The Language Perfectionist: Another Spell

I recently wrote a column on what may be the 14 most common misspellings in the English language. But additional candidates can readily be found.

In a newspaper article about automated parking garages, the word palate was used repeatedly for pallet. A pallet is “a portable platform used for storing or moving cargo or freight.” A palate is a part of the mouth, or, metaphorically, the sense of taste.

Here are other frequently misspelled words, caught in print and online:

    • “The National Spinal Chord Injury Association hosts its Mardi Gras Fundraiser.”

      This is a surprisingly common error. A chord is a combination of musical tones; a cord is a rope or wire – or in the case of the spinal cord, a column of nerve tissue that runs through the backbone.

    • Film synopsis: “Arrowsmith’s troubles are only beginning, as the dead will not rest easily and soon return to assure that this wicked scoundrel gets his just desserts!”

      The expression is just deserts, meaning a merited punishment or reward. The spelling just desserts is incorrect, although it’s often used punningly in names of restaurants and food companies.

    • “This framework provides a sense of realism and versimilitude that contrasts sharply with the fantastic nature of the tales….”

      The correct spelling is verisimilitude, meaning “the quality of appearing to be true or real.” The pronunciation is “ver-uh-sih-MIL-uh-tood.”

    • “Even though our favorite community liason, Theresa, is now working in another town and is not readily available….”

Here’s another case of a missing “i.” The proper spelling is liaison, meaning a link or communication channel between groups. As for pronunciation, this is one of those words for which several pronunciations are acceptable, but I recommend “LEE-ay-zahn.” Note, however, that pronouncing the first syllable “lay” is wrong.

[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.]