18 Incredibly Common Spelling Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb

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By Rachel Sugar

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a notoriously terrible speller. So was Ernest Hemingway. And Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, and John Keats. And the list goes on.

While being a very good speller often indicates high intelligence, and having very low intelligence usually predicts bad spelling, being a very bad speller does not necessarily indicate low intelligence.

"The verdict is clear," writes Marilyn vos Savant in "The Art of Spelling: The Method and the Madness." "One does not reliably predict the other."

But just because it isn't an accurate metric of brainpower doesn't mean people don't use it as one, which means that, for better or worse, spelling still matters.

Inspired by the (British-inflected) Quora thread "What is the most misspelt word in the English language?," we pulled together a list of embarrassingly common errors.tomorrow

"Often to my surprise, I find a lot of well-educated folks will spell 'tomorrow' as 'tommorrow' or 'tommorow,'" writes Quora user Kyle Arean-Raines.

accommodate

One of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language, according to data culled from the Oxford English Corpus, "accommodate" has two C's and two M's.

truly

True has an E. Truly does not.

separate

It's "separate," not "seperate." Quora user Ashish R. Bhat says he was seeing the incorrect spelling so often that he began to doubt the correct one. Tip: Remember there's "a rat" in "separate."

a lot

If you have a large amount of something, then you have "a lot" of it — two words. "Alot" is nonstandard. It is the name of an adorable creature that "Hyperbole and a Half" writer and cartoonist Allie Brosh made up "to help me deal with my compulsive need to correct other people's grammar."

definitely

Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no A in "definitely." But according to a survey from OnePoll, it's the most commonly misspelled word in English. Remembering that the root is "finite" helps. If etymology doesn't work, webcomic "The Oatmeal" offers a handy phrase to help you remember.

restaurateur

Unless you live a very specific kind of life, it's likely you're not regularly writing about restaurateurs. When and if you are, take note: The correct spelling has no N. "Restaurant" has an N. "Restaurateur" does not.

misspell

There is particular shame in misspelling "misspell," so avoid it. The correct spelling has two S's, because, as "Barron's Pocket Guide to Correct English" explains, "prefixes are kept intact even when their final letter is the same as the first letter in the base word."

necessary

Another one from Oxford's top 100 misspellings: "Necessary," which has one C but two S's. "Unnecessary," meanwhile, is frequently misspelled too. Because of the same prefix rule that governs "misspell," it has two N's: one in "un" and the other in "necessary."

pronunciation

While it feels like "pronunciation" should contain the word "pronounce," it doesn't. The middle syllable in "pronunciation" is "nun." The middle syllable in "pronounce" is "noun."

all right

If something is adequate or satisfactory, it is "all right," two words. As Writer's Digest gently puts it, "'alright' technically isn't, well, a word."

One of the world's foremost authorities on the English language, Bryan Garner, says this: "Alright for all right has never been accepted as standard" in American English. "The short version may be gaining a shadowy acceptance in [British English] ... Still, the combined version cannot yet be considered good usage—or even colloquially all right."

maintenance

Maintenance does not contain the word "maintain." Instead, the "ai" turns to an E. According to Google Trends, people in Missouri are particularly confused about this — it's the most frequently Googled spelling in the state.

receive

As with many English spelling rules, "I before E except after C" has plenty of exceptions (and Mental Floss has a guide to them here), but in this case, at least, the saying stands.

occasion, occasionally

More than a few Quora users admitted having trouble with "occasion" and "occasionally," which have double C's but not double S's.

occurrence

Yet another frequently confused case of double letters, "occurrence" makes Britain's list of top misspelled words, thanks to its double C's, double R's, and the ambiguous-sounding vowel in the last syllable. (It's an E.)

memento

"Why would something to remind you of a 'moment' be spelled 'memento'? Well, it is," wrote an anonymous Quora user. A more nuanced explanation: "Memento" comes from the same root as "remember."

privilege

"According to the pronunciation (not 'pronounciation'!) of this word, that middle vowel could be anything," one anonymous Quora user points out. But it isn't. Accordingly, remember: two I's and two E's, in that order.

schedule

This one makes the Barron's list because of pronunciation confusion. Although some people say "schedule" as if it were a three-syllable word — sched-u-al — it isn't, and it isn't spelled that way.

Bonus:

minuscule

Because it means very small, a lot of people think of "mini" and incorrectly spell this word as "miniscule." "But the word derives from the word minus; it has nothing to do with the prefix mini-," says Garner.
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