Unlucky For Some: The 13 Most Common Words to Misspell

Misspelling a word or putting an apostrophe in the wrong place can impact on the perception of you and your business in the same way as a dripping tap or a damp patch in a house you’re viewing… They make your clients, suppliers, and the wider community wonder if all is as it seems. Sure, we all make typos sometimes, but an obviously misspelled word is a different animal altogether.

As an agency packed to the rafters with technically-trained copywriters, journalists and grammarians we’re often asked for advice, so we’ve put together a list of the most common words to misspell, to help you avoid being caught out…

1. Misspell Funnily enough, the word misspell is often spelt incorrectly. With many words similar to this such as ‘misplace’, it is quite easy to be mistaken by only using one s, but the word ‘spell’ already begins with one

2. Principal and Principle The former is both a noun and an adjective, and refers to a position or person, for example a head of a school, an organisation or the main person involved in a financial negotiation of contract. ‘Mr Smith was appointed as Principal of the school…’ Principle, however, is always a noun and refers to rules and beliefs, for example, ‘the teacher taught us the first principle of social responsibility…’

3. Liaison This word is often spelled ‘liason’ however the word has two ‘i’s with one before and after the ‘a’ (this is our MD Felicity’s pet peeve)

4. Stationary and Stationery If something is not moving then it’s ‘stationary’ with an ‘a’ such as ‘I was stationary in traffic…’ while stationery applies to pens, pencils and rulers, for example I ordered some stationery for the office…’  One great way to differentiate the two is to think of ‘e for envelope’, or one of the shortest jokes made famous by Jimmy Carr… ‘stationery store moves’

5. Weird… The e always comes before the i in this one, and it can be made easier to spell by breaking it up and sounding it out. We-i-rd.

6. Your and You’re – Your means that something is belonging to someone else. ‘Your bottled water’  or ‘Your raincoat’ while You’re carries the same rules as ‘they’re’. You’re has an apostrophe because a letter is omitted, so when it is spelled out fully, it is ‘you are’. For example, ‘I hope you’re well’.

7. Licence and License The word with a ‘c’ is a noun or a thing, for example, ‘I have a driving licence…’ while with an ‘s’ it’s a verb, so  ‘you are licensed to run this pub…’ 

8. Practice and Practise In exactly the same way, Practice is when you repeatedly perform a task to get better at it, or the place where something happens, while Practise refers to actually carrying out something. So, a dental practice is the place you go to have your teeth looked after, whilst your dentist should be qualified enough to practise dentistry rather than practice!

9. Definitely – There is definitely no a in definitely!

10. Effect and Affect Most of the time, affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a nounAffect is to influence or to cause something to happen, so ‘your actions affected me in a bad way…’ Effect – is the result of something that has happened, so “your actions had a bad effect on me.” Try to remember this one by saying ‘if one thing affects (acts upon) another, it has an effect on it (causes it to change).

11. Enquire and Inquire The former is used when requesting or looking for information for example, ‘I wanted to enquire about a vacancy…’ while the latter, Inquire, is used only when talking about investigations, for example, ‘there will be an inquiry into the incident…’ (And this one is Client Services Director Rhiannon’s pet peeve)

12.Weather and Whether The first describes meteorological conditions, such as sunny, rainy, wet or dry while the latter is a conjunction, so is similar to if and is mostly used to introduce an indirect question, for example, ‘I’d like to find out whether it’s going to be sunny on Saturday…’ ‘I’ll go to the gig whether or not it is raining…”

13. A lot is always two separate words and should never be squashed into one…  Remember that we never say atomato, aphone, atelescope…

And if in doubt? Always double check – it’s not worth losing the value of what you’re saying because of a small issue with how you’re saying it.

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