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10 Words You Might Be Misspelling

Let’s face it: you’re an idiot who can’t spell. Or, English is just such a mess of a language that even common words can be confusing. One of the two. The truth is, even otherwise-intelligent people have problems with spelling when words don’t follow the expected patterns, or are spelled really differently from their pronunciation. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the ten most frequently-misspelled common words.

10. Practise
This word has been all but destroyed by its other form, practice. Traditionally, practise is the verb and practice is the noun — you go to band practice so you can practise the skin flute. Almost everyone uses the noun form exclusively nowadays, but it’s worth remembering that the people still using practise aren’t wrong. They’re just irritating pedants.

9. Licence
Licence with a C is a noun and license with an S is a verb. This word seems to be doing the opposite of practise, in that the form with an S is starting to replace the form with a C. So while it’s acceptable to use license for all purposes, it’s worth remembering that most places outside the United States are calling it a licence — legally, at least.

8. Absorption
For some reason, the noun form of the verb absorb is absorption. Apparently the bottom of the B was absorped during the transition.

7. Occurrence
This is one of the trickier spellings to remember, since there’s a wide variety of ways you could spell this that all seem to make perfect sense. Occurrence is the standard spelling that professionals expect, though, so keep it in mind. The best way I can think to remember it is to think of it like a camel: oCCuRRence. Two bumps!

6. Accommodate
Another camel word: aCCoMModate.

5. Harass
A lot of people seem to think this word has two Rs in it, presumably by association with embaRRaSS. Unfortunately for those people, harass is not a camel at all. Just remember: a good way to harass someone is to touch her ass.

4. Pronunciation
The verb is pronounce, but the noun is not pronounciation. For the sake of easy pronunciation, the second O is dropped from the word pronunciation.

3. Misspell
Is it ironic that misspell is so often written incorrectly as mispell? Yes. Just remember that the word comes from the prefix mis plus the base word spell — then don’t proceed to misspell it.

2. Too
You see every homophone of to misspelled, but too seems to be the most common. If I had a penny for every time I saw someone write “Me to”, I would probably have… a dollar or so. Put simply: use two for the number, too to mean also, and to for everything else. Really, you should never be making this mistake past grade two.

1. Mischievously
The granddaddy of misspelled words. Mischievously is so often misspelled and mispronounced as mischeviously that correcting people is almost pointless; it might as well just be the real word. It comes from the noun mischief, so the I comes before the E and the word is pronounced as it logically should be: MISS-chiv-us-lee — but don’t beat yourself up over it, because almost nobody is going to correct you.

If you have any more words you see frequently misspelled, post them in the comments below.

Written by Likes to Ramble

1 Comment

  1. Mike · August 24, 2010

    I agree that correctly people is almost pointless.

    I would just add that it should be a firing, if not a capital, offense for television sports announcers to attempt to employ the word heinous, which they inevitably pronounce, and no doubt spell, as henious.

    Otherwise I’m not sure I agree with your distinctions on practise/practice and licence/license. I think those are just British and American variants, with Canadian usage wavering in between.

    And let’s not forget the Internet faves: independant, definately, compatable, tounge… wow, more than I feel like listing. Heh. The OED provides a handy list here, though not all of these are words you see mangled on the Internet frequently.

    I confess to having trouble with terrific and sheriff, especially in the same sentence.

    Acetaminophen, anyone?

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