Look, people, I know typographical errors happen. I know that this blog is teeming with them, in spite of my every effort to contain the menace. Typographical errors themselves are not necessarily a cause for alarm, although one ought to correct them whenever possible. There are probably several in this post alone that I simply cannot see anymore, because my brain refuses to acknowledge them.
What does give me pause, however, is the possibility that a typo may have found a way to sneak past otherwise vigilant proofreaders by convincing them that it is the correct version of the word. Lately, I’ve been seeing a possible example of this: the substitution of preform for perform.
Preform, as per Merriam-Webster, is a transitive verb of Latin origins meaning either “to form or shape beforehand” or “to bring to approximate preliminary shape or size.”
Perform, as defined by the same source, is also a transitive verb. That is all that these two words have in common beyond an accident of English spelling — they aren’t even etymologically related (perform is older, and has its roots in a French “alteration” of an entirely different bit of Latin). To perform is to do, to complete, to act, to carry out, etc.
Because they also share the same first three letters, however, zippy and careless typers may be seduced all too easily into substituting one for the other; apparently there are many, many people who find this seduction much to their taste and inclination. Consider this collection of ridiculous examples . It tells you something important when an error is so common that Google is set up to correct it in searches. I see this mistake on otherwise very professionally designed posters for plays and musical acts all over the place, and it is driving me crazy.
People: knock it off. I’m begging you. Spare what’s left of my precious sanity (yes, there is a little left) and proofread this mistake out of existence. These two words are not the same. Do not be fooled. Be vigilant!