27 incredibly common spelling mistakes that make you look less intelligent

  • There isn’t a strong link between good spelling and intelligence, but that doesn’t mean spelling doesn’t matter.
  • Proper spelling makes people perceive you as more intelligent and can increase your chances of getting a job.
  • We compiled 27 of the most common spelling mistakes in the English language.

Science has proven that there isn’t a strong link between spelling and 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 that doesn’t mean people don’t perceive it that way.

On the contrary, if you regularly make spelling mistakes, people are more likely to perceive you as less intelligent and judge your writing more harshly. In the professional world, spelling mistakes on a resume have the same detrimental effect as not having job experience.

So even though spelling is an accurate metric of brainpower, it still matters.

With that in mind, here are 27 of the most misspelled words in English, and how you can remember to get them right.


Tomorrow

Columbia Pictures

“Often to my surprise, I find a lot of well-educated folks will spell ‘tomorrow’ as ‘tommorrow’ or ‘tommorow,'”writesQuora user Kyle Arean-Raines.


Accommodate

Flickr Creative Commons/Brent Moore

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

Columbia Records

“True” ends with an E, but when you turn it into an adverb, it becomes the five-letter “truly.”


Separate

Zapals

People often mistakenly spell “separate” with an E in the middle instead of an A – Grammarist calls it the most common misspelling of the word.

A good way to remember it is that 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 usually considered nonstandard. It is, however, 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

Universal Pictures

“Definitely” remains one of the most misspelled words in the English language, as people can’t just can’t seem to resist spelling it with an A, as in “definately.”

If you’re ever tripped up, remember that “definite” comes from the same root word as “finite.” Or, you can remember the handy phrase in the webcomic “The Oatmeal,” which we probably shouldn’t reprint here.


Restaurant

Wikimedia Commons

The last syllable of “restaurant” sounds like how some people pronounce “aunt,” but don’t let that trick you into putting a U there. That letter comes earlier in the word.


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

Scholastic

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

Gramercy Pictures

If something is adequate or satisfactory, it is “all right,” two words.

Although the spelling “alright” is nearly as old as “all right,” many language experts consider it a nonstandard spelling that’s only appropriate in informal contexts, according to Merriam-Webster.

That doesn’t make it wrong, per se, but you should be careful about when you use it, and stick to “all right” if you’re in doubt.


Maintenance

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Maintenance does not contain the word “maintain.” Instead, the “ai” turns to an E. According to Google Trends, people in Missouri and Texas are particularly confused about this – it’s the most frequently Googled spelling in those states.


Receive

Elsa/Getty

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 holds up.


Forty

‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’

There was a time when people spelled the number 40 with the word “four” in it. But sometime around 1700, people dropped the U once and for all, leaving us with “forty.”


Privilege

Facebook/VOA Zimbabwe

“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.


Embarrass

Tony Feder/Getty Images

“Embarrass” is one of the most commonly misspelled words in English, according to Oxford Dictionaries. Far too often, people forget that it’s two R’s and two S’s.


Independent

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Here’s another one on Oxford’s list. “Independent” is spelled with E’s all the way down, not with an A, like some people mistakenly think.


Millennium

Jive

Ah, those pesky millennials. Not only do they eat avocado toast and refuse to buy napkins, the name of their cohort is also exceedingly hard to spell.

In the case of “millennium” and “millennial,” it’s double-Land double-N.


Recommend

We recommend you spell “recommend” with one C and two M’s if you want to get it right.


Rhythm

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The word “rhythm” looks like alphabet soup at first glance, and it can be hard to remember where those H’s go and what to do with that Y.

Believe it or not, the word was actually commonly spelled “rime” in English, according to Mental Floss.

“But in the 16th and 17th centuries, when English spelling conventions were getting standardised by printers, fancy pants writers started to spell ‘rime’ as ‘rhythm’ or ‘rythme’ to show off that they knew ‘rime’ was ultimately derived from Greek rhythmos through Latin rythmus,” Mental Floss wrote.


Weird

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Remember that “I before E, except after C” rule? Here’s one of the many exceptions that you simply have to memorise.


Schedule

This one makes the “Barron’s Pocket Guide to Correct English” because of pronunciation confusion. Although some people say “schedule” as if it were a three-syllable word – sched-u-alit isn’t, and it isn’t spelled that way, either.


Caribbean

Walt Disney Pictures

Many people visit the Caribbean to de-stress, but spelling the word itself is anything but relaxing.

“Caribbean” has one R and two B’s, not the reverse, which is the most common way people misspell it, according to Oxford.


Publicly

Union of Students in Ireland

The word “publicly” seems to defy the rules of English. Unlike “basically,” “tragically,” “frantically,” and countless other “-ic” words, there’s no “al” in the middle of “publicly.”

In fact, according to Macmillan Dictionary, “publicly” is the only standard word in the English language that ends in the letters I-C-L-Y.

Although “publically” pops up from time to time as a nonstandard spelling, you should continue to use “publicly” in formal writing.


Tattoo

“Tattoo” makes Oxford’s list because of those back-to-back double letters. Some people forget there are two T’s in “tattoo,” not just one.


Surprise

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Surprise! There are two R’s in “surprise,” even if the first one isn’t always pronounced clearly.


Licence

Columbia Pictures

The word “licence” trips people up because the C and S are pronounced the same way. It might seem more intuitive to spell it “licence,” “lisense,” or even “lisence,” but you’ll have to remember it’s C, then S.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Rachel Sugar.

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