You mistype a word. You make a "finger check". You accidentally transpose letters typing too fast, or from muscle memory.

A spelling checker does not recognize your typo because your incorrect typing resulted in a correctly spelled (though wrong and unintended) word.

Only careful human reading (or maybe very sophisticated context analysis) will catch this mistake of a word that was not intended to be used.

What is the term for such a 'misspelling' (or this specific class of typographical error)?

People have argued that by definition, the mistyping is not a misspelling. This makes talk about locating these errors even more difficult because of the ambiguity of "spelling error" in this context.

What term would you use when requesting an editor to specifically look for this "misspelling but not a misspelling" class of error?

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    As Eugune Seidel suggests, typo is likely the correct term. – Geoff Ball Dec 9 '18 at 4:25
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    If I had to coin my own term, it might be an 'in lexicon mistyping'. – AmI Dec 9 '18 at 5:12

The phrase you're looking for is 'atomic typo'.

Urban Dictionary defines an atomic typo as:

A typo (one-letter keyboarding mistake, typewriter mistake) that the spell-check function cannot pick up because the word is spelled correctly -- although not for the word you wanted to key in. They are called "atomic typos" because the change of just one letter completely changes the word, although it remains spelled correctly in terms of the spell check function


Chris, instead of Christ; war, instead of was; bite, instead of byte; massage, instead of message

There's an interesting blog post on the subject of atomic typos, at CentrEditing, which says:

The term ‘atomic typo’ was coined in 2002 and since then it has appeared in various blogs and newspapers but doesn’t seem to be in common usage (it returns only just over 3000 results on Google!).

There's even a blogspot dedicated to the atomic typo.

  • Excellent answer. I find that the spellchecker (with auto correction) is often the culprit! And if I write "Don't stair at me, through your sun's glasses", my browser highlights no errors. – WS2 Dec 9 '18 at 9:21

This is not exactly what you need, since it doesn't include the low edit distance to the intended word, but in a bind you could say that there was a

miswording (wrong wording or expression)

rather than a misspelling.

  • I don't think the 'low edit distance' is your only problem with this answer (nicely put, by the way); I'm not convinced wrong wording is equivalent to wrong word. – tmgr Dec 9 '18 at 10:58

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