Category Archives: spelling

Oft-Misspelled: Spelling Day

Hey, it’s the least popular recurring feature at Spelling! Yes, it is true. I’m not sure why, but readers’ responses to spelling day has been lukewarm even on the best days, but until the world learns to spell correctly, I will soldier on.

Today’s words are actually proper nouns: Gandhi and Buddhist.

It is the h that throws people off; they know there’s an h in there somewhere, but they’ll often guess wrong and spell the names Ghandi and Bhuddist. There’s actually a linguistic reason for the h appearing where it does. Indian languages have certain pronunciations that don’t translate to English pronunciations, ‘though the spellings still represent them. The dh in both these names represents, according to a speech-pathology major I know, an aspirated dentalized voiced alveolar stop.

You don’t have to know what that means, except that it means these names can be challenging to spell correctly. So please, if you know you’ve misspelled either of these words, add a comment below in which you type (not copy-paste) both names ten times each!


I Put a Spell on You

Welcome to a new week of Daily Writing Tips! Please read the indented paragraph below and identify one misspelled word. You will be able to leave a comment below only if you type (as it should be correctly spelled) the word that is spelled incorrectly. You can have as many tries as it takes and nobody will know, but if you’d like to come clean and share with us in your comment how many tries you needed, we all promise not to laugh!

The sexiest stairs in the world are those four steps that lead out of the swimming pool, he thought. From his vantage point at the poolside bar, he watched one lovely woman after another rise slowly out of the water, one step at a time, water running in thin sheets off their tanned bodies, slender fingers grasping the safety rail. Occasionally, the steps led one of the lovelies directly from the pool to the bar, when he would offer to lend her a clean towel (always declined) and to buy her a frozen daquiri (sometimes accepted). He realized it was perhaps not the most productive use of vacation time, but he rationalized his poolside socialization by reminding himself that public drunkenness was on its way to being the national collegiate leisure activity of choice, and he was never one to swim against a current.

Remember to type the word as it should have been spelled, not as it is spelled here.

[quiz Which word in this paragraph is misspelled? daiquiri]

Spelling Bee: I need a larger drawer to accommodate all my mementos!

The last time I had a focus on spelling, I only had one taker (thanks, Kalei!) who actually went through the keyboarding exercise of typing the target words.  But whatever.  I’m not giving up.

Here are two more frequently misspelled words.  For accommodate (which I always have to look up), perhaps it would help if you remembered that it is related to commodious, which means “roomy.”  It is also related to commode, which I know you’d never try to spell with one M.

I am forever hearing people refer to their momentos,  which makes a lot of sense, but in fact is incorrect.  I looked up the etymology of memento and couldn’t make much sense of it, nor could I relate it to a word that would help anyone remember the correct spelling.  Just learn it, okay?

Now, five times each word, please!  Accommodate.  Memento.

I Guarantee You’ll Be Less Embarrassed (if you spell correctly)

One of the most dramatic fixes many people can apply to their own writing is the insistence on correct spelling. Incorrect spelling is a weird thing: It seems that most people don’t notice it, but the people who do notice it are likely to judge you, perhaps unfairly. Nowadays, there is very little excuse for spelling incorrectly. With spell-checkers built even into our blogging software and operating systems, there are many warnings available to us when we forget whether or not we double the r in embarrassing. It is true that a spell-checker is not foolproof, but too many people are simply too lazy at least to run a quick check, and if you can’t bother to write well, perhaps you shouldn’t expect anyone to bother to read what you’ve put together.

This is all complicated, of course, by the fact that English words are ridiculously complicated to spell correctly. It seems rules only apply sometimes, and there seems to be at least one exception to every rule. For these exceptions, the only way to learn the correct spelling is to practice. So I will occasionally provide a couple of commonly misspelled words. Your assignment is to leave a comment below, correctly typing each word at least five times. No cheating with cutting-and-pasting, please!

This week’s words: embarrassing and guarantee.

Five times each, please!

Don’t Lose that Number: Numbers, Part One

One very quick way to make your writing look and sound better is to get out of the habit of using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) where words (one, two, three) are better.

She gave me 5 quick kisses on the cheek.

I won’t go so far as to call this sentence wrong, but it could be so much better if the 5 were spelled out:

She gave me five quick kisses on the cheek.

A good guideline for when to spell your numbers is the number of words it takes to do so. If you can spell the number with one or two words, you should, as for ten, twenty-seven, or eight thousand. Numbers with decimals, such as 2.3, cannot gracefully be spelled out in one or two words, so leave them as numerals. Apply the same rule to fractions: two thirds is obviously much more graceful than 2/3, but you might still consider ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths better than 99 and 44/100. I’ll leave that one up to you!

Other exceptions to this guideline (and you should use your discretion) are numbers presented as statistics (as in sports writing), numbers presented as data, and numbers that are parts of addresses and phone numbers.

You will be tempted to use $5 instead of five dollars, but look at how much more nicely the latter reads on the page, especially in context:

She gave me five quick kisses on the cheek in exchange for five dollars.


She gave me 5 quick kisses on the cheek in exchange for $5.

For those of you about to protest that journalists seem to play by different rules: It’s true, but keep in mind that a journalist’s purpose is probably different from yours. Newspapers also print six or seven columns on a page, and when’s the last time you sent a letter to your mom like that?

Summary: If you can spell the number in one or two words, do it unless it’s weird.