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.
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.
“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.
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.
True has an E. Truly does not.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 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.
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.
More than a few Quora users admitted having trouble with “occasion” and “occasionally,” which have double C’s but not double S’s.
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.)
“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.”
“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.
Because it means very small, a lot of people think of “mini” and incorrectly spell this word as “minuscule.” “But the word derives from the word minus; it has nothing to do with the prefix mini-,” says Garner.
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