Can you Speel It?

Courtesy, as pretty much always, of Bryan A. Garner, here’s a list of 25 of the most commonly misspelled words…

Courtesy, as pretty much always, of Bryan A. Garner, here’s a list of 25 of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language.

  • accommodate
  • committee
  • consensus
  • definitely
  • embarrass
  • expedite
  • grammar
  • harass
  • hors d’oeuvre
  • innovate
  • inoculate
  • lieu
  • millennium
  • minuscule
  • misspelling
  • noticeable
  • occurrence
  • pavilion
  • persevere
  • playwright
  • receive
  • restaurateur
  • separate
  • supersede
  • ukulele

Commit these to memory, and should you ever find yourself needing to accommodate a ukulele player who wishes to receive an inoculation from a playwright while persevering at his art in a pavilion, you’ll be spared the embarrassment of making any innovative misspellings, whether minuscule or easily noticeable.

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  1. Believe me, we are in the accommodation business, and in my metadata, I have all the different permutations of accommodation. In my stats, I sometimes find acomadation…

    1. Maybe that’s true in some countries or in some parts of some countries, but where I’ve lived (on the east and west coasts of the U.S.), hors d’oeuvre is very much alive and it is quite different from a snack.

  2. Reblogged this on Gerry Wilson and commented:
    I would add to this list: knowing how to distinguish between its/it’s, your/you’re, there/they’re/their . . . and how to use nominative and objective pronouns (nominative = pronouns that name; objective = pronouns that receive action)! These are musts for a polished manuscript.

  3. Years ago in a letter to senior management of the company where i worked I misspelled definitely as defiantly thanks to spell-check. I believe it nearly cost me my job. Oops.

  4. I’m almost afraid to say anything here, lest I misspell it. My husband has his own list that is twice as long as this one. When we do crossword puzzles together, I have to check his spelling while I’m filling in my share of the answers. Keeps me on my toes. Thanks Daryl.

    1. I learned diarrhea when I learned that the rrhea part was from a Greek word meaning (if I recall correctly) “to flow.” Hemorrhoids comes from the same root, and I learned to spell that one properly at the same time.

      1. Well, good for you. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to learn some words, I still have to check diarrhea in the dictionary. Weird. :)

      2. I was really surprised to see that what we in the UK spell ‘diarrhoea’ is not spelled the same in the USA. I had always assumed this was a medical term and the spelling would be universal.

      3. You have a point there. I guess it’s like most words we spell differently regardless of the fact that it’s a medical term. Whatever the reason, it stills boils down to the same problem. :)

  5. Daryl, love this. I reposted on my Facebook page. If you’d ever like to add to your list, how about the spelling of “a lot” which too many write as “alot.” That drives me bonkers.

  6. American or UK dictionary and keyboard? have to keep adding words to dictionary because of the difference in each others spelling. ‘Colour or color. memorised or memorized. ;)

  7. I would agree with couple of your previous commenters, that hors d’oeuvre is not English. And, being English myself, and not American, would like to point out that over here some of us like to pronounce it ‘Horses Douvres’ in deference to more than a thousand years of intermittent strife with the expression’s origin… but be very careful in using this pronunciation and only use it in front of people who know you know how it should be said and are just taking the piss!

  8. Please add Gerry’s words to your list. I think folks disregard the purpose of the apostrophe and don’t read it’s as ‘it is’. It’s the most common glaring mistake I see in the best of newsletters. If we read aloud what we write, at least in our heads, we would read it’s as ‘it is’, you’re as ‘you are’, and they’re as ‘they are’, we could catch our mistakes!

    I have a question, where do you put ‘ and ” inside or outside the period, question or exclamation mark?

    1. I’m old-fashioned and tend to put the quotes outside, but I believe there’s a growing trend of putting them inside, which does sometimes make sense, even if it doesn’t look as tidy.

    1. My friend took a picture of all her children dancing in Depends undergarments. She posted it to facebook and wished everyone to have a Happy “In Depends Dance Day.” But she is odd.

      The most recent, I can’t believe they wrote that was a home educator offering their used “ciriculum” on our town’s FreeCycle. There are enough people arguing that parents aren’t qualified to teach their own children. No need to add fuel to their argument…

  9. Funny thing is, though the browsers make a spell check for everything that is typed, still people tend to make spelling mistakes. Especially for the words mentioned in this post.

  10. About punctuation marks inside or outside the quotation mark: as is often the case, the ‘English’ rules are much more complicated than the ‘American’ rules.
    In general, the ‘American’ rule is to put them inside the closing quotation marks.
    The ‘English’ rule is to place them according to the sense (Fowler), and that makes life pretty complicated. One example: if the final word inside the quotation marks is the end of a sentence as spoken, ie it would have had a period (or question mark, or exclamation mark) after it, then the period should come inside the quotation marks. A further complication is that the rule is different for fiction and non-fiction (Butcher); in fiction the ‘American’ rule is used.
    We have the same problem with ‘ize/ise’ in the UK. Because the adding of ‘ize’ to nouns to create a verb – words like ‘hospitalize’ (personally I think such words are often ugly, sometimes preposterous) – is understood to originate in American English, the ‘z’ version is generally referred to as ‘American’ – though the Oxford English Dictionary prefers it. However, some authorities say that it depends on whether the word derives from Latin or Greek. As few of us will know that, it’s better to settle on one but use it consistently. Where the word ending in ‘ise’ is not a verb created by adding ‘ise’ to a noun, eg ‘compromise’, then the ‘s’ cannot be changed.

  11. Makes a Lot of sense, and with the advent of Microsoft products, you hardly need to be perfect in your spelling skills. I am not saying its a good thing, but that’s how things are shaping up now. You must have written so many combinations of the words above and all the time, your dear old MS Word would correct it for you.

    Someone has posted a study that after we get the style of writing we only look out for the first and the last letter of the word and the context to make sense of it, hence the long spellings are often wrongly spelled, we just don’t focus on the minutiae these days.

  12. Thank you for this post & the comments.
    In my earlier manifestation of this lifetime, I was an English teacher and a professional journalist.
    That plus, the seemingly endless spelling & grammar drills by my mother (for which I am now grateful) probably set me up for what I am about to say…

    Anyway, I am bugged by the frequent misspellings on professional & non-professional websites, and in blogs, etc. I don’t want to notice them, but they jump off the screen at me!

    I know I sound critical, but why don’t people use the various forms of spell check or the WordPress editor or pay attention to the signals given by the automatic programs? (To test this out here, I just tried to misspell a word, and the automatic spell check underlined it in red! How can you miss that?)
    Nobody can be a perfect speller in all languages all the time. But, can’t we all use the programs that are already built in, like here in WordPress?

    I appreciate the fact that one commentator above got spell-checked into using the wrong word in a work situation. So, obviously spell check isn’t perfect, probably because it is programmed by human beings. Plus, as also mentioned above, the English language is a challenge to anyone, native speaker or ESL! So, even with my good spelling skills, I keep a Webster’s handy in a desk drawer when I want to double-check or want to use a word that spell check never heard of.

    Bad spelling to a friend in a personal email–that’s your business.
    Bad spelling in a public forum on the internet–that becomes everybody’s business. And, for some of us/me, it becomes an obstacle to my being able to truly appreciate your message.

    I know I took this comment way beyond the scope of the original post, however after reading the post with its delightful humor & the comments, I felt this might be an appropriate time to speak my peace and piece (of mind)!! ;-)

    1. I agree, especially with “it becomes an obstacle to my being able to truly appreciate your message”; I’d add, ‘even to completely understand it’. The good reason for taking this seriously is the whole point of writing is to communicate; if you do not, or you mis-communicate, there’s no point in writing. So, although with similar ‘drilling’ I can spell pretty well, I too have a dictionary on my desk but, being in the UK, it’s the Oxford English not Webster’s.

      1. Yes, I like your addendum: “… to completely understand it.”
        And, yes, the point is “… to communicate….” I’d like to add that the meaning of COMMUNICATE implies a two-way exchange, so both parties need to be able to understand or trying to understand the other.

        All that is facilitated by commonly understood & used rules of spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and so on. If we didn’t need all that to communicate our deeper thoughts and feelings we would still be saying da-da and pointing to the ball when that’s what we want.

        All of us who blog want to communicate with someone(s) out there, otherwise we would be journaling in solitude at home or on our hikes or on breaks at work or school. Instead we open our laptops and start our fingers going with an assumption that the words and rules we use will enable others to “get” us. And, a dialogue will have begun.

        So, obviously I concur with you, grumpytyke! (BTW, WordPress spell check doesn’t like your moniker!!)

        I started to wander off into the advantages of non-verbal communication within the structure of the understandings of a common culture, blah-blah-blah. Then, I realized that could open too many pandora or other boxes that might be fun to explore IF there were time to roam. However, a small paying writing job beckons….

        My friend, grumpytyke, let’s continue this dialogue. I feel a kindred spirit in you, as opposed to those who consider folks like me to be fuddy-duddies. Finally somebody who understands…!!

      2. I’m almost speechless. There is someone out there – Linda Louise – who understands that communication only takes place if the receiver understands the same thing from the message as the sender. I’ve spent much of a lifetime trying to explain that.
        As for grumpytyke: tyke has several meanings, not all complimentary, but here it refers to the meaning in Yorkshire – a Yorkshireman; we grumpy old men are peevish about ‘little’ things like correct spelling!

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  14. Reblogged this on Grumpytyke and commented:
    Another ‘words’ post which has stimulated a lot of interesting discussion. For me, the red underline automatic spell checkers are great for picking up typing errors (especially for me in emails where I tend to type very fast and not check). I hope I’m more careful on blog posts.

    1. Ah, yes, typing errors. I’d like to think that many of the “misspellings” we see are typos. And, because all of us probably suffer from speeding minds. And, then our fingers, while dealing with the limitations of the mechanics of movement, are doing their best to keep up. But, alas, we can trip over ourselves on the keyboard. And, thank heavens for the red lines to alert us to this.
      As I said earlier, maybe it’s not a big deal in a quick private email to a friend, who understands you. However, in my case, I always proofread. And, I find it totally impossible to ignore misspellings and grammatical errors, because my mother trained me so well and her voice is still in there! (Egad, and I just turned 69!!!) I almost wish I could do that! :-)

  15. Those are the most commonly misspelled words? Really? I am almost incredulous…. Also, I was home-educated and don’t have problems with these… Actually, the one I have the hardest time with is “ettiquette”! And I am studying French, so that one should be easy! :D

  16. Thanks for the list. I seem to remember spelling tests from school with some of the same words on it. I’ll use this list in my intermediate EFL classes. Hell we could all use some work on our spelling. :)

    1. Saw from your gravatar that you run a mobile bookshop (and teach English) in Normandy. Great! I have many fond memories from when I had the port of Rouen as a client (1970s). Do they still eat as much, as often? I never needed an hors d’oeuvre – as you say, an appetizer. As I’m sure you know, it’s quite difficult for us to spell this correctly as the o and e should be joined, a ligature. It always seemed silly to me to treat this as English and add an ‘s’ to make the plural. My French has long gone but I’m really enjoying some ‘lessons’ by attempting to understand the French text on a lovely blog which always has an English translation:

  17. My worst are grammar, receive, and separate – probably some of the simpler ones. At the moment I’m using free writing software with a pretty terrible spellchecker. That doesn’t help.

  18. I’d be pleased to have any more than 3 of these words in my vocabulary – spelling them correctly would only be a bonus.

  19. Ha! Guilty, on more than on occasion of misspelling most of these :) Did I get it right?! :)