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Undoing A Permanent 'Oops': Colombian Scholars Tackle Tattoo Typos

A tattoo artist works in London in 2014. This September, a Colombian organization is offering to edit erroneous tattoos — free — and hopefully interest young people in the value of good grammar and spelling.

Typos are embarrassing in emails, dangerous in cover letters, cringe-inducing when they're on social media.

But it could always be worse: That mistake could be inked into your skin.

This September, a few unlucky Colombians will be freed from that plight. An institute dedicated to studying and teaching the Spanish language is offering to fix tattooed typos forever — free.

The Instituto Caro y Cuervo normally does things like publish dictionaries and research reading habits. But at the annual Festival de la Palabra (Festival of the Word) next month in Bogota, Colombia, the group will be tackling grammatical and spelling errors in fleshier form.

"We've seen a lot of people with really bad mistakes in their tattoos," Maria Paula Alzate, of the institute, told The Guardian. "For some people it turns out to be the worst mistake of their lives because you have to live with it every day."

So the institute put out a call on social media: "Do you have, or do you know anyone who has, a tattoo with a spelling or editing error? Send a photo with your information to and you'll have the chance to correct it, completely free, with one of the best tattoo artists in the country."

It's no joke, the institute was quick to assure its followers and the press. A tattoo artist really will be on site to revise selected tattoos.

In three days, the group received 50 submissions, according to the Colombian newspaper El Espectador, and it has already chosen at least nine of them to fix at the festival.

The mistakes so far include capitalization errors and missing accents — familiar pitfalls to English speakers who have struggled through introductory Spanish. Same-sounding letters V/B and C/S are perilous, too: Tweets to Caro Cuervo reveal "La Vida No Es Fasil" has been inked on at least one body. (Hey, el español no es fácil.)

"I want to fix my tattoo," tweeted someone whose tattooist left the "b" out of Colombiana. "Help me."

Miguel Ángel Grillo, the director of the ad agency promoting the campaign, told El Espectador that they hope to reach young people and interest them in the proper use of language in everyday life.

And maybe the Colombian effort will inspire some global imitators. Misspelled tattoos, after all, can ... strike ... anywhere.

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