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Writing tip 14 – Want to look stupid? Misspell a word or two

Did you know that separate is the most misspelled word in English? This appears to be the case, at least in Britain, a survey shows. You won’t earn any points for spelling words correctly, but get it wrong a few times and your text will lose credibility.

Correct spelling, in addition to the use of proper grammar and punctuation, helps separate the professional writer from the enthusiastic amateur. It can also make or break someone’s career.

The word separate came top in the survey because of the regular placing of an ‘e’ where the first ‘a’ sits. The survey was carried out by market research company http://www.OnePoll.com/ OnePoll.com last year and I stumbled upon it the other day when browsing the web.

The company, which polled 3,500 Britons, said a common mistake for many people is writing a word phonetically, the way it sounds, which leaves them muddling up one letter with another and getting it wrong.

The second-most misspelled word was definitely, which often is subject to a string of mistakes including mixing up the second ‘i’ with an ‘a’. Another common error is dropping the final ‘e’.

The word manoeuvre, whose spelling in British English is taken from French, came third. Some people admitted they had problems with the unusual combination of ‘oe’ and ‘u’.

Fourth place was taken by embarrass, in which an ‘r’ and an ‘s’ are often left out. The word occurrence emerged as the fifth most commonly misspelled word because of confusion over the double ‘c’ and double ‘r’.

Two out of three in the survey admitted that using spell-check on computers had made them lazy when writing letters or notes by hand.

Also, one in six people often spell words so incorrectly while typing their PC doesn’t recognise the word they’re attempting and one in five blamed predictive text messaging for their bad spelling.

Despite the frequency of errors, 77 percent of the sample believed their spelling is either “good” or “very good”, according to the study.

It also found 46 percent judged other people on their spelling, with 27 per cent admitting they believed people who can’t spell are “thick”.

It concluded: “The fact we judge other people’s intelligence by their written word, yet don’t like to be judged ourselves, means we should all pick up a dictionary once in a while.”

I welcome your comments.

Rolf Soderlind

http://www.absolutwriting.com/ absolutwriting


One comment on “Writing tip 14 – Want to look stupid? Misspell a word or two

  1. I totally agree with your post. Know one knows how to spell anymore. The computer has destroyed our want to rite long hand. Even worst the computer spell check so doesn’t no the difference between too, to and two and that’s two bad.

    However, with a people that chose VHS over BetaMax, ten percent who believe that Elvis is still alive and five percent who think we didn’t go to the moon, I think we have to accept the factoid that words will be spelled wrongly.

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