What to do after a big faux pas


Bad finger made a typing error! In an email to experts in clear and correct writing!

What do you do when you make a big fat typo in an email? Blush and own it? This cannot be right — usually, least said soonest mended, surely? Well, yesterday I put my foot in it good and proper.

In 2008 I helped to establish a group called Plain English Power, and we worked hard for our goals. Eight years on, we have closed this group for various reasons. So I sent an email advising our mailing group.

Easier said than done! The software I was using refused to let me send myself a test email, fix the problems, then send a corrected version to our members. Nope: each time I had to start all over again, so it was untestable. After three attempts I got fed up and just sent the message to everybody.

And hey, the message went out to this group of hundreds of editors, proofreaders, grammarians, professors, lawyers and legislators — all experts in clear, correct business and legal writing — with this memorable subject line:

Closoing the Plain English Power group

Aaargh! I took a deep breath and hurriedly sent out a second newsletter. Here it is.


One last typo for your delectation

Yes, our final email was called Closoing the Plain English Power group.
As a poet, I love this new onomatopoeic word, closoing.
As a plain language advocate, I deplore such carelessness.
As a disclaimer, I blame a technology problem.
As a vicar’s daughter, I say Sorry, my fault!
And as a visionary, I see this as one last message from the universe:
Just because Plain English Power is now defunct, don’t take your eye off the ball!

What would you have done?

P.S. You can see Plain English Power’s old, hand-crafted website for a little longer, until the domain dies.

Image from page 607 of “Annual report of the Bureau of ethnology to the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution ..” (1881) via Internet Archive Book Images

24 thoughts on “What to do after a big faux pas

  1. I would have done the same. It’s always best to own it and move on! You did good. Ooops! You did well.

    1. This was more of a wide-awake elephant than a sleeping lapdog.

  2. toutparmoi says:

    “Closoing”! I love it.

    1. You like it? It’s yours.

  3. Robyn Haynes says:

    Love, love, love this response Rachel! I applaud your inventiveness. When caught out I would always say I was testing attentiveness.

    1. I like that too! Reminds me of my granddaughter. When I politely asked her whether a story was actually true she said, “I was just testing a theory.”

  4. lifecameos says:

    To make a true faux pas, you need to do it a whopper ! I think you did this well !

    1. It’s all or nothing out there!

      1. lifecameos says:

        I have just realised I inserted an extra “it”, So I have made a faux pas too.

      2. And I never noticed.

  5. Val says:

    Making a typo like that is poetic justice.

    1. In so many ways! Punishment for closing the group down. Or punishment for caring about typos. Or …

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    This is such an honest, funny, real-life post; I think everyone who reads it will identify with your dilemma. I certainly will. I’m appalled at the way I sprinkle typos here and there when I comment on blogs. I wish I could edit them, but, alas, cannot.

    1. It’s probably just as well! To friends I have deliberately abandoned apostrophes in it’s. So much effort on the phone:)

  7. Joared says:

    I think it’s hilarious! Your subsequent clarification was perfect. I do believe you could just as easily have said that you did it on purpose just to see if anyone was paying attention.

  8. I’m sure you’re right about that riposte (like my granddaughter’s “I was just testing a theory”), but I think too slowly for that one.

  9. Ellen Hawley says:

    It’s nowhere near as bad as the cover that Ms Magazine–that iconic feminist magazine–published once. In huge letters across the front, it said, “FEMINISIM.”

    1. Ouch.

      1. Ellen Hawley says:

        Yeah. I worked as an editor and join you in saying a deeply felt professional ouch.

      2. Ellen Hawley says:

        Apologies if I posted this twice, but I think the first version disappeared. I used to work as an editor, so I join you in saying a heartfelt professional ouch.

  10. Ellen Hawley says:

    Okay, I did post it twice. So what can I do but leave a third comment?

    1. Indeed. As any editor would!

      1. Ellen Hawley says:

        I’ll stop now.

  11. But no, there’s more. I forgot to say how utterly perfect your profile picture is for this topic. Bye now.

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