Costly misinterpretation of a single word

Even simple sentences can be misinterpreted.  Here’s an example of a misread sentence that proved very costly.

The (computer) program’s specification read, in part,

“The exception information will be in the XYZ file, too.”

The programmer took this to mean,

Another place the exception information appears is the XYZ file.”

He assumed, therefore, that the exception information was duplicated somewhere else, so he saw no need for his program to preserve it.

Actually, the writer meant,

“Another type of information that appears in the XYZ file is the exception information.”

Nothing was implied about this information being duplicated elsewhere, and, indeed, it wasn’t duplicated.  As a result, valuable and unrecoverable information was lost.  Before the differing interpretations were discovered, the cost of the lost information had mounted to about $500,000 – rather a large bill for one carelessly placed “too.”

Are Your Lights On? by Donald C. Gause and Gerald M. Weinberg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: