[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J26, 1999/2, pp3-10]
[Cornell Kimball: see Journals, Newsletters.

Common Misspellings and Dictionary Alternatives.

Cornell Kimball.

Cornell Kimball is a transportation engineer who works for the highway department in California. He has been interested in language for a couple of decades, and has read much about it in his spare time. His detailed look into the workings of the English language led him to an interest in spelling reform. He previously contributed the article 'Pragmatic Strategies for Promoting Spelling Reform' to JSSS J23 1998/1, pp14-18.

0. Abstract.

This article first explores some of the more frequently occurring misspellings among generally more practised users of English (as opposed to misspellings made by those first learning how to spell English). The study has two parts: one looks at previous collections of misspellings published in books, and the other is a study the author made to find some more commonly occurring misspellings made on the Internet - specifically in comments made to the many discussion groups on the 'Net (the World Wide Web, per se, was not a part of that study). Following that is a list of some spellings that are given as variants in American English dictionaries - covering forms from thru for through to spacial for spatial.

1. Introduction.

Several studies of misspellings have been published in the Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society. Bernard Lamb (1998) looked at misspellings made by a group of students writing on genetics, and Ken Spencer (1998) analyzed 'modeling' of errors made by 7- to 11-year-olds. Chris Upward (1997) looked at British Examination Board studies of 16-year-old students, and (1995, 1996) at British tests of adult literacy. Another important article of his is the two-part discussion of 'Err Analysis', looking more at the types of errors made by younger students.

In the study I made, I first surveyed lists of frequently misspelled words which had been published in books. The lists ranged in size from one with 50 misspelled words to one having 860 such words, and the levels each list applied to spred from high school students (age 14-18) to staff writers.

I later looked at how words were misspelled in discussion groups on the Internet.

Some of the past studies of misspellings in JSSS looked more at what types of errors were most commonly made by younger students; others, like Bernard Lamb's, looked at errors made by older students who are more 'practised' spellers. All in all, my studies covered more practised spellers. In particular, those 'on the Internet' tend to be more educated and perhaps 'more practised' spellers than the population in general.

2. Misspellings from general sources.

The initial part of the study, surveying published lists of frequently misspelled words, comprized eleven lists, nine taken from American English usage and two from British usage (I live in the U.S. which explains the predominance of American material). The details of these eleven lists are given in the references at the end of this article.

Here are the words found most often on those lists.
On 10/11 lists of commonly misspelled words:
accommodate, embarrass, grammar, forty, separate.
On 9/11 lists:
business, harass, necessary, parallel, privilege.
On 8/11 lists:
all right, calendar, committee, commitment, conscientious, description, existence, government, height, immediately, indispensable, maintenance, occurrence, perseverance, rhythm, seize, transferred.

3. Misspellings in Internet discussions.

I also searched a database containing the comments which had been made to Internet discussion groups (a relm of the Internet called 'Usenet') over the course of a few months. I used a search engine named Deja News, coming up with a count of how many times a word was spelled with the conventional spelling and comparing this with how often it was spelled with an alternative form, or 'misspelled'. (Others in cyberspace had done similar, tho smaller, searches.) My pool of words came from those listed above which appeared in the majority of the 11 published lists of commonly misspelled words; from some articles in JSSS; and spellings which had been mentioned as 'candidates' by others. It should be noted that this is not a 'scientific' selection, that is to say that altho I tried to find as many such cases as I could, there may be some very frequently occurring misspellings that I didn't think of and which aren't in this survey.

Spellings other than the standard form were used more than 33% of the time for these words in posts to Usenet discussion groups:

minuscule
millennium
embarrassment
memento
occurrence
accommodate
     (accommodation
68%
57
55
50-60
44
40
     39)
perseverance
supersede
     (superseded
noticeable
harass
inoculate
36%
35-50
     44)
35
34
34

Next are words that were misspelled between about 20% and 33% of the time in posts to the newsgroups:

mischievous
occurred
embarrass
     (embarrassed
indispensable
privilege
questionnaire
pastime
32%
31
30
     29)
29
28
28
24
separate
     (inseparable
preceding
     preceded
definitely
gauge
     (gauges
23%
     21)
22
     21)
20
20
     25)

And the following were misspelled between 10% and 19% of the time:

existence
publicly
weird
misspell
     (misspelling
grammar
withhold
miniature
18%
18
17
16
     15)
15
15
14
precede
     (precedes
rhythm
conscientious
hierarchy
calendar
conscious
13%
     11)
12
11
11
10
10

Anecdotal evidence and personal observation indicate that a few other cases where non-standard spellings are frequently used on the Internet are alright for all right, alot for a lot, and it's for the possessive its. However, search engines don't look for extremely common words (asking one to search for posts with the word the would turn up just about every post ever made) and looking for two-word phrases (all right, a lot) is trickier than for a single word.

In giving results for these searches, the search engine gives a numerical count of all occurrences of a particular form - I simply used those numbers, and did not usually need to read thru each individual post. But to determine the rate for the possessive its, I would need to look thru each individual post to determine whether it's was used incorrectly for the possessive its or whether it's was used correctly for the contractions it is/it has. So, I didn't search for these three cases, but it may well be that all right, a lot, and the possessive its are among the most frequently misspelled words in Internet postings. (This situation - where the misspelling problem is that its is misspelled as it's - is the opposite of the situation for beginning spellers, whose frequent error insted is to misspell it's as its).

A few other words to note, with misspelling rates below 10% in items posted to Usenet discussion groups, were:
commitment, conceding, occasionally, seize 9%; conceded, paralleled, sovereign 8%; repetition 7%; commission, concede, counterfeit, forfeit, maintenance 6%; concedes, height, receive, threshold 5%; committee, deceive, forty, immediately, necessary, proceed 4%; conscience, foreign, parallel, proceeds, sincerely 3%; government 2%; business1%.

4. Comments on Internet findings.

Minuscule, gauge, misspell
For these words there are also dictionary-given alternative spellings.

Minuscule has been written as miniscule so often in so many places that miniscule is a valid variant in some dictionaries, as detailed in section 10 below. Now since miniscule is an acceptable variant spelling, it could be said that technically one isn't 'misspelling' minuscule by writing miniscule. However, the purpose here is to see how often people spell a word in a way other than the (one) accepted standard, with a thoro distinction made between 'standard' spellings on the one hand versus anything else.

With gauge, the dictionary-accepted variant is gage, but the situation is different from that of miniscule. In certain fields (science, engineering), gage is the more commonly used, that is, it is the 'standard' spelling. In the figures above, I have simply not counted gage one way or the other (by using the criteria I mentioned in the previous paragraph, gage would be listed with the 'other than standard forms'). This search noted gauge occurred 8879 times for gauge and guage 2211 times. I computed its misspelling rate from those two: 2211/(8879+2211) = 20%. (I also found gage occurred 1848 times during the same period, but did not add that to either of the totals.)

For misspell, etc. some use the hyphenated forms mis-spell, etc. insted. Further, misspelled is common in the U.S., while misspelt/mis-spelt is the usual form in most other English-speaking countries. I didn't count the hyphenated forms of mis-spell either as standard or non-standard. I found 486 instances of misspell, 91 of mispell, and 52 of mis-spell. I calculated its rate using 91/(486+91) = 16%, without including the 52 for mis-spell. Cases of misspelled totaled 2254; mispelled 452; mis-spelled 209; for misspelt 148; mispelt 32; mis-spelt 70.

Supersede, memento
I give the misspelling rates for these as ranges (35-50%, 50-60%) rather than as specific numbers.

There's a computer product made by a company named Asymetrix which is called 'SuperCede for Java'. Some of the posts I found in searching for supercede were about Asymetrix's SuperCede. (The search engine is not case-sensitive, so supercede, Supercede, SuperCede, etc. were all found). I searched for occurrences of supersede, supercede, superceed, and superseed. The form supersede made up around 45% of the total. There were only a few occurrences of superceed or superseed, while almost all the rest - just about 55% - were supercede. From reading thru many of the posts, I determined that at least two-thirds of the time supercede was being used for the word supersede, while one-third or less it was for Asymetrix's SuperCede. This ment that when the word supersede was intended the spelling supercede was used for it at least 35% (roughly two-thirds of 55%) of the time. Thus I set a very broad range, from 35 to 50%.

Similar factors affect the results in determining a misspelling rate for memento. Here too there's a name used to merchandize computer products which skews the numbers. And another factor comes into play: one thing to consider in doing this study by searching Internet files is that some of these spellings are also words in other languages. You can ask this particular search engine (and others) to search in only one language. But in searching for memento, and for its usual misspelling momento, and selecting a search for only English-language posts, a number of posts in Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese came up. So I pooled a sample to get an idea of what percentage of all posts might be in those languages. Taking all that into account, I arrived at an approximate misspelling rate for memento between 50 and 60%. And here too, as with minuscule, the common 'misspelled' form - momento - can be found given as a variant in dictionaries, but I count momento as a 'misspelling', altho considered valid by some language mavens, for the reasons explained earlier with miniscule.

In some other cases where there are similarly-spelled words in other languages (e.g. occurrence, accommodation) I had to make sure that the results I was getting were in English. For those cases (using an 'English-only' search criterion) only a minuscule number of posts written in other languages slipped in, and it was only for memento/momento that this significantly affected results.

Mischievous, height
With these words, some of the non-standard spellings I found also reflect widespred non-standard pronunciations each has.

Mischievous is often pronounced as if there were an I (or E) between the V and the -OUS. The spellings found in this survey and the number of occurrences of each were:

mischievous 1203  
(with -vious or -veous) (other misspelled forms)
  mischevious
mischievious
mischeivious
mischieveous
mischiveous
mischeiveous
255
182
30
7
7
2
  mischeivous
mischevous
mischivous
51
15
8

Height is sometimes pronounced as if the final T were TH as in think, and some of the misspellings of height were those ending in -TH, e.g. heighth and highth.

5. Frequencies of some Internet forms.

The numbers of individual spellings found for some of the other words in the Usenet discussions were:

accommodate9220   accommodation4135
  accomodate
accomadate
accommadate
acommodate
acomodate
acommadate
5862
233
32
23
21
1
   accomodation
accomadation
acommodation
accommadation
acomodation
acommadation
2395
104
57
42
6
1
 
definitely90565  
 definately
definitly
definatly
definitley
17904
2434
1609
322
  definatley
defenitely
defenitly
defenatly
247
158
48
44
(a few each of: defenately, defanatly, defanately)
 
embarrass2425  embarrassment6585
 embarass
embarras
embarress
embaress
embaras
877
135
33
19
1
  embarassment
embarrasment
embarasment
embarressment
embaressment
7121
578
75
63
48
(and a handful each of: emberassment, emberrasment, embaresment, emberasment)
 
harass3037  
 harrass
harras
haress
1262
305
15
  herass
harress
13
1
 
indispensable2050  
 indispensible 625  indespensable70
 
noticeable7888  
 noticable
noticible
noticeble
3819
322
36
  noticiable
noteceable
notacible
18
5
1
 
occurrence 5508  occurring6747
 occurance
occurence
occurrance
ocurrence
ocurrance
ocurence
2109
1983
221
43
8
3
  occuring
ocurring
ocuring
3823
111
4
 
privilege 7035 
  priviledge
privelege
privledge
priveledge
privilage
privelage
privelige
privlege
1050
521
331
238
212
134
61
40
  privalege
privelidge
privlage
privaledge
privalage
privellege
privlidge
privlige
38
36
21
18
15
12
12
11
(a few each of: privillege, privalige, privalidge, privillige, privillage, privelledge)
 
rhythm 8341 
  rythm
rythym
rythem
rhythym
452
307
140
121
  rhythem
rythum
rhythum
rithm
78
46
19
11
(a few each of: rythim, rhythim, rithum, rithem, rithim)


6. Combining these two sets.

Here I have a sort of 'combined results' of the Internet study (summarized in Section 3 above) and the 11 published lists (section [2]). The table below has the words which appeared on nine or more of the eleven published lists and/or were misspelled 20% or more of the time in the study of posts to Usenet discussion groups:

 Misspelled
Approx N%
of Time
on Usenet
On N of
the 11
Published
Lists
  Misspelled
Approx N%
of Time
on Usenet
On N of
the 11
Published
Lists
accommodate
harass
occurrence
perseverance
embarrassment
inoculate
memento
millennium
minuscule
noticeable
supersede
embarrass
separate
privilege
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
33+
20-33
20-33
20-33
10
9
8
8
<8
<8
<8
<8
<8
<8
<8
10
10
9
  indispensable
definitely
gauge
mischievous
occurred
pastime
preceding
questionnaire
grammar
forty
business
necessary
parallel
20-33
20-33
20-33
20-33
20-33
20-33
20-33
20-33
10-20
<10
<10
<10
<10
8
<8
<8
<8
<8
<8
<8
<8
10
10
9
9
9


7. Comparison with a British survey.

In JSSS 1995/1, in a review of the (British) Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit (now called the Basic Skills Agency), Chris Upward notes an October 1992 survey conducted by that unit: 1000 adults were asked to spell the words necessary, accommodation, sincerely, business, separate, and height, and only 17% spelled all six words 'correctly'.

This is how those six words compare with my studies of the published lists and Internet postings. (Accommodation and sincerely were on fewer than eight of the published lists so they are not in the chart in Section 2 above; accommodation was on two of the eleven lists and sincerely was on seven of them.)

 Misspelled
N% of Time
on Usenet
On N of 11
Published
Lists
 
necessary
accommodation
sincerely
business
separate
height
4
39
3
1
23
5
9
2
7
9
10
8
(accommodate is
on 10 of 11)


8. A 'Misspelling' gains entry to dictionaries.

As related earlier, minuscule's usual misspelling, miniscule, has been used so often that it's now entered in dictionaries.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1989) has an entry "miniscule, minuscule", part of which notes:
This spelling [miniscule] was first recorded at the end of the 19th century (minuscule dates back to 1705), but it did not begin to appear frequently in edited prose until the 1940s. Its increasingly common use parallels the increasingly common use of the word itself, especially as an adjective meaning 'very small'.
During the last half of the 20th century, dictionaries have been adding miniscule. A telling case comes with the Concise Oxford dictionaries. The Eighth Edition, published in the mid-1980s, does have an entry for miniscule, but labels it as 'erroneous'. The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition (1995), tho, lists miniscule as simply a 'variant' spelling.

The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition (1992) gives miniscule as a full-fledged variant of minuscule, as does Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (1993). Merriam-Webster's has been listing miniscule in their dictionaries since at least 1971.

Miniscule is listed in the Random House College Dictionary, Second Edition (1997), and the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition (1987) also has an entry for miniscule, with a usage note stating that while "this newer spelling is criticized by many, it occurs with such frequency in edited writing that some consider it a variant spelling rather than a misspelling."

Miniscule is given in the Chambers Dictionary, New Edition (1993), which I know thanks to fellow Society members John Gledhill (via e-mail) and Tom Lang (via snail mail). And Macquarie's Australian Dictionary, Second Edition lists miniscule as a variant spelling, which is confirmed thanks to Valerie Yule.

Also noted in the "miniscule, minuscule" entry in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is this:
It may be, in fact, that miniscule is now the more common form. An article by Michael Kenney in the Boston Globe on 12 May 1985 noted that miniscule outnumbered minuscule by three to one in that newspaper's data base.
That entry concludes with this statement on the spelling miniscule:
Our own view is that any spelling which occurs so commonly, year after year, in perfectly reputable and carefully edited books and periodicals must be regarded as a standard variant.

9. Reflections on the above misspellings.

I looked for common threds in the most frequent misspellings in the survey of Usenet discussion groups. (As for the published lists, none gave the actual incorrect spellings found, only the one standard form, so I only had the Usenet data to go on.) For the word that I found misspelled the most often, minuscule, the usual spelling error was for one letter to be substituted for another: miniscule. For the 'next highest scoring' word, millennium, the spelling error usually made was to omit one of the letters: millenium.

In looking at all the words misspelled 20% or more of the time in that study, I found both those types of errors, plus a couple of other types - inserting an extra letter and transposing letters. The way in which each of the main words (not every derivative is listed) was most frequently misspelled, by type, as follows:
Letter omitted: double consonant made single.
accommodate: accomodate occurred: occured embarrass: embarass questionnaire: questionaire millennium: millenium.

Letter omitted: vowel.
noticeable: noticable.

Letter substitution: vowel.
definitely: definately minuscule: miniscule indispensable: indispensible separate: seperate memento: momento.

Letter substitution: consonant.
supersede: supercede.

Letter added: consonant.
harass: harrass perseverance: perserverance inoculate: innoculate privilege: priviledge pastime: pasttime.

Letter Added: Vowel.
preceding: preceeding

Omission + Letter Substitution.
occurrence: occurance

Letter Omitted + Letter Added.
mischievous: mischevious

Adjacent Letters Transposed.
gauge: guage
Looking at possibilities for spelling reform relating to these findings, I have an observation to note.

Four commonly used 'misspelled forms' noted in this study can be found in dictionaries: alright, momento, and as just detailed, miniscule.

Then, a passage on page 14 of The New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage reads:
Like momento and miniscule, some misspellings finally become so commonplace that they can make it into dictionaries. In fact, it seems likely that many more such spellings will gain legitimacy now that computers are used to sift through electronic files of newspapers and periodicals to count how words are used and spelled.
The editorial in JSSS J11 1989/2 points out certain alternative forms that are given as acceptable variants in some dictionaries (surprize is an example noted), even tho these forms may be considered 'errors' in some circles. The theme continues looking at such 'dictionary-accepted non-standard spellings' and what this may bode for the future, and the editorial closes, "Then such common forms as accomodate, seperate might be proposed as a new standard."

I look at the cases of alright, momento, supercede and miniscule, and statements such as the one on computer searches from the New York Public Library guide. And my observation here is that there may be hope in the idea intimated by the JSSS J11 1989/2 editorial of some of the more frequently occurring misspellings gaining dictionary acceptance, initially as variants, and later as standard.

I'm thinking not so much of the particular spellings I just noted here as of the overall concept. Indeed, going from supersede where S is regularly used for the [s] sound to supercede is a step backwards, and many a reformer will wonder how much of an improvement alright is, as its spelling still contains a GH. But beyond those specifics is the fact that dictionaries - which have long held to 'correct' spelling - are admitting some forms which have been (and still are by many) considered `misspellings'. This I see as a potential opening of the door.

This next section looks at some spellings that are acceptable variants, including a few cases such as miniscule, plus many others that have made it in the dictionary for various other reasons.

10. Some spellings given as alternatives in American English dictionaries.

Key to names of dictionaries.
AH3 = American Heritage, 3rd Edition (1992)
MW10 = Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, 10th Edition (1993)
W3NI = Webster's 3rd New International (1961) [unabridged]
RHC2 = Random House College, 2nd Edition (1997)
RHU2 = Random House Unabridged, 2nd Edition (1987)

This list of alternative spellings found in dictionaries covers three publishing houses, but only one citation is noted here per publisher. If a word is given as appearing in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate 10th, then no mention is made of its entry in the unabridged edition from that dictionary maker (Webster's 3rd New International), and if a word appears in Random House College 2nd, then its entry in the Random House Unabridged is not noted. This list does not include any spellings which are standard (in all major dictionaries) in British English.

Each spelling given below appears simply as a regular variant in the dictionaries listed, unless otherwise noted.

Words ending in -OGUE.
  analog
dialog
epilog
homolog
monolog
prolog
travelog
synagog
demagog
pedagog
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
MW10, RHC2
MW10, RHC2
(entry for Decalog given below)

Words containing -OUGH.
  donut
altho
tho
thoro
thru
drive-thru
see-thru
sluff
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10; 'pronunciation spelling' in RHC2
MW10; 'a simplified spelling' in RHC2; 'informal' in AH3
'a simplified spelling' in RHC2; 'nonstandard variant' in MW10
MW10, RHC2; 'informal' in AH3
RHC2
RHC2
(for slough meaning shedding/ discarding/ shirking') MW10, RC2

Words containing -IGH.
  hifalutin
hijinks
hi-tech
hi-hat(cymbals)
penlite
nite
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
MW10
MW10, RHC2
MW10; 'an informal, simplified spelling' in RHC2
(entry for lite given below)

Words ending in -IE, -EE.
  eery
pinky (for pinkie the little finger' in U.S.)'
aunty
calory (for calorie)
stymy
toffy
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHC2, W3NI
MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHC2
MW10, RHC2
(entries for anomy, hanky, kiddy, smoothy given below)

Words ending in -ISE.
  merchandize
exorcize (verb)
surprize
advertize
emprize
comprize
enterprize
AH3, MW10, RHC2
MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10
MW10, RHU2
RHC2, W3NI
RHU2, W3NI
W3NI

Words ending in -ETTE.
  briquet
buret
cigaret
curet
stockinet
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2

Words ending in -E.
  absinth
epinephrin
lissom
anilin
thiamin
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHC2, W3NI
MW10, RHC2

Words with MM, PP before inflections.
  kidnaped
kidnaper
kidnaping
programed
programer
programing
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
(entries for diagramed and diagraming given below)

Words varying Y/I.
  aneurism
sillabub
sirup
tike
sirupy
timpanum
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHU2
AH3
(entries for Gipsy, lacrimal, lacrimator, Pigmy, and silvan given below)

Words varying Ph/F.
  calif
fantom
fantasm
telfer
fantasmagoria
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
MW10, RHC2
RHU2, W3NI
RHU2

Words containing ae, oe.
  archeology
esthete
esthetic
esthetically
subpena
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
RHC2, W3NI
(entry for ameba given below)

Words varying LL/L.
  cancelation
tranquility
idyl
chlorophyl
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHC2, W3NI

Words ending in -EFY.
  liquify
rarify
putrify
AH3, MW10
AH3, MW10
W3NI

Words varying by one fewer vowel.
  cag(e)y
ca(u)lk
ga(u)ge
g(u)ild
glamo(u)r
h(e)arken
ste(a)dfast
troll(e)y
mulle(i)n
h(e)ight
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
MW10, RHC2
RHU2, W3NI

Words varying by one fewer consonant.
  dum(b)found
guer(r)illa
mac(k)intosh
veg(g)ie
cutla(s)s
com(m)ingle
c(h)alcedony
cas(s)ette
camel(l)ia
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHC2, W3NI
MW10, RHC2
AH3, W3NI
MW10
W3NI

Words varying by two fewer letters.
  frantic(al)ly
tic(k)-tac(k)-toe
accident(al)ly
AH3, RHU2, W3NI
MW10, RHC2
MW10
U (for you) 'pronunciation spelling' in RHC2.

One letter substituted.
  linguini (for linguine)
miniscule (for minuscule)
spacial (for spatial)
swob (for swab)
swop (for swap)
tendonitis (for tendinitis)
vizor (for visor)
cockateel (for cockatiel)
queazy (for queasy)
momento (for memento)
supercede (for supersede)
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, RHC2
AH3, MW10
MW10, RHU2
MW10, RHU2

Two letters within word switched.
  cadaster (for cadastre)
gingko (for ginkgo)
chaise lounge (for chaise longue)
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
MW10, RHC2

Letters different, letters switched.
  aline (for align)
alinement (for alignment)
doat (for dote)
tressel for trestle)
AH3, MW10, RHU2
AH3, MW10, RHU2
RHU2, W3NI
MW10

Letters different, and fewer, than standard.
  blest (for blessed)
brusk (for brusque)
equivoke(for equivoque)
rime (for rhyme)
templet (for template)
unblest (for unblessed)
mixt (for mixed)
unmixt (for unmixed)
gimme (for give me)
gonna (for going to)
gotta (for [have] got to)
luv (for love)
wanna (for want to)
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
RHU2, W3NI; 'archaic' in AH3
RHC2, W3NI
'pronunciation spelling' in RHC2
'pronunciation spelling' in RHC2
'pronunciation spelling' in RHC2
'eye dialect' in RHC2
'pronunciation spelling' in RHC2

As noted at the beginning of this list, there are no spellings here which are considered standard in all major British dictionaries (e.g. Oxford, Chambers, Collins). Below are a few 'special cases', where the spelling shown is considered standard by some British dictionaries and variant by others.

  anomy (for anomie)
kiddy (for kiddie)
silvan (for sylvan)
bandana(for bandanna)
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2

First-given spellings for hanky and hankie differ by American sources too:
  RHC2 has:
MW10 has:
AH3's citation reads:
hanky or hankie
hankie or hanky
hankie also hanky

The main part of this list does not have any proper nouns. Here are variant spellings for a few words that are often capitalized as 'proper nouns'.
  Decalog (or Decalogue)
Gipsy
gipsy
Pigmy
pigmy
AH3, MW10, RHC2
AH3, MW10, RHC2
RHC2
AH3, RHC2
MW10

Miscellaneous variations.
Some further cases are less clear. Alright is given as a variant for all right in MW10 and RHC2, but those entries also contain usage notes stating that while alright occurs often in dialog and informal writing, all right is still the only form for formal writing. AH3 gives alright as a 'non-standard' spelling.

Ameba is the first-given spelling in most American medical and scientific dictionaries as of the late 1990s, and the entry in RHC2 (1997) reads "ameba or amoeba". However, MW10 (1993), AH3 (1992), and other non-medical/non-scientific American dictionaries list amoeba first with ameba as second preference.

Chanty is an acceptable variant of chantey for AH3, MW10 and RC2. Further, shanty is an acceptable variant of chantey in all three, and AH gives shantey as a valid variant as well.

When diagram is used as verb, inflected forms are given in RHC2 as "diagramed or diagrammed, diagraming or diagramming"; but AH3 and MW10 reverse them as "diagrammed or diagramed, diagramming or diagraming".

Is e-mail an acceptable variant of E-mail? According to RHC2 (1997), it's more than that, as e-mail is the first-given form, with the entry "e-mail or E-mail". In MW10 (1993) the entry gives "E-mail" with the capital letter as the only possibility.

With eying and eyeing, we find RHC2 gives "eying or eyeing", while AH3 and MW10 list "eyeing or eying".

For flier/flyer, frier/fryer AH3 and RHC2 put flier as the first-given form with flyer as the variant. MW10 has flier first for most meanings, but notes that flyer is the usual spelling when it means "advertizing circular" with flier then as the variant. With frier/fryer, AH3, MW10, and RH2 list fryer first, with frier as the variant.

Fuze is given as a variant for fuse meaning the device, including the cord, used in detonating a bomb or charge, and for the verb from this which means "to attach a fuze to" in AH3, MW10, and RHC2. AH3 and RHC2 don't give fuze as a variant for fuse when it means "to meld together", etc, but MW10 does note fuze as a possible spelling for all meanings of fuse. W3NI and RHU2 list defuze as a variant for defuse as well.

With gizmo we see cases similar to the ameba spelling and others, as sources differ in the first-given form. AH3 and MW10 list it as "gizmo also gismo". The entry in RHC2 reads "gismo or gizmo".

For lacrimal/lachrymal, MW10 has "lachrymal or lacrimal" and the entry in AH3 gives it as "lachrymal also lacrimal" for both (related) senses of the word. RH2, tho, gives lachrymal as the main spelling for one of those meanings, "of, pertaining to, or characterized by tears" with lacrimal as a variant for that; it then gives lacrimal as the main spelling when the sense pertains to the glands that secrete the tears (as opposed to the actual tears) with lachrymal as a possible variant in that case.

And for lacrimator/lachrymator, MW10 has "lacrimator or lachrymator", RHC2 gives it as "lachrymator or lacrimator". AH3's entry reads "lachrymator also lacrimator".

Lichee is a variant for litchi in AH3, MW10, and RHC2. Further, AH3 and MW10 list lychee as a valid variant.

Lite is used in published, edited matter generally for one specialized meaning, "having fewer calories", or figuratively, "having less substance". It isn't used much in print for other meanings of light, but is emerging as an entity on its own, which has, as a discrete word, developed an additional figurative meaning. AH3 has an entry for lite which reads:
lite ... adj. Slang. Having less substance or weight or fewer calories than something else: "lite music, shimmering on the surface and squishy soft at the core" (Mother Jones). [Alteration of LIGHT 2.]
LIGHT 2 in that edition is the adjective meaning "not heavy, exerting little force", etc. LIGHT 1 is light meaning "luminescence".

In MW10 the entry for lite is: "lite ... var of 4 LIGHT 9a." In that volume, 4 LIGHT is the adjective meaning "not heavy, exerting little force", etc. (1 LIGHT is luminescence; 2 LIGHT is the adjective "not bright" or "pale"; and 3 LIGHT is the verb meaning "to brighten".) Definition 9a of 4 LIGHT reads:
9a: made with a lower calorie content or with less of some ingredient (as salt, fat, or alcohol) than usual < ~ beer> < ~ salad dressing>.
RHC2 has: "lite ... adj. an informal, simplified spelling of LIGHT 2, used esp. in labeling, naming, or advertising commercial products. - liteness, n." LIGHT 2 in that dictionary is for the adjective meaning "not heavy", etc. Note that RHC2 also gives a word "derived" from lite, the noun liteness.

Another note on that spelling is that while no dictionary lists lite as a valid variant for light in terms of "luminescence", two dictionaries (noted above) do list penlite, and in that word -lite does refer to luminescence.

Smoothy and smoothie are another case where first-given spellings differ. MW10 lists it as "smoothy or smoothie"; RHC2 gives "smoothie or smoothy"; and AH3 has "smoothie also smoothy".

MW10 and RHC2 list tictac as a variant of ticktack, while AH3 gives tic-tac with a hyphen as ticktack's variant spelling.

11. Sources and references.
Eleven published lists of common misspellings.

Cassell Encyclopaedic Dictionary (1990). This gives a list of 205 misspellings under 'Words Commonly Misspelt'.

Davidson, Wilma (1994) Business Writing. What Works, What Won't, New York: St Martin's Press, pp196-201 (397 such words). Aimed, as the title says, at those writing business letters, etc. The heading for this list is "Easily Misspelled Words".

Furness, Edna L (1990) Guide to Better English Spelling, Lincolnwood, Illinois: National Textbook Company, pp233-36 (500 Words). This book actually has several lists of such words, based on different levels. The list used here is headed, "The Remington Rand List of Words Most Frequently Misspelled by Adults."

Furness, Edna L (1990) Guide to Better English Spelling, Lincolnwood, Illinois: National Textbook Company, pp175-95 (605 Demons). As stated above, this book contains a number of lists for different levels, and those other lists (like the Remington Rand list noted above) are from other sources as well. This particular list is the author's own, the introduction of which begins "The 605 spelling demons ... These 605 are among the most frequently misspelled words in the English language."

Lederer, Richard (1994) Adventures of a Verbivore, New York: Simon & Schuster, pp242-43 (100 Words). This book, aimed at the general reader, contains many 'tidbits' and anecdotes about the English language. Part of the preface to this list reads, "During my thirty years as a high school English teacher, I have compiled a list of the hundred words that my students have most consistently misspelled."

Mersand, Joseph & Griffith, Francis, Spelling Your Way to Success (1974), Barron's Educational Series, pp161-65 (500 Common Misspellings). The introduction to this list states, "The 500 words which follow are those which are most commonly misspelled in business correspondence ... The list was compiled by the National Office Management Association after a comprehensive study of 10,652 letters collected from business concerns and government agencies..."

The New Webster's Desk Reference (formerly The New Lexicon Library of Knowledge) (1991), New York: Lexicon Publications, pp64-71 (a list of 440 misspellings). Aimed at the general reader seeking information. The preface to the list reads "440 words Frequently Misspelled. In business letters and reports and in reports or papers prepared by students in high school and college, there are certain words which are misspelled more often than others. Following is a list of words which are frequently misspelled..."

New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage (1994), New York: HarperCollins, p390 (50 Words). This book is aimed at journalists and other professional writers. The heading for this list reads: "The Top 50 Misspelled Words. Here we include our candidates for the 50 most commonly misspelled words. Not included are words that are troublesome pairs with similar spellings but different meanings -principle/principal, affect/effect, complement/compliment, stationery/stationary, and capital/capitol."

Pitman Secretarial School (120 Words). A list of 120 "spelling demons".

Shaw, Harry (4th Edition, 1993) Spell It Right!, New York: HarperCollins, pp158-70 (860 TripUps). The heading for this is "List of 860 Words Often Misspelled". The footnote to that heading reads: "The list given has been checked against some of the major studies of frequency word use and frequency misspellings... " and cites some of these references.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995 (1995), Mahwah, New Jersey: Funk & Wagnalls, p597 (52 such words). This book is aimed at the general reader seeking information. The heading for this list simply reads, "Commonly Misspelled English Words".

References.

Brown, Adam (1988) A Singaporean Corpus of Misspellings: Analysis and Implications, JSSS J9 1988/3, pp4-10.

Emery, Donald W. (1976) Variant Spellings in Modern American Dictionaries, Revised Edition, Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.: National Council of Teachers of English.

Ives, Kenneth H. (1979) Written Dialects N Spelling Reforms: History N Alternatives, Chicago: Progresiv Publishr.

JSSS (1993), The Society's 1992 Submission to the National Curriculum Council, J14 1993/1, pp3-9.

Lamb, Bernard (1998) The Spelling Standards of Undergraduates, 1997-98, JSSS J24 1998/2, pp11-17.

McArthur, Tom (1992) Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scragg, Donald G (1988) English Spelling and its Reform: Some Observations from a Historical Perspective, JSSS J11 1989/2, pp4-8. Spelling Research and Information: An Overview of Current Research and Practices (eds. Scott Foresman Co.) (1995), Glenview, Illinois, U.S.A.: Scott Foresman Co.

Spencer, Ken (1998) Predictive Models of Spelling Behaviour in 7- & 11-year-olds, JSSS J24 1998/2, pp23-27.

Upward, Christopher (1989) Editorial, JSSS J11 1989/2, p2.

- (1993) "Quite good" or "totaly unacceptbl"? Christopher Upward revews 'Spelling it out: the spelling abilities of 11- and 15-year-olds', JSSS J15 1993/2, pp9-11.

- (1994) Err Analysis: som reflections on aims, methods, limitations and importnce, with a furthr demnstration. Part I, JSSS J16 1994/1, pp29-33.

- (1994) Err Analysis: som reflections on aims, methods, limitations and importnce, with a furthr demnstration. Part II, JSSS J17 1994/2, pp21-24.

- (1995) No ansrs here yet. Christopher Upward revews Carol Elkinsmith & John Bynner 'The Basic Skills of Young Adults', JSSS J18 1995/1, pp37-41.

- (1996) Wat's th Problm - Spelrs or Spelngs? Christopher Upward revews Basic Skills Agency 'Writing Skills: a survey of how well people can spell and punctuate', JSSS J20 1996/1, pp30-33.

- (1997) Th Potential of Stylgides as Vehicls for Spelng Reform, with a case-study of 'The Times English Style and Usage Guide', JSSS J21 1997/1, pp13-20.

- (1997) Alarm Bels Ring for Fonics and/or Spelng Reform. Christopher Upward anlyzs 'Aspects of Writing in 16+ English Examinations between 1980 & 1984', JSSS J22 1997/2, pp26-32.

- (1997) Regularity & Irregularity in English Spelling, SSS Pamphlet No.15.

Wilson, Kenneth G. (1993) The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, New York: Columbia University Press.

Yule, Valerie (1988) Style in Australia: current practices in spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, capitalisation, etc., JSSS J7 1988/1, pp28-30.

- (1989) Style Council 1988 in Melbourne Australia, JSSS J10 1989/1, p31.

- (1998) International English Spelling and the Internet, JSSS J23 1998/1, pp8-13.


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