Choose your language:
March 17, 2016
By Alexander Lucas
Spell-check isn’t usually the kind of topic that riles people up. I’m surprised to be talking about it today, but a variety of spell-check and autocorrect news stories have had an outsized influence over information technology recently. So sit back and “check” it out!
Hackers miss out on $20 million
A group broke into Bangladesh’s central bank and requested five fake transfers. Four transfers were successful, but the fifth failed due to a misspelling of the word “foundation” in a fake nonprofit’s name. The Bangladesh bank found out about the heist due to a clarification from another routing bank and stopped the transaction.
While job seekers can miss out due to typos on your resume, rarely will spelling errors cost you $20 million. But don’t feel too bad for that hacker group; they still made off with $81 million.
Alphabet: Filtering out the hate
Last December, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt proposed the idea of a kind of spell-check for hate and harassment online. His appeal in an editorial in The New York Times concluded, ”it’s our responsibility to demonstrate that stability and free expression go hand in hand.”
With the increase in incendiary political rhetoric in the U.S. presidential primaries, the debate about Twitter harassment and the ongoing Apple vs. FBI feud, the role of free speech in the digital landscape is becoming increasingly contentious. Schmidt did not give any details of how this hate-checking could be accomplished, but he did outline a beautiful image of how an ideal Internet would look. His full editorial is a wonderful read.
Texting: Check yo self before you reck yourself wreck yo self
A group texting app, Blend, purposely turned off spell-check for three days in January to determine which group of people misspelled the most words. Millennials, our favorite scapegoat (“kids these days”), were found to be particularly bad at spelling, especially in the 19-21 age range.
While many of the words that were commonly misspelled (i before e, except after c, everyone) are not surprising, it is interesting to parse some regional differences in the U.S. While West Coasters were often without posession of a fourth s, East Coasters found other typos to be embarassing. You can read more about the results of the trial in Business Insider.
Conclusion: Spelling it all out
By the way, it is nearly impossible for me to write this post without keeping my digital tools from correcting some of the purposeful spelling errors. Just a rough count of auto-corrections alone fixed about 30 errors in my typing, though my editor found nearly as many grammatical errors sans technology. (Ed’s note: Not true).
When it comes to job-seeking, errors are easy to make but you don’t often get a second chance to make an impression. I have personally thrown out resumes the second I have seen a typo. I have also been told I missed out on consideration for a job for not catching an error when copying and pasting portions of a cover letter. Pro tip: It’s really hard to proofread your own work but printing it out can help.
So in the spirit of improvement I put to you this challenge, inspired by a wonderful article from Wired: Turn off all the auto-correction preferences on your phone and computer programs for one week. See how much you depend on this technology and realize the opportunities in rereading everything you write. I will do this challenge (though not starting today), so please let me know in the comments below or on social media if you are up for it, too.
A self-styled storyteller, Alexander Lucas loves to share his vast knowledge of tech, innovation and design trivia. TEKsystems’ resident video designer is also an avid history buff and writes about technology innovation through time.