Posted: 08 Jan 2014 08:45 PM PST
Most word processing programs have a built-in spell checker, but business correspondence still goes out with misspelled words that a checker would have caught.
I’m not talking about words like bare and bear, which are both English words acceptable to an automatic spelling program, but words like definite and separate, which have no homophones, and typos like standarad for standard (one of my own recent embarrassments).
Writers need to keep two things in mind about spell checkers:
1. They cannot catch any misspellings if a writer doesn’t let the application run.
2. They cannot be entirely trusted to catch every spelling error.
For whatever reason–overconfidence or sloth–the same misspellings continue to appear in business emails, advertising copy, resumes, and on blog sites. The writer’s best defense is to take a good look at the most frequent misspellings and zero in on every letter in the word.
Mastering a few at a time is a better way to approach the task than scanning long lists.
Here are ten of the most frequent misspellings, their correct forms, and tips that may help you remember the differences.
Tip: There’s a rat in sep-a-rate.
Tip: Take a close look at the final syllable: nite.
Tip: You probably pronounce the last syllable as [er], so you have to think [ar] as you write it: cal-en-dar.
Tip: You know how to spell spell; add the prefix mis- to it: mis-spell.
Tip: You may pronounce this three-syllable word with only two syllables. Notice the second i: priv-i-lege. Another common misspelling is privilige. Note the e in the final syllable: priv-i-lege.
Tip: The verb argue ends in e, but you must drop the e for ar-gu-ment.
Tip: The sensus in consensus has nothing to do with the word census. Our word census comes from Latin censare, “to rate, assess.” Consensus comes from Latin consensus, “agreement, accord, sympathy, common feeling.” Think SSS: Con-Sen-SuS.
Tip: There’s no “ounce” in pronunciation, but there is a “nun.” The verb is pronounce; the noun is pro-nun-ci-a-tion.
Tip: Two sets of double letters, cc and mm: accommodate
Tip: People who misspell this one may be thinking of defendant, which does end in –ant (although the –ant in defendant is also pronounced [ent].) Note the final syllable in dependent: de-pen-dENT.