Living Rhetorically in the Real World

November 3, 2009

The Practical Guide: Commonly Misspelled Words

I cringe when people misspell words on purpose. “Kewl” instead of “cool”, “nite” instead of “night”… there’s no real need to misspell these words. They aren’t so much shorter that it saves time (the former might actually take longer to scrawl out, if writing by hand), and to me it just seems to butcher the English language. There are, however, times when we misspell words accidentally, due to the trickiness of silent or double letters, or similarity to other words. These three websites could be useful if you find yourself repeatedly misspelling the same words:

ESLDesk Commonly Misspelled English Words features 507 words with links to their corresponding page on a number of well-known sites: Wikipedia, Cambridge, Encarta, and Merriam-Webster among others. It also links to translations in 21 languages. It’s great because of the number of other websites that it incorporates and would also make for an excellent teaching aid. has a 100 Most Often Mispelled Misspelled Words in English page as well, with helpful hints on how to remember the correct spelling of each word. For example: “apparent: a parent need not be apparent but ‘apparent’ must pay the rent, so remember this word always has the rent”. uses a similar style in their Commonly Misspelled Words page as the YourDictionary website. AskOxford includes related words, tips, and rules for each one to help the reader out, although their list is not nearly as long as some of the other websites.

If you aren’t sure about how to spell a word, don’t guess at the spelling- look it up! There are helpful databases all over the Internet for these situations. Check out the above sites to see if there are words that you have been unknowingly misspelling. When in doubt, double-check, and use the hints and memory tricks suggested at the above websites so that next time, you won’t have to look it up.

What are your favourite tricks for remembering how to spell words that you find especially difficult?

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  1. the apparent thing was extremely confusing and not apparent at all,heh.

    Comment by westwood — November 3, 2009 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

  2. What’s wrong with butchering the English language? I’m highly against internet lingos, to be fair, but regularly type out things like “dunno” in order to match my speech patterns and keep up the style. Are these really ‘butcheries’ or simply evolutions of the language? Where text has become extremely common instead of actually speaking the language, are these not simply evolutions of ‘slangs’ or even internet related dialects? Just some thoughts.

    Comment by Richard — November 4, 2009 @ 2:13 am | Reply

  3. Westwood- perhaps I should have picked a clearer example…

    Richard- I DO have mixed feelings about the butchering of the English language. On the one hand, it’s almost as though a new language is coming to light (or as though, as you say, the language is evolving). But I think there’s a difference between spelling words in a conversational style- for example, we tend to run our words together so by typing “dunno” rather than “don’t know”, that indicates something about the tone/style of our voice- and spelling words just plain wrong, like the above mentioned “kewl”. To me, “dunno” has a slightly different meaning than “don’t know”; “kewl” and “nite” share the same meaning as “cool” and “night” but they are misspelled.

    Comment by Sagan — November 4, 2009 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  4. Really? I don’t think the differences are super strong with “kewl” or “nite” but I find anywhere you change language intentionally, it makes a difference. For example, you look down on people for using it, and thus the words automatically have a different power. If the meaning isn’t different, they still have the power of aligning the user as “one of them”, the kind of people that use “those types of things”. That puts a spin on everything else they write because it attaches the bias connected to the stereotype.

    Comment by Richard — November 5, 2009 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

  5. Richard- personal opinion! And I don’t look down on people for (mis)using it. I unfortunately fall prey to it sometimes, too. I just think that the English language is beautiful and I don’t see those (mis)spellings to be particularly beautiful. But you’re right; all kinds of spelling have power because of its connotations.

    Comment by Sagan — November 5, 2009 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  6. While it is true that languages evolve, I think it is good to still know the difference between a correctly spelled word and a “modified” one. Sometimes the use of those key modified words add flavor to your sentence so I am not totally against their use. Obviously, when reading formal/professional material, no misspelling should be allowed. I don’t have any tips/tricks on remembering how to spell right but I think practice makes perfect. Here is a link I’d like to share where you can practice and they actually pay you for finding typos (my favorite part). The link is

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