Words I Routinely Misspell

Let’s file this discussion under: Random Things That Cross My Mind on a Monday Morning. And yes, I did check to confirm that I had spelled “misspell” correctly.

I have no formal English background other than what was required, by law, via my provincial public school curriculum, along with a few elective courses in university. Still, you’d think by this point in my life I could remember how to spell words like balloon or marshmallow without my brain cells collapsing in an exhausted heap.

For the record, I did spell balloon and marshmallow correctly above – on my first try, no less. But it’s not infrequent that I find myself writing down ballon or marshmellow.

Other words that regularly trip me up:

  • Occasionally. I always, always want to add a second ‘s’.
  • Accommodate. This was a real beast for me to manage as I worked on a project for several years where I had to spell the word accommodate almost daily. Maybe because of my hangups with occasionally, I was always tempted to drop the second ‘m.’ I have only learned to spell accommodate correctly by sheer force of will, repeating over and over again that accommodate includes a double ‘m’.
  • Colleague. I get hives whenever I have to write this word. I managed to get it right on my first attempt for this blog post, but I’d say that only happens 25% of the time.

  • Travelling. Does it have one ‘l’ or two? I can never remember. FYI: it’s two ‘l’s’ for British English and one ‘l’ for American English. Which opens up a whole other can of worms. While I quite enjoy throwing an extra “u” into words like neighbour and favour and colour, I can’t remember when I’m actually misspelling a word versus when I’m just using the British or American equivalent. Defence (British) vs defense (American); licence (British) vs license (American). It’s a gong show living here in Canada: we’re part of the Commonwealth but geographically closer to America. I do prefer the British spelling for most words, but am not always consistent in what I choose. For example, I would spell a children’s doctor as a pediatrician (American), not paediatrician (British). I write instill (American) not instil (British). I write cheque and doughnut (British), but also skeptical and plow (American). Throwing all caution to the wind, I use grey and gray interchangeably, but with marked unease.

  • Isaac. A truly embarrassing story: some of our closest friends have a son named Isaac. For years, on every Christmas gift or note I addressed him as Issac, with a double ‘s’ instead of a double ‘a’. Not once did he, or anyone else in this sweet family, point out my mistake. Eventually, I spelled it correctly – likely more by good luck than good management – and he made a comment about how incredible it was I had spelled his name correctly. Ever since, I still have to look up the name Isaac every time to make sure I have it spelled correctly. (To be fair, Issac is a less common variation of the name Isaac…but it is not the norm, this is not how this particular Isaac spelled his name, and really I was just hopelessly oblivious.)

To a lesser extent, the following food words can trip me up:

  • Spaghetti. I always spell it correctly, but I always have to think.
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli

The theme, I think, tends to be a major issue with the handling of double letters?

But that’s enough spelling for one day; my brain cells are starting to overheat.

Your turn. Do you reliably struggle with the spelling of certain words? If you live in Canada, do you primarily use British or American spelling? How do any American readers feel about all the extra “u’s” floating around? Do you notice?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

31 thoughts on “Words I Routinely Misspell”

  1. I use a mishmash of British and American spellings; I definitely prefer traveling to travelling, and I always add the U. Speaking of which, I pronounce “z” zed, not zee, but my kids say zee!

    1. Oh goodness, it HAS to be “zed”…until I sing the alphabet song, and then “zee” really is the only appropriate pronunciation for rhyming capabilities. Also: it drives me crazy when people (not naming names here, but it’s almost always Americans!) say “pree-zen-tation” instead of “prez-in-tation” for presentation.
      I always, always add the “u.” But I used to do a lot of proofreading for things being circulated to US colleagues (look at me – I spelled it correctly again!), and it always threw me off when the person writing the material (a Canadian) would leave out the “u” for the American audience.

  2. I also use a mishmash of British and American spellings. Your post actually cleared up for me why I was so confused on some spelling like licence and license! I thought maybe they had different reasons for the spellings not realizing it was just the two countries. I agree it can make it so confusing when writing and trying to do correct spelling. Cinnamon also trips me up and I want to add a second ‘m’.
    And I always put in the ‘u’ but spellcheck is usually American English and then it underlines it as wrong which is annoying.
    My kids also say zee and I say zed. I’m think current school practice they teach zee?

    1. Yes, all my “u” additions get the red underline. I assume I could change the keyboard to either British or Canadian English…but then I mix and match what spelling I use between British and American so it would likely just start underlining something else…

      I was taught “zed” as a kid; I actually have no idea what my kids have learned and I think they say both “zed” and “zee” somewhat interchangeably. It might depend on the teacher?

  3. Oh yes, I notice when you add that “u”. But I know it’s the British spelling. I’m normally a very good speller- or at least if I write a word incorrectly I can see that it’s wrong immediately. But I think spellcheck has made me lazy. I don’t even think about how the word is spelled, I just start typing it in quickly- oh, it’s telling me that’s wrong, I’ll add another “c”…. Now I’m thinking about all the years I was in school, including college, where everything was handwritten or typed on a typewriter(and we didn’t even get an electric typewriter until I was well into my teens.) If you didn’t know how to spell a word you had to look it up in the dictionary (which was an actual book, not a website.) And if you made a mistake, you had to get out the bottle of white-out. How did we even survive??? My mom wasn’t a good speller (although she was a very smart person, and read a lot) so she kept a dictionary by her side and constantly looked up words, even when she was just writing a letter. I think this is one of those instances where modern technology has really helped us- I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days with this!

    1. My parents still keep a giant dictionary on a shelf above their desk (and continue to use it!) and I remember one of the resources required for my first year of university was a dictionary. That sounds…so old-fashioned now.
      I certainly remember whiteout in its various forms – the nail polish brush type vs. the foam brush vs. the whiteout “pens.” My kids have NO idea about any of this. A bygone era, indeed, but I definitely think without a computer the average spelling capabilities of most people has likely declined precipitously with the uptick in technology use/spell check.

  4. I always have to think really hard about bureaucracy (which comes up a fair amount in my life of work) and every time I type the word the, my fingers type teh, so I have to fix that annoying typo like a million times a day.
    I do notice British spellings as an American because I am confused as to why huge swathes of the world adds extra letters to perfectly good words (colour v. color), but to each his or her own. It doesn’t hurt me, I understand the meaning, and I’m inconsistent on grey v. gray and traveling v. travelling, so I’m a big old hypocrite.

    Funny story about zee v. zed. Pre-pandemic, I did trainings for a test prep company for other teachers. The last big training I did was in Toronto and the folks I was training would laugh every time I said zee, which was a lot because we were doing algebraic equations and by the end of the two weekends there, they had trained me to say zed.

    1. Bureaucracy is definitely something I’d have to think long and hard about!

      I think colour looks SO much nicer than color; a bit like Anne with an “e”? But that’s likely because it’s what I was taught since the time I was in kindergarten!

      Zed is definitely the traditional Canadian pronunciation. I have no idea what they say in the UK…?

  5. I’m with you on Isaac. It’s the name of a friend’s son that stumps me every time. I also have to think about ‘cinnamon’ and ‘fuchsia.’ I’m sure there are more slippery words that I cannot easily spell, but I can’t think of them right now.

    [You know IF I really wanted to learn how to spell those words I could start a blog called Cinnamon & Fuchsia. That’s how I conquered ‘spectacled.’ 😉]

  6. Accommodate is one of my bugaboos. It just has too many letters, don’t you think?

    I prefer travelling to traveling, even if my computer corrected the former. I also prefer grey to gray; it just looks nicer, I think.

    Niece is a word I can NEVER spell correctly on the first try. And typo is a word I can never type correctly on the first try.

  7. Misspell is the one I struggle with the most! I also struggle w/ cinnamon, too. I have to really think about it.

    One of my best friends is Canadian so I have gotten used to her use of the letter u in words like colour. It just kind of makes me smile, though. We had fun figuring out how we say some words differently, like pasta. Her “a” sound is very different. The “pas” at the start sounds like the pas in passtime. We say it with a ‘ahh’ sound. paaaahhhhsta. Hopefully this is coming across in how I am explaining it in text? There were a whole bunch of words we say differently, though! The funniest was when we got back from a long run and she showered afterwards. I heard her scream in the shower. I asked what happened when she got out and to my ears it sounded like she said “i shaved my nipples” to which I was like – WHAT IN THE WORLD, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!?! But she actually was trying to say chafe. Her pronunciation of chafe starts with a ‘sh’ so sounds like shave. In this area of the country, we use a ‘ch’ sound at the start. So there is a little language/misunderstanding story that made us laugh soooo hard!

    I have more issues with mispronouncing words. I read above my grade level and never heard many of the words spoken outloud. I didn’t realize I was mispronouncing ‘Adirondack’ until I was dating Phil, so in my 30s. I pronounced it a-deer-un-dack. I often find out I mispronounced things through gentle corrections from Phil. I went to a k-12 school w/ no advanced/AP/etc type of classes. His mom was an english teacher and he had AP classes and things like that, so he really did receive a much better education and heard many more words pronounced than I have.

    1. Misspell just looks so wrong to me…

      Pronunciation is always an interesting beast. I say “pass-ta”.”Pree-zen-tation” drives me bonkers (Canadians say “Prez-in-tation.” Italian, garage, schedule and vehicle are other words that are often said quite differently by Americans vs. Canadians. For the record, though, I use the “ch” sound for chafe!!!

  8. I am a quite good speller, if I do say so myself. Lol! (Not to brag, but I won my school’s 6th grade spelling bee back in the day. I then went on to the city wide district spelling bee, and I won that one, too. I then placed in the top…12 I think in the regional spelling bee. Just sayin’. 😉

    That being said, there are a few words that trip me up. Oddly, the word “rhythm” is one. I ALWAYS want to add like, 2 “y”s in there. Rhythym?? nope. I also have trouble with the word “Caribbean.” I am tempted to make it “Carribbean” (2 r’s). And I am with you on “accommodate”. I’m sure there are others, but rhythm and Caribbean are the first two that came to mind!

    1. Rhythm gets me. Every single time. How did I forget to mention this one in my post?
      Rhyme I can handle perfectly well. Rhythm I almost never get right on the first try.

  9. As a British writer who at times struggles with spelling (SHOCK!) and who also works for an American company; there are days when all the options drive me into a state of despair. However, my love for words means I quite enjoy all the stumbling around.🥰

    1. I do this too! Not every time, but regularly enough that it is certainly one of my spelling hang-ups.

      I also have a hard time spelling Australia. I want to add an extra ‘i’ – as in Austrailia.

  10. I had no idea that there were different spellings of words until I read books written by North Americans which I guess would have been sometime in my twenties or thirties? The weirdest one for me was a book set in Northern England written by an Italian and translated by a North American it was too weird for me as not only did have different spelling but lots of words that are ‘different’ in North American English too, I had to stop reading it. I have been using Duolingo to learn languages for years and the different words trip me up constantly, I am sometimes having to translate twice, once into British English and then into French or vice versa.

    Spellings I have to think about are varied, I notice that someone commented that they often spell surprise wrong, I type this word wrong all the time missing out the r but I think that is down to my typing skills not my spelling. Occasionally and accommodate trip me up too, as does convenient and psychology. I still use a dictionary on those rare occasions that I am typing a word and I cannot spell it and the auto-correct facility is not helping me either. I also love my Thesaurus as I find the online ones are hopeless as they are mostly American English.

    We say zed here in the UK and we have courgettes not zucchini which are am not able to spell at all as I never use the word.

    1. I always have to stop and think about courgette when I hear it mentioned. Same with cilantro vs. coriander.

      Psychology is a challenge for me as well! Reading through the comments had reminded me of even more words I struggle with especially rhythm, which Kae mentioned – I spell this word incorrectly on a regular basis.

    1. Doesn’t it, though?
      I also love using the word queue for a lineup (yet another word that can be tricky to spell). It sounds so refined!

  11. I love this post.
    I have a couple words I always mistype in German. But only in typing.
    And then there are. the English ones … to be fair its not my native language so I guess it is ok but still.
    My biggest nemesis: Colleague
    I have started to navigate by calling them team member…
    Also I have trouble with the unfortunately and apperently and obviously – when is there an e before ly and when not… I am always hoping the spell correction is kicking in…

    1. Apparently has tripped me up before too! I’d definitely be lost without spell correction in word processors. I find I’m much better at spelling when I’m actually writing with a pen/pencil vs. when I’m typing.

  12. Let me just tell you: you’re not alone. I grew up learning British English in school. Then in high school, when we talked about the US, we were enlightened that ‘ah, there is a British and an American spelling”… and (I think) then we were asked to choose one or the other ,but not mix them. (Tell that somebody who was just learning a foreign language and had been drilled to use British spelling until then…) Needless to say, now that I live in the US, I try very hard to use the American spelling at all times, but I will admit that I probably fail here and there.

  13. So, I was coming here to say that “judgement” is the one that I get wrong most frequently (I drop the first “e”, so… “judgment” is often what I type.)
    But get this – Chrome didn’t flag my “wrong” spelling! It turns out that (at least according to one source, https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/vs/judgement-vs-judgment-verdict-difference) the version with the “e”, which I think of as correct, is the British spelling, while the one without, which I always think is wrong, is the American version.
    I can’t believe I never knew this!
    I also had the pronunciation issue, mostly because I read ahead of my age level and so was reading words like ‘adolescent’ long before I heard them spoken. Which means that the first time I said it to my parents, I said “a-DOLL-ess-scent”. They still – to this day, some 40+ years later – tease me about it. Still. Sigh. Families. 😉

    1. YES! I literally have a post drafted for next week where I wrote a side note about how judgement can be spelled either way.

      Inside jokes can last…forever…in a family! It can be annoying, but it’s also rather sweet, too!

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