken for the actually bankrupt business Taylor & Son and resulted in every one of the firm's 3,000 suppliers cancelling their orders. Within two months, Taylor & Sons Ltd. was indeed bankrupt, and the company filed a lawsuit against the UK government for $13 million.
5. Two small typos at the Tokyo Stock Exchange cost $225 million.
All it took was a pair of typos for the Japanese company Mizuho Securities to lose around $225 million in one day. The company tried to sell 610,000 shares of a job-recruiting firm called J-Com Co. for 1 yen each during its debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The problem was that 610,000 shares was 41 times the number of J-Com's outstanding shares, and the share were supposed to sell for 610,000 yen each. Unfortunately, the Tokyo Stock Exchange doesn't cancel transactions, even if a mistake has been made, making these transposed numbers one of the most expensive typos of all time.
The moral of these five stories? Proofreading your documents is not just something you should do if you have the time—it's a necessity. In addition to money, proofreaders save businesses from miscommunications and embarrassing mistakes. The cost of a grammatical or punctuation error should not be underestimated!
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