Alternative to typo?

Subject: Alternative to typo?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Technical Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Joel Wilhelm <eleysium -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2009 09:12:42 -0400

Joel wondered: <<For some reason I am having trouble coming up with an
alternative to "typo." I have a sentence that says: "A typo in this
command may render the unit unresponsive." Should I change it to, "a
typographical error"? That sounds stuffy. "A mistake in typing..."?
Something else?>>

Strictly speaking, a typographical error would be choosing Times New
Roman for any font designed to communicate with members of this list.
<g> and <stitch> When in doubt, be direct: "If you type this command
incorrectly, the unit may stop responding [to what: your inputs? to
juidicious blows with a hammer?]."

But there are two additional problems here. First and most important,
why (in this day and age) would any sane engineer (if such a creature
exists) allow this to happen? How hard is it to parse the commands
first and refuse to perform such a dangerous command? Why is there no
way to solve the problem? On the other hand, if there is a secret
command that will cause it to begin responding again, revise the
sentence as follows: "If you type this command incorrectly, you will
need to type [reset command name] to reset the unit so it will again
respond to [whatever]."

Second, and no less important, "may" is unacceptably vague: if at all
possible, make the SME tell you clearly and unequivocally when a typo
will and will not cause this behavior, and clearly spell this out for
the reader.

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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alternative to typo: From: Joel

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