Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word was the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
Let’s add this to Twain’s thought: The difference between the right spelling and the almost right spelling is the difference between clarity and hilarity.
Consider the accompanying example. We meant to tell readers that if they buy tickets beforehand they will get a discount.
Instead, we told them that if they buy the more complex or more enlightened tickets, they will get a discount.
That’s the difference between advance and advanced.
So by adding a single letter, we’ve changed the meaning of our message from something useful into something laughable.
Will people still understand? Probably, but that’s not the point. Clarity requires accuracy, whether in the mechanics of the language or in the trustworthiness of the facts. Just because people might understand doesn’t mean they will. And to those who notice the error, we surrender a modicum of credibility.
In a business that relies on trust, we can’t afford to lose even that small amount.
Of course, we all misspell words time to time. Perhaps it’s appropriate that we misused advanced in reference to a singer whose latest album includes the song “It’s Alright.”
The difference between …