Long before the Internet, jokes, lists, fun facts, and the like were circulated on old-fashioned paper. This sort of material was wryly dubbed “photocopier folklore” by Alan Dundes, a scholar who specialized in the phenomenon and compiled his discoveries into a series of books.

One such item I recall was a list of the most commonly misspelled words. I no longer have the original but I’ve attempted to reconstruct it from various sources. Online searches confirm that these misspellings are frequent. My list is far from complete, so please accept my apologies if your own pet peeve is absent.

  • accelerate (not “acelerate” or “accellerate”)
  • accommodate (not “acommodate” or “accomodate”)
  • acknowledgment (not “acknowledgement”)
  • desiccate (not “dessicate” or “desicate”)
  • embarrass (not “embarass”)
  • harass (not “harrass”)
  • impresario (not “impressario”)
  • inoculate (not “innoculate”)
  • judgment (not “judgement”)
  • millennium (not “millenium”)
  • minuscule (not “miniscule”)
  • rarefied (not “rarified”)
  • sacrilegious (not “sacreligious”)
  • supersede (not “supercede”)

How can you avoid committing these errors? Your word processor’s spell-checker and auto-correct feature can help. But not always. My Word spell-checker missed some of the incorrect spellings above.

Let’s face it: English spelling is so irregular and quirky that the best solution is to memorize the proper spellings. And when at all in doubt, consult a good dictionary, either hard copy or online.

Alternatively, you could wait for the “spelling reformers” to change the English language. But that revolution has been repeatedly attempted without success for the past 460 years!

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant.
He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

 

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.

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