Unforced Error

What does Unforced Error mean?

A mistake that could have been easily avoided

An unforced error is a blunder that happens due to a person’s carelessness, lack of focus, or inattentiveness. It’s a term frequently used in sports, especially in games like baseball, tennis, and badminton, to indicate a mistake that could have been easily avoided by the player. Besides sports, this term is also used in social media to discuss avoidable mistakes made by companies, governments, or famous personalities.

The term unforced error is deeply rooted in tennis and was first used in the 1920s. However, it was only in the 1970s and 80s that it started gaining popularity. In 1982, Information and Display Systems began keeping track of unforced errors through their innovative computerized tennis statistics system.

In tennis, the most typical unforced error is a double fault during a serve. The player who serves has full control over the serve, and theoretically, they should be able to avoid a double fault always. Since they are never “forced” to double fault, it is termed an “unforced” error. Other examples include hitting easy shots incorrectly, either too soon or too late, or on the improper part of the racket.

Unforced errors are also common among U.S. presidential candidates. For instance, if a candidate decided to visit a Michigan car factory instead of an Ohio farm which they had planned earlier, it could be seen as an unforced error. This is because the change in plan might disappoint the agricultural voters who were expecting the candidate’s visit.

Example for using ‘Unforced Error’ in a conversation

Hey, did you watch the tennis match last night?

Yeah, I did! It was intense.

Right? Did you see that unforced error by the top seed?

Definitely! It was such a careless mistake. He could have easily avoided it.