Word Vomit: on Gratuitous Mispelling

It is always disheartening when you discover, despite years of use and blissful obliviousness, that you’ve managed to voluntarily mispell a word without notice or slight suspicion. You claim yourself a grammar Nazi, a dedicated editor and spelling specialist, and yet sometimes, the English language and its nonsensical spelling manages to elude you. Curse you, odd spelling. Curse you, irregular verbs. Let us restart the language from the bottom-up, and make it  more “sensical.”

Oh, if only.

But to share my embarrassing realizations over the years, a slew of words commonly mispelled, by both me, dedicated word smiths or casual users alike:

definitely – often spell definately. I was guilty of this transgression until sixteen years of age, when spell check flagged this misnomer until my misuse finally clicked in my brain. The culprit? Attempting to spell phonetically, which is the most common yet most unforgivable part of writing the English language.

foreseen – also known as forseen. The e is not necessary in the word for, and it is pronounced in the same way regardless of its presence. In other languages, such a spelling would sound out as so: “for – eh – seen.”

pronunciation – often spelled as pronounciation. I am terribly guilty of this, and am attempting to drop this grammatical faux pas much like an addictive habit. I will personally blame variations such as pronounce for this common mistake, as well as the natural attempt for us English speakers to phonetically type out compound words.

publicly – or the incorrect variation, publically. Oh, how I’ve transgressed so. Another phonetic spelling, and the frequency of my phonetic typing attempts lead me to wonder how brother and sister writers in other regions spell things in embarrassingly incorrect manners.

a lot – more of a phrase than a word, this is more of a peeve on my part than personal mistake – alot. I was absolutely guilty of this grammatical crime until twelve, and perhaps it is the deep, embedded embarrassment as well as occupation as an English instructor that immediately throws me into a frenzied fit when this word crosses my path. A phrase, not a word! A plague upon you!

all right – the war wages between casual use versus formal use, the informal version is alright. I was once vehemently struck down by academia for using this word in fiction, and now I meekly approach alright like a naughty child expecting a spanking. Is the informal version warmly adopted enough into our lexicon that my painful memory can be erased, or will the pain strike again the next time I dare? It is operant conditioning gone wrong, and now I expect an electrical shock at any point in time. And yet, “altogether” is acceptable… no, no! Don’t rationalize, just go with it!

The above is just a smidgen of lessons and observations, there are many more mispelled words and bastardized phrases in the English language to share. Perhaps I will return again and lament another personal grammatical mistake on my part, and perhaps in the future I will eventually script a lengthy letter of apology and send it off to the void:

English, I’m sorry. You’re a difficult language, and try as I can, I cannot understand you, despite how much  I try, try, try.

January 25, 2011 edit: I do not possess the same satirical wit of as writers past, and cannot claim innocence. Mispell is also misspelled, and it is added to my list of gratuitous spelling crimes.

Year twenty-four, dear diary: the English language ever eludes me, but I can’t tell who or what is more silly – me, or the words with spelling that forever confuses. I’ll leave this page open and blank, because if today is any indication, I will add to this list for the rest of my lifetime.

I better start scripting that lengthy apology letter.



Filed under word vomit

224 responses to “Word Vomit: on Gratuitous Mispelling

  1. Those aren’t so bad. How about effect and affect? Grammar nazi’s nod sagely when I bring this up and say, “One is a verb and one is a noun.”

    Well…which one is which?! And how do you tell the difference? And is there some sort of rhyme to commit that to memory? Someone throw me a rope. >.<

    • finding my way

      Me too!

    • What’s sort of interesting is “effect” (which is the noun in the distinction you noted) does have correct usages as a verb.

    • Effect is a noun. Affect is a verb. Not so hard to remember, really, and it kind of makes sense when you sound it out.

      My most misspelled word is desparate (that’s incorrect and I always do it, it just seems more sensible to desperate me).

      I’m constantly offended by the number of misspelled words online even on highly respectable platforms. People seem to think they “don’t need no stinkin’ editors,” as we used to joke on The WELL, and probably still do (I don’t hang out there anymore ).

      • wordsplay

        one may effect change, however, so not exactly cut and dried there…

      • Tim Pearson

        Yes, effect is a noun (the chief effect of poor grammar is misunderstanding), and affect is a verb (poor grammar affects understanding).
        But effect is also a verb (the tools allowed us to effect a quick repair), and affect is also a noun (he laughed when I told him his mother had died – a display of inappropriate affect).
        English is a complex but fascinating language, so let’s make the effort and not reduce everything to the lowest common denominator.

      • danielbroc

        Tim Pearson… I second your defense of the anarchy which is English. In English, we can verb any noun we choose to use as a verb or, vice versa, noun any verb for which we find a use. On occasion, I can occasion my own confusion.

      • michael hill

        “Affect” is a verb, and as such always takes an object. It has a transitive verb form too (as most verbs do) which has a slightly different meaning. In this instance the meaning is more related to the verb “to influence”. There is a noun form of this word although its use is somewhat archaic these days, and it could be considered a synonym of the word “assume”.

    • danielbroc

      I know William Shakespeare spelled his own name differently at different times and places. I think standardized spelling didn’t descend upon the humans until a later era. Does anyone know when that was or why?

      I meen, why can’t we just spel wurds anyway we wont?

      Really, why am I so sensitive to a misspelled word? Why does it matter to me?

      • I know that standardized spelling was a later invention, much later than the English written language itself, but I cannot say exactly why. A historian could swoop in and know the answer.

        If you ever want to read a dizzying spelling adventure, snag an original folio of Shakespeare’s plays, and let your eyes bleed at the sight of words spelled in different ways, despite the same word occurring twice or three times in the same sentence.

    • One is affected by the effects. Have you been affected? Are there effects?
      That’s how I remember it. Does that help?

    • One is affected by the effects. Have you been affected? Are there effects?
      That’s how I remember it. Does that help?

    • There’s an easy way to remember the difference between Affect and Effect. My 9th grade science teacher of all people taught me this. Remember the abbreviations for Nebraska and Virginia. the verb is effect (VA) and the noun is effect (NE). Sad to say that’s one of the few things I took away from that class, but she wanted us to know for our science fair projects.

    • Affect starts with an A like an Action (verb). Yes, effect can be a verb, too, but generally it is the noun.

    • I know! I absolutely refuse to use them in a sentence because I’m terrified that I’ll use them wrong. The only exception is “special effects.” THAT I know. There are a lot of things “impacted” in my world, because I’m too chicken to say they are…effected? Affected? AH!

      • How many other words do you hesitate to use because you might mistake them? The only way to learn is to do the research. Or, at the very least, write out your sentence anyway. Chances are someone will correct you, and then at least you’ve uncovered the mystery!

        I don’t see how “special effects” is an exception, because “effects” is still being used as a noun, which is its typical use.

        I like Tim Pearson’s reply above the best. As a simple introduction to the differences, however, I think it’s safe to say that “effect” is a noun and “affect” is a verb, although, as Pearson points out, there are exceptions to each of these assumptions.

        This topic certainly elicited a lot of discussion!

    • Deuces

      No matter if I am trying to write the common verb or noun, I think of the noun version first. I always come to the conclusion that “affect” does not sound right as a noun (unless we’re talking psychology…let’s not go into that), and use what is appropriate for my situation.
      EX: He attempted to….the results.
      I think to myself “There was an (a/e)ffect….Affect does not sound right, so I will use it as a verb.”
      End result: He attempted to affect the results.

      I also like the VA and NE example given below, but I could never use it since I get states and cities jumbled up and break down completely at the thought of geography. 🙂

  2. Funny! I have long renounced myself as a any type of grammar nazi, because many times I’ve had to eat humble pie from it. And it tastes really bad.

  3. I still have trouble with definitely., to the point that I copied that word directly from your post so I would spell it correctly.

    One rule I don’t like is the “I before E, except after C“, as there are so many times where that rule does not apply. Weird.

  4. I pronounce myself a “word nerd,” thus giving me the ability to make silly, stupid mistakes ad nauseum!


    And for me, the word I can’t spell correctly: unbelievable. I never know what is correct: with an “e,” without an “e,” then I try to come up with some reason I can associate that it’s “without,” but I end up second guessing it. Ugh.

    Unbelievable, right?

    • I can’t ever seem to spell restaurant or exercise without looking them up. What is my deal?

      • M

        Oh, exercise! I always want to write ‘excercise.’ I’m glad I’m not the only one. ‘Restaurant’ took me years of agitated dictionary checks to master, but I think I’ve finally gotten that one down : )

      • Whenever I read the word “restaurant” I pronounce it “resta you rant” in my head.

    • If only claiming yourself an “obssessee” or expert could save you from those wincing but laughable moments. None are immune, but I think many of us wish for that impenetrable cloak of word guru wisdom and skill.

  5. Not exactly one that pops up often, but ‘manoeuvre’ is a true bastard that I can never seem to conquer… Should I resort to the more friendly, Americanised ‘maneuver’?

    … That’s how you spell them, right?

    • jule1

      “maneuver” is already not the easiest word to spell in American English. Can’t imagine having to remember spelling it “manoeuvre”. Ouch!

  6. Oh, pronounciation…how I despise thee. 😉

    Glad you sorted through your grammatical demons at a younger age than most others do (including me)!

    Great post!

  7. I sometimes have trouble with “definitely” and “tomorrow”. Usually when I have a spelling mistake, I fail to check it over because I’m in a rush. Rush, rush, rush. An east coast montre.

  8. Kanti Burns

    “all together” and “altogether” mean two different things, whereas “alright” is simply the casual (lazy?) (US??) way of spelling “all right”.

    • Alright makes me cringe.

      • danielbroc

        in 3rd grade, I had to learn to spell “alright” right. But was it “alright” or was it “al right”? I think “al right” was al right, which makes no sense. Did anyone else have that experience? That spelling book would have been current about 1957. My teacher was Miss Finch.

  9. As long as you can handle your vs. you’re, you’re okay in my book.

  10. i spelled definitely wrong for like 25 years, because yes, I wanted to spell phonetically. I try to remember the vowel order for words that trip me up, so once I could pound into my head that it was E-i-i-e, I did OK.

    wonderful post by the way!!!

  11. J Roycroft

    Congrats on FP

  12. Ha! Great post! As an editor and writer I always feel the need to be a grammer/spelling Nazi, and yet I continue to make mistakes! Hehehe I guess that’s what they call being human or something.

    The word that haunts and plagues me? (Besides affect/effect which I regularly see in my nightmares…) I will avoid this word at all costs:

    Yup, I continuously spell it: naseaus, then I opt for naseated (and that’s even worse). Even nausea often comes out nousea.

    Makes me feel puke-y just thinking about it, really.

    Drive on,
    – M.

  13. J

    OMG definitly lol is my death word! I can never spell it right I usually resort to certainly:0) http://www.copperetiquette.wordpress.com

  14. Nice post. I sure have learnt something.

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  16. knitwitted

    Ummm… not to add a denote to your comments… but perhaps your title is a bit amiss by intentionally misspelling “mispelling”. Or perhaps you indeed meant “repelling” which makes your title all the more “funnier”.

    K. Witted

  17. You mean that there’s only one M in vomit? I’m thunderstruck! Or should that be thunder-struck? English – huh: Sometimes I wish I was Spanish.

  18. uh, what about misspelling misspelling? Or is that part of the joke?

  19. Ginger

    Going to take my IELTS pretty soon to apply for Masters Degree and even though it’s totally no biggie, I find myself questioning my spelling mistakes and grammar even more than usual out of paranoia…especially since I use so much slangs in communication, especially on Facebook…you really hit home with that intro paragraph there. >.<

  20. I misspell definitely pretty regularly. In my part of the country the phonetic misuse however is: definetely. I took a class in college, Phonetics and Phonology, that went over this pretty intensely.

    Basically there are 27 different distinct vowel sounds that the human mouth can make. English five vowels (sometimes 6 if you count ‘y’). Hence a wide variety of spelling and pronunciation issues. Furthermore, in different countries and regions meaning is assigned to different vowel sounds. A sound that I consider an ‘a’ sound here in South Dakota might be considered an ‘e’ sound down in Alabama.

    I know that doesn’t fix the issue, but I find it incredibly interesting.


  21. I still have trouble with “ridiculous” 🙂

  22. This is a riot. I am guilty of at least three or four of the misspellings you mention, and many others. Having moved to DC from Poland when I was four, I used the “I’m not from here!” excuse for a long, long time. That was 27 years ago, though, so I’m trying to wean myself off . . .

    follow our foster: loveandaleash.wordpress.com

  23. So true. I mess up most of those. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  24. Job

    You can add a couple more items to correct:

    definitely – “often spell definately…” should be “often spelled as definately.”

    foreseen – “also know as forseen.” should be “also known as forseen.”

    Sorry, I just felt that this being a grammar post, they have to be pointed out. 🙂

  25. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. The English Language is a venerable pit of confusion.

  26. I love posts like these — language itself is just as much a tool as the message. And simply because we can pick up a wrench doesn’t mean we know how to wield it. One of my favorite diatribes on the topic of spelling is http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling Great for a laugh.

    Incidentally, in every instance of your use of the word ‘misspell’ you have misspelled it, illustrating that none of us live in glass houses. 🙂

    • I am absolutely guilty as charged, since I do not possess the same amazing wit as writers before me. Perhaps if I were Mark Twain, I could have claimed that it was satire, but I am again slapping a palm against my forehead in personal embarrassment, and frustration that the English language is so intricately strange!

      But we will learn it together, one year at a time. Mark another down for the misspelled books: year twenty-four, I learn that I have used and abused another new, improperly spelled word.

  27. Greetings from India,
    I have been a voice and accent trainer for a few corporates in India. If you are feeling sorry about the spelling mistakes you have committed, I hope you dont hang yourself when you come here. The main reason, as you have pointed out in your own exapmle is that a lot of people in India try to spell the way it sounds.

    Competition is spelt as Competation. This is one of the most common mispelt words in India. Other words are Trafic, Choclate, Loin (for lion), embrass and many many more.

    I would say, the Brits would accuse Americans of mispelling the words and put them in the dictionary. Example – ‘Colour’ is spelt as ‘Color’ in US. ‘Humuor’ spelt as ‘Humor’ and ‘Night’ spelt as ‘Nite’ and so on.

  28. ‘Separate’ always got me, until I learned Spanish where it’s pronounced as it’s written. I’m not sure about ‘all right’ – it almost looks wrong to me, I much prefer ‘alright’!

  29. Guilty! I misuse a lot, well, alot

  30. Oddly, hemorrhoids is one of the words that I can’t spell to save my life. Well, I guess it’s better to misspell it than have it. 🙂

    As a former substitute English teacher,definately definitely hurts my heart.

    Great FP post! Well deserved.

  31. A good one (for American English) is ‘analogue’ and this trips up even engineers. ‘Analogue’ in fact is correct (and until around 10-15 years ago, the only version) whereas ‘analog’ (modelled on ‘catalog,’ which itself is correct) isn’t.

  32. One more and I’ll leave everyone alone. Try ‘casual’ and ‘causal.’

    • michael hill

      That reminds me of the very common mis-pronunciation of “nuclear” in the US. It is easy to read – it is not spelled “nukiller”.

  33. I agree with you on a number of words and phrases you’ve used over there.
    Pronunciation is the WORST non-phonetically spelled word I’ve ever come across. I’ve always forgotten about this word, and it only shows it’s face when I run the all-knowing Microsoft Word’s spell check.
    I am guilty of a large number of misspellings, too many to include here. Misspelling itself was one. And then there was disappointment. Why in the world does it not have a double s? I find that weird.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    A fellow grammar Nazi, Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser

  34. I love these wonky grammer posts. Despite being a former editor and a decent writer, spelling is always an adventure for me. Last night, I thought I mis-spelled “nauseous” on a text. Even now, despite checking, the word still looks wrong.
    Great post and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  35. humanitarikim

    I am totally guilty of using “alright”. Thanks for setting me straight!

  36. This is a great post, evidenced by my inability to resist replying to half of the comments. Congratulations on FP, deserved.

  37. This is a great post, evidenced by my inability to resist replying to half of the comments. FP, totally deserved.

  38. danielbroc

    I cringe when I see “independant” instead of “independent”, although I believe some respected dictionaries have accepted the former in recent years. In my judgment (or is it “judgement”?), they shouldn’t have.

  39. finding my way

    I once misspelled a word on a jury selection questionnaire that I knew would become a part of the record. I’m ashamed to say, the word was victim. And even more ashamed to say, I spelled it victom.

    I knew I had misspelled it immediately after it was out of my hands. For the rest of the day, I sat there and wondered how I could “fix the record”. Even going so far as, coming up with a story for the Judge as I imagined him allowing me to clean up my error… “That’s really not an “o”, Your Honor; it’s the very large dot of a very small “i”.

  40. A very apt list: I have seen all those around.
    I pride myself in being good at spelling but occasion is one word that still gets me sometimes.
    Congrats on being FP 😀

  41. What about segues and segway? I just recently learned that you don’t “segway” into a different topic, you “segues.” I don’t know how many years I’ve had that one wrong!

  42. I have to balance the inbred desire to be intolerant of spelling and grammar mistakes with being completely and totally accepting and compassionate. The thing of it is, it comes down to discrimination. Not everyone has had the same upbringing/desire/ability to use perfect or even near perfect grammar and spelling. I refuse to engage in language discrimination. Nonetheless, for myself, I appreciate anything that helps me be a better writer. Thank you for your post and your humor. Congratulations on FP!

  43. I say inbred because my father’s parents were both English teacher, as well as my maternal grandmother. 🙂

  44. My son recently brought home a spelling test. He got 100%. I was very proud . . . until I looked at the top and realized he had spelled his own name wrong. I guess when it comes to spelling, the bottom line is that we all need a little grace.

  45. fireandair

    The only word I’ve consistently screwed up is relevance. Or relevence. I think it’s the former since the spellcheck embedded in the comment window is underlining “relevence” in red. But that is the only shoal upon which my otherwise pristine verbal yacht has foundered. Drives me bonkers every single time.

    As for the rest of them, I think it was going to a Catholic elementary school that did it. ANY spelling error in ANY subject was points off. Also, I just luuuuuurve words. 🙂

    • Mnemonic: You get ‘A’ for relevAnce.

      Now I know why all my Catholic friends are such bad spellers – so Catholic schools carry out negative marking! (In fairness, my non-Catholic friends are pretty bad spellers too.)

  46. This has been a fascinating read. As a high school English teacher in Toronto I have seen it all. After 36 years of teaching, I worry about my own abilities. I used to pride myself on my spelling but when you see something misspelled so frequently, you start questioning yourself.

    One bit of advice ( that’s with a ‘c”, not ‘s’ – remember the noun has ‘ice’ as an ending so picture a block of ice ): read as much as you can. Nothing like seeing the words over and over; you just absorb it naturally over time.

    A pet peeve of mine: “yoghurt” which is the correct spelling is now most often spelled as “yogurt” which my spell check seems to like as well. Sheesh!

    • michael hill

      There’s no end to it! Love your handle – I sailed the Atlantic from Liverpool to Montreal in 1964 on the “Empress of England”.

  47. It took me ages to correctly spell “apparently.” I’m not proud, though I do my best not to act as a grammar Nazi. (Also because I don’t want to feel guilty about using “imaginary informals” such as “‘cuz” so much. I think it’s forgivable, it’s not as if z’s are getting that much use anyway.)

  48. Hyperbole and a Half has a wonderful post about the Alot creature:


    Also, I always spell “publicly” wrong the first time. Always.

  49. I always spell conscientious wrong (thank god for spell check!). I try to remember it as con/scienti/ with the ous… but it never sticks. I always doubt myself and whenever I have to use this word, my page is littered with crossed out spellings in hopes that one of them will jog my memory of what it is supposed to look like!

  50. I am guilty of correcting people at times.

  51. acrankywomansview

    Oh, thank you! as a regular word vomiter, I by no means could write a post bashing people for incorrect grammar and it seems FP has a regular appearance of such articles. It makes my eyes roll as I feel certain that even the most grammatically capable people among us have their own transgressions. So, I thank you for your honest assessment of even the best occasionally falling short. As one of the worst, I can say, thank God for spell check 😉

  52. yah so many interesting points in this

  53. lol I used to always spell definitely wrong… thank God for Microsoft Word!

  54. Jumping onto the pile, is “obliviousness” a word? Shouldn’t your bliss be attached to “oblivion”? (this is so much fun!)

  55. For those who have trouble with “definitely”, I was taught to remember that it contains the word “finite”.

    I have trouble with the suffixes -ent and -ant.

  56. I spelled regarded as ‘regaurded’ for years before realizing it was wrong haha. Glad to know I’m not the only adult that has made mistakes like that. I have to be on top of my game, though, and am constantly cross-checking spelling to be absolutely sure they are correct, because while I speak U.S. English, I more frequently edit in U.K. English (this can be fun, really). Thank goodness the online dictionaries are now accommodating the differences by stating the U.K. spelling and so on.
    As for phonetics, I have been on the soap box for some time about that. Have you read our young people’s writing? Ugh! It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me! And this has all been occurring since the introduction of phonics in our school system. Yes it may help them to read, which they no longer have the attention spans for *sigh*, but it has really destroyed spelling as a whole throughout our general society. My son is writing a book and every time I run across one of his misspelled words — SCREECH!! — and I have to stop and tell him how to correctly spell the word. It almost feels like running and tripping over a rock mid-pace (hears the resounding echo of cars crashing in the background). Thanks so much for your post. I don’t feel so alone now. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • michael hill

      I think if you are doing formal writing, there is some degree of responsibility to make sure that spelling and grammar (at least) are correct. These days it’s easy & quick. Imagine having to actually look it up in a book!

      • Speaking of quick and easy, wouldn’t the ampersand be the quick and easy way to spell “and” when in fact, it should only be used for business names, partnerships, and on envelopes?

      • michael hill

        You’re absolutely correct! I was being lazy, and besides, I don’t get to use the ampersand very often!

  57. eternallyemo

    LOL… I can’t get enough of these. Some of the words you mentioned infuriate me because others so commonly misspell them (“definately”? really? grrr…) while I must admit I’ve wrestled with the correct spelling/usage of a few myself. I really want to use “alright” even though it doesn’t look right because “all right” just doesn’t suit me (though I would never use “alot”.) I finally kicked the “publically” habit a few years ago, and I’ve probably tripped on “foreseen” a time or two.

    But the one that never fails to fail me wasn’t on your list (which makes me feel really dumb) … “license” Did I spell that right? I’m not even sure. I almost always spell it “lisence.”

  58. Recommend is the one that used to bug me – I always went to spell it as ‘reccomend’ and had to train myself otherwise. However, the most irritating error that I come across all to often is ‘loose’ when the writer meant ‘lose’. There’s far too many people “loosing” things on the internet. 😮

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

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  60. OMG! I have been misspelling (is that right the way to spell it by the way?) pronunciation for…well, all my life! What an eye-opener this post was! And I always thought I was hot-stuff with my spelling bee bravado….lol

  61. I know english is hard. I plan on being an english teacher, but I’m not the exactly the best when it comes to writing. I am only half done with my first year of college. I have time to improve, hopefully.

  62. Thank you all for your comments, your additions to the Gratuitously Misspelled or Abused Word List, and your insights. Also, thank you for the congratulations on the Freshly Pressed list.

    As my post demonstrated, the learning process is eternal. Simply by admitting my misspelling faults, attempting to come to terms with them and sharing the mistakes with others, I accidentally managed to demonstrate my own point: “mispell” is actually spelled “misspell,” and it took me over two decades to find out! The blissful ignorance of English and its nonsensical spelling continues, whether we are aware of our mistakes or not.

    Perhaps atop some mountain, far away, there sits an English guru with perfect and boundless knowledge of grammar and spelling. I’d like to someday meet this guru.

    In the meantime, I continue to bite off pieces of the humbling pie – there are still many pieces left, if any fellow hopeful English master or wordsmith is hungry. Its taste is only bittersweet after a few bites, but a friendly warning: the first bite can be harshly sour. Add some sugar and a smile.

  63. Damn you, foreseen. Damn you.

  64. You and me need to go punch English in the face, what do you say?

  65. bluerosegirl08

    I have found myself guilty of most o the things several times.

  66. I know what people mean when they write “definately”, but for some reason I always see it as a cross between “definitely” and “defiantly”.

  67. mjcache

    Luuved ur blog. Spiling iz ovarated and not impurtant.. dontcha think?

  68. its about tiem some1 came up and siad wut a joke sum ppls spellin’ and grammer be!

    Gr8 job!

  69. My boss thinks that online is jargon, and that it is actually on line. Thoughts, webiverse?

  70. jule1

    “affect” and “effect” are my two worst words — and I thought it was just me. So glad to see that many others find these two words hard to differentiate. “Definitely” is one I remember by remembering “finite”. For some reason that helps me. I tend to make typing errors, like “adn” instead of “and”, but fortunately, spell check usually fixes those. What about “stationery” and “stationary”? I didn’t see them mentioned. How I finally got them was remembering “stationery” has an “E” like “letter”, and “stationary” has an “A” like “stand”. That’s the only way I could remember the difference for a long time, although now I spell them correctly out of habit. “ary” and “ery” endings are often fuzzy for me. I have to look them up with some frequency. English is tough when it comes to spelling. If you ask an Italian how to spell something, they look at you like, “What?!” Everything in Italian is spelled the way it sounds; what a perfect language to get right!!

  71. I misspelled “attachment” and “attached” for the longest time. What stinks is that it’s a very professional word (think: “Attached you will find XYZ document.”) Just think, I was spelling it “attatched”.

    • michael hill

      Attached you will find XYZ document. – “Attached” here refers to “you” and not the document.

      Think I’ll go live in a cave and eat bamboo.

  72. I’ve rarely had issues with spelling but in phonetically saying things out loud, I’ve made some gaffes. Even though English is not my first language, I have a fluent grasp of it so that is a flimsy excuse.

    I tend to wrongly pronounce words such as ‘advertisement, bias and sword’.

  73. “foreseen – also know as forseen. The e is not necessary in the word for…”

    True, but it’s necessary in the word “fore,” from whence the word was wrought.

  74. michael hill

    The problem with English is that is a hybrid language that took millenia to form. In it you will find Latin, Saxon, French, Norse, Greek and others. What a complicated mess. However, there is something to be said for making some effort to follow the rules of language, if only for the purpose of making one’s meaning clear. I would not describe myself as being a “Grammar Nazi” but it makes me cringe to hear college graduates using the word “Like” three times in every sentence, to the point where I have no idea what they are talking about. It is important to have language and literary skills, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with one’s social status. It seems to fall in with the general attitude towards everything – “Ah, who cares?”.

  75. I thought this post was wonderful by itself, but then I read the comments! Being a bit of a grammar nazi myself, I find the entire discussion very entertaining … and thank goodness for spell checker!

    I have the worst trouble with stationary vs. stationery, although I’ve found it helps to remember that stationery with an “e” is the kind you write on and put in an envelope.

  76. Miz D

    One time, I wrote pubic relations instead of public relations on my resume. Thank God, my editor friend saved me, not spell check.

  77. Sometimes we think faster than we type. It’s OK. We’re humans and we make mistakes.
    Great blog, buy(:)) the way.

  78. laurayvette

    “foreseen – also know as forseen.”

    I do believe you meant “known”


  79. hahaha!!! i have used all of those words incorrectly. 🙂 congrats on being freshly pressed!

  80. teriost

    Hear! Hear! 😉

  81. I really enjoyed reading this post and the many comments. Great job grabbing your audience’s attention! It’s obvious by the comments that we can all identify with your spelling mishaps.

  82. rkrumel

    I am adding you to my vistamuse blog roll because 1) I like reading your blog and you gave me some great ideas for my own creative writing (which I don’t publish online yet), 2) I think we have a lot in common from what I can tell of your writing interests, 3) we graduated the same year from high school so I’m assuming we’re the same age. PS Congrats on being on the WordPress Freshly Pressed!

    • Thank you for the blog roll addition. I love writing and all associated with it, I’m simply trying to come to terms with all my terrible writing mistakes over the years. It is like an addiction: perhaps if I admit it fully, the leftover spacious room must improve.

      As this comment discussion shows, mistakes are so common, it’s a wonder how we all manage to put on brave faces with such glaring and at times unexpected oops! moments hidden beneath our gazes.

  83. LOL! I could completely relate with the first three! It was about two years ago when I discovered that definitely didn’t have that stupid “a.” I openly argued that it just HAD to be there in front of one of lit classes in college. Now if could just get a grip on “separately.” Isn’t that first “a” really supposed to be an “e”? Chalk it up as another typo in Webster…

  84. if you’re worried about spelling correctly, you might want to fix the title of one of your posts—“the word vomit imperitive”. it’s spelled “imperAtive”. you have a few other mistakes as well. i’m surprised spell-check didn’t catch them.

    • Thank you! I found them, they were like tiny strands of neon woven in a sea of monotone. It’s stunning what happens when your guard lessens for a fleeting moment – but there is reason why the editor is often a second pair of eyes on a wall of text.

  85. Excellent post. I would recomend it to others, but I can’t because I’m missing an “r” or a “c” in “recomend” and I don’t know which. So instead I’m going to SUGGEST it to others…I can totally do that.

  86. Being a person who graduated with an English major, people always jump at the opportunity to point out my misspellings. I am glad you brought these to light!

  87. leahsinger

    To this day, I still cannot spell definitely. Ever. I have to spell check or look it up each time I write it. Sad, I know.

  88. danielbroc

    I wish we didn’t have to choose between “a” and “an”. It doesn’t seem right to write “an euphemism”, but otherwise I would alert the grammar police. And then there are the irregular uses, like “an hourglass”.

    • michael hill

      It’s perfectly acceptable to use “an” in a situation where the pronunciation would be awkward with “a”. This applies also to words beginning with the letter h.

  89. I’m glad I’ve avoided picking up any of those common misspellings.

    Much worse to me, though, is a word properly spelled but used for the wrong purpose, diluting its meaning. The most obvious examples being “sinful” and “decadent,” now mainly associated with chocolate cake, and of course “epic.”

    P.S. “Recommend,” angiharper; and “from” does not precede “whence,” McCornack.

  90. Stationery and stationary always give me pause.

  91. “English, I’m sorry. You’re a difficult language, and try as I can, I cannot understand you, despite how much I try, try, try”

    liked it !

  92. Congrats to make it into wp freshly pressed! 🙂 .. my 2 cents :
    The most revolting word in your list (and in a good dozen comments..) is the word “Nazi” used in a humorous, lighthearted way to describe a person who is either ‘pedantic’ or ‘obsessed’ with spelling and/or grammar.
    While – as a non-native speaker, the confusion of different spellings in the English language is driving crazy, especially online, and I get frazzled every time a website wants to impose me – who has learnt English not ‘American’ – a spell check correction on yet another ‘u’ (in the right place!).. nobody actually dies from using or reading wrongly spelled words from what I know, but a writer should also distinguish himself by choosing the right terminology rather than this easy and obviously contagious idiom.
    yeah, sorry, but i am just so totally ANAL about this.

    • michael hill

      I think this term was popularised in that famous “Soup nazi” episode of Seinfeld. I’ve heard it used for all kinds of things. I had an instructor of pathology in a therapists course I took years ago who was known by that rather pungent euphemism. Personally, I don’t like it.

      • in the context of spelling it has certainly been around for a long time, seen it for years from forums and blogs and it always bothered me..
        but when, as a ‘mommy blogger’ (yeah well, so what.), I came across the term ‘breastfeeding nazi’ , I found the use so outrageously wrong that i have decided to comment on it whenever it shows up. i’ll be busy…

  93. Sometime ago I received this fwd email from a friend and when I was going through your blog, it just reminded me of a fwd email which I received in spam:
    ” Absolutely Brilliant”
    The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

    As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

    In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”.. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy.. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

    There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”.. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

    Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

    Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

    By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

    During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.

    Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

    Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

  94. when I was going through your blog, it just reminded me of a fwd email which I received in spam:
    ” Absolutely Brilliant”
    The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

    As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

    In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”.. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy.. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

    There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”.. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

    Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

    Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

    By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

    During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.

    Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

    Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

  95. Hi
    Loved going through your post and felt inordinately good when I discovered that I do not get the same words wrong ! Ah well, to be perfectly honest English as a language always has a trick or two up her sleeve to trip the unsuspecting user…….so you are in glad company. I pride myself in being really good at english only to find myself tripping up now and then…you know the saying..pride goes before a fall ! If I were you I wouldn’t worry about it too much ….nobody, but nobody can possibly be right all the time.

  96. ..or when someone spells your name wrong. Ava = Eva…NOT!

    Congrats On being Freshly Spelled, I mean Pressed.



    • I’ll go along with that AVA: on Twitter I’m ‘Rowlandwithaw’
      I’d hoped that with email addresses having to be correct, I would no longer receive Dear Roland mail . . . my hopes were soon dashed.

      Personal hates?
      The use of barter when people mean ‘bargain’ as in haggle.
      e.g. ‘I loved bartering with the stall holders in the market’ AAAARRGH!!!

  97. michael hill

    Great blog. Great comments.

  98. finding my way

    Dom… Thanks 🙂

  99. slowsimpleconscious

    regarding the alot, here is a very funny article about that mysterious creature the ‘alot’. people love ‘alots’!

  100. Necessary, conscience and Florida are my three biggest culprits. For some reason I always want to write necessarry, conscious and Floridia. Maybe someday my built-in spell check will kick in….maybe I need to reboot!

    Excellent post, congratulations on making FP!

  101. Pingback: Word Vomit: on Gratuitous Mispelling (via A Thinner Pen) « The Literate Pen

  102. u guyz r cntrl freeks!
    liberate liberate an jus COMMUNICATE!
    isn´t that whut itz all abt?

  103. Definitely is one I’m finally getting right. I’ve been telling my self ‘def-i-NITE-ly, with emphasis on ‘nite’ and not ‘nate’. I have an excuse for struggling with my spelling, I’m dyslexic. But what really gets me is when the spell checkers don’t have common words I use in my own fiction writing. I get that nasty red squiggle and there are suggestions, but none are the word I wrote. So I have to go check it at dictionary.com and add it to my spell check. Argh.

    And a lot still stumps me…

  104. tink ov all dem peepls what cyaant even read an write…..

  105. I often think about how glad I am that English is my native language .. imagine learning it? With multiple words that sound the same, are spelled differently and mean different things? Oy.

    Great post! MJ

  106. sock monkey say yay nice post. monkey know grammar and spelling important and work on improve skill every day in blog. just other day write blog post where go word only in sentence. goodbye.

  107. ryoko861

    Is this what spell check is for??

    “a lot” “a little” “each other” “dinning room” “living room”, those are the words that annoy me the most. Bedroom is one word, but dinning room is to be two? As well as living room? I’ve always thought “a lot” was one word, but I’m learning it’s a phrase. What about “a little” and “each other”?. Same thing?

    I’m the farthest thing from a writer, but I really hate misspelled words. With all the resources available to us, there’s no reason to look like a literary idiot.

  108. I regularly come across semi-literate scribblings from people who don’t know the difference between their / there / they’re & your / you’re – or maybe just don’t care, which is probably worse. And don’t get me started on apostrophes!

    Your crimes are minor by comparison. I think you can be forgiven 🙂

    • michael hill

      So your not keen on apostrophe’s then? Frank Zappa titled an album “Apostrophe” many years ago. Very funny stuff.

  109. I very often misspell the word Education, Ironic Huh? With a deep southern accent it seems as though it should have had a J in it…..(maybe it’s just me)

  110. I went to high school in a town where the AP English teacher pronounced “Washington” as “Worshington”. So naturally, my English skills weren’t up-to-par when I went to University. I used to misspell nearly every single one of those words you mentioned until I met my brainy Canadian partner who had a decent education before college.

    Love this post!

    • evamconnors

      In or around Missouri, by any chance?
      It drives me nuts at work when people ask where the “body warsh” is…

      As for spelling, there is a handful of words I routinely forget how to spell as well, and I’m the copy editor of my college newspaper. I’m sure everybody has THOSE words, though. Restaurant is definitely one of mine. I wish I could remember some of the other ones.

  111. Great first read of the morning. Congrats for being “freshly pressed”!

  112. Ashley Harnett

    More than anything this amused me, I am a terrible typist and often find that my fingers produce a different word of similar spelling, when I get going quickly. When writing it is much easier to get things right, at least, that is what I find.

  113. Pingback: Prosser’s DeSiGn ANaLySis « Kayla Prosser's Blog

  114. Pingback: Prosser’s DeSiGn AnAlYsIs « English 482: Writing for the Web and CMS

  115. michael hill

    I’ve just noticed something. There are many mentions of Word’s spell check. Does anyone know what a dictionary is? I think our culture has retrogressed more than I previously thought.

  116. Here’s mine that spell check always gets me on. Thankyou should be thank you. Til should be till. It’s like something you always say wrong. For some reason those are stuck in my head. Or hands when I type.

  117. “Definitely”. Aargh, don’t get me started – took me years to realise this!!

    • Right with you. I think in years to come, we’ll continue to discover more mistakes on our part. At the very least, the embarrassed feeling that comes with each discovery won’t be unfamiliar.

  118. Miz D

    Another one that blew by me on FB today. Tendinits, not the more logical-looking tendonitis.

  119. SWK

    Mine is alright. It’s all right, not alright.

  120. Miz D

    All of this vaguely reminds me of the late, great James Kilpatrick’s Writer’s Art. (Note to youngsters: He’s the one Saturday Night Live spoofed with “Jane, you ignorant slut.”) He just died in 2010 but for years he wrote a great column that facetiously (sp?) — some say snidely — corrected all the bad spelling and grammar he encountered on a daily basis, mostly in newspapers. Very clever and funny man. His book is still a very good read, and I hope one day (if they haven’t already (not allready or all ready) publish a collection of his columns.

  121. Pingback: Word Vomit: on Gratuitous Mispelling » Wordpress-actu, toute l'actualité Wordpress

  122. It’s worse for those of us living amidst British English. Apart from “manouvre”, there are such gems as “practice” versus “practise” – one a noun, the other a verb. Not all of it obvious to the software spell-checker provided by Messrs Gates and Ballmer, either. The real question is whether it matters. Txt-savvy AA-genners probably wouldn’t mind. For those of us born back in the twentieth century – well, I always say it’s best to know the rules. Even if you then ignore them.

    Matthew Wright

  123. Exuse me if I mispell any words here. When I was young I was an ADHD child. I could not sit in my seat and often times I would get up and just walk around. Because of this I have no cocept of proper grammer, and the ability to spell like an eight year old. As a writer I am filled with shame over my lack of skills. If it were not for spell check I would have never had the courage to start my dream of becoming a writer. I am unaware of what an adjective or verb even is! How sad am I? Well embarassed but not sad. I try to let my content do the speaking for me. It has helped me along the years

  124. Pingback: Word Vomit: Seasonal Shift | A Thinner Pen

  125. Pingback: Hypercorrection! | Lexifab!

  126. Deuces

    My pet peeve: My name is Peace, so often I go by the nickname of Deuces, and people rarely spell it correctly.

    I also hate the the following:

    -The horrific uses by my peers of the words there, their, and they’re (For some reason, no one knows that ‘they’re’ is a word and uses the other two as replacements.)

    -When people say “should of” or “could of”

    -How no one adds -en to the end of anything anymore. “Have you ate?” or “It is broke.”

    -The lack of apostrophes and commas in all writing

    -The phrase “I use to…”

    Let me stop complaining and get back to my paper because I know someone is going to find something wrong with what I have written. lol

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