Worse Spell Check Mistake Ever

Early in my legal career, I wrote a long brief for a partner on some topic I don’t recall. I think it had to do with employment law.

I was a new lawyer, both eager to please and anxious not to screw up. I read and reread the memo to make sure there were no substantive errors. I spell checked that thing 15 times. At least.

I sent it off, feeling like I had done a great job. A couple days later, having heard nothing from the partner, I started to wonder whether I had missed something. So I went into my C:\ drive (this was in MS-DOS days), opened it in Word Perfect, and printed out a copy.

Everything looked good until I came to the last page, where I was discussing the policy aspects of the law in question. To my horror, I noticed that rather than talking about public policy, I had been talking about pubic policy.

Pubic. As in, “of or relating to the pubes or pubis.” As in Clarence Thomas, Coke cans, and Anita Hill. As in short and curlies.

That mistake throbbed in my memory for years. Eventually, I stopped thinking about it, but from time to time that memory comes back, particularly when I make another stupid error like that.

Like I did today. Someone asked me a question a few days ago, and it took me a while to respond. Finally, I sat down this morning and wrote a long e-mail to him.

I thought it was pretty convincing. But, in an effort to be polite, I started my e-mail letting the recipient know I was sorry I’d made him wait. So I said, “Thanks for your patience.”

But I spelled it “Thanks for you patients.”

How that got in there, I don’t know. Spell check? Autocomplete? Brain fart? I don’t know. But when I later reread that email, I pretty much wanted to jump out the window.

On should that be widow?