I'm looking for a succinct way of describing a mistake or tendency that pops up a lot. It's just a common error that a wide range of people seem to make over and over. The specific context I'm thinking of is software training and consulting but it could be used in other training/teaching scenarios.

Sample usage:

Many people will use the first setting but in reality the second option is the appropriate choice for this application. Especially as you begin to use the software, you will want to be aware of this _____________.

I thought of pitfall but it implies a hidden danger due to the software being ambiguous or poorly designed. The fault isn't so much in the software but in the misunderstanding and tradition of the user.

I thought of pet peeve but that implies the lecturer is personally annoyed with the mistake which is incidental from the trainee's perspective.

I thought of simply saying common mistake. But, I wonder if there is a more colorful and succinct way of describing it. Maybe a single word? Or, maybe an impactful, memorable idiom like "pet peeve" but without the connotation of an annoyance.

  • A common mistake, perhaps? Or if discussing software models, possibly an anti-pattern.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 14, 2017 at 16:17
  • 1
    fallacy perhaps?
    – Alok
    Aug 14, 2017 at 17:30
  • attractive nuisance has a pretty broad figurative useage. If the software appears to invite the user to make the error, it would seem like a reasonable characterization.
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 14, 2017 at 21:13

7 Answers 7


The point where an error is often made is called the

pons asinorum

the point at which many learners fail, especially a theory or formula that is difficult to grasp. [ODO]

or stumbling block.

This, like a pitfall, focuses on the point where the error is often made rather than the error itself, but points to the fallibility of the learner.

  • 2
    I like stumbling block but I think pons asinorum is a bit pons-y. Aug 14, 2017 at 16:33
  • 1
    For some reason it seems worth noting here that according to the provided link pons asinorum is Latin for 'Bridge of asses'.
    – thomj1332
    Aug 15, 2017 at 12:35
  • 1
    Yes; you'll often find one on a donkeyway. Aug 15, 2017 at 12:59

An anti-pattern is a common response to a recurring problem that is usually ineffective and risks being highly counterproductive. - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pattern

This term is well known in software development but it applies to other domains several examples on Wikipedia page.

  • misconception
  • misinterpretation
  • recurring error
  • false signal
  • misjudgement
  • misunderstanding
  • etc.

A "Beginner's mistake" or "First Timer's error" would put it in the context of not being the program's fault. Not a single word but would not sound too stilted.

I would rather the program take some heat for the problem rather than heaping abuse on the unsuspecting customer.


You could simply refer to it as a recurring tendency, or, since it also affects users new to the software, an inherent tendency.


It's a gotcha.

Noun: gotcha gó-chu

An unexpected problem

Derived forms: gotchas

Encyclopedia: Gotcha

-- WordWeb


User bias.

The fault isn't so much in the software but in the misunderstanding and tradition of the user.

Since you imply the defect is with the user rather than the software, you might consider the specific term 'user bias' -- I couldn't find a standard definition but you can look at the wide range of published uses here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.