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It seems to me that none of the recent fracas would have occurred if the envelope Warren Beatty had in his hand had "Best Actress Award" stamped in big letters on the front of the envelope.

As can be seen here, the front of the envelope is blank:

enter image description here

Why?

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    It could be also written on the actual card, e.g. Best Actress 2016: Emma Stone "La La Land". My guess it that there are high chances they'll start doing it from now on. – Chanandler Bong Feb 28 '17 at 11:53
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    Good point. I kind of assumed it would be written inside at least, otherwise this, coupled with the apparent fact that they don't know which side of the stage the announcers will enter, make this the most ill-thought-out system I've ever seen and it amazes me something like this hasn't happened before. – Darren Feb 28 '17 at 11:54
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    @ChanandlerBong And my guess is that there are high chances that, if they start doing that from now on, somebody's going to announce "And the Oscar goes to... Best Actress oops, er, ..." – David Richerby Feb 28 '17 at 16:02
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    Relevant: medium.com/@benjaminbannister/… – DaG Mar 1 '17 at 10:37
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    @EricLippert I cannot find anything about this on the Wikipedia page. Are you sure that an incident like this has happened before at the Oscars, and do you have a source for this? – Nzall Mar 1 '17 at 14:05
63

Actually, it is written on the envelope:

enter image description here

and on the card, although with a very small font at the bottom:

enter image description here

which makes the mistake even harder to explain.

(source)

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    The bottom of the card thing is easy to explain... lots of times they don't pull the card all the way out. – Catija Feb 28 '17 at 12:48
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    Somehow reminding presenters that they are at the Oscars was valued more than reminding presenters what award they are reading? Some decisions will never make sense. – Todd Wilcox Feb 28 '17 at 13:15
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    Good observations! But the "very small font at the bottom" is actually the key to the mistake. Neither host, both septuagenarians, had their reading glasses on; they probably couldn't read the small print. At the bottom it was also very easy to miss, in the stress and focus on the information perceived as relevant. Bad UI design. – Peter A. Schneider Feb 28 '17 at 13:44
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    Note also that gold lettering on a crimson envelope, while being classy AF, is also not a good choice for readability. – Michael Seifert Feb 28 '17 at 14:45
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    It should be written in full, on the card: "The oscar for the best .... goes to ...". Just read what is written. – coredump Feb 28 '17 at 18:57

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