Oh great, another article on English vocabulary, whoop-de-doo. Bear with us – this one is more useful than you think.
There are over 170,000 English words in the dictionary, plus a few more that didn’t make the final cut (there were budget issues). It’s probably not a good use of your time to try and learn them one by one.
It has come to our attention that a handful of English words are commonly misspelled by native and non-native speakers alike. Poor spelling can sometimes have dire consequences and ruin your job search. Did you know that 58% of resumes contain grammatical errors, and that 77% of employers screen out resumes with typos or poor grammar? You surely don’t want to end up in those statistics.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of 10 of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language, along with some tips and tricks to add to your bag.
Want to work on your spelling conscientiously? This first entry should help. Although the adjective “conscientious” comes from the noun “conscience”, it features a “t” instead of a “c” which can be confusing. The adjective comes from the Latin verb conscire which means “to be conscious of guilt”.
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “conscientious”: consciencious, conscientious, conciencious, etc.
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You may think the noun “privilege” sounds like it has a “d” in it (similar to the spelling of the noun “ledge”) – but you would be terribly wrong. The “i” before “-lege” is also tricky to get right. Some people pronounce it like the short “e” sound and incorrectly spell the word as “privelege”. Feel free to blame Latin for this one, as the noun comes from the Latin privilegium (“an order or law against or in favor of an individual”). You should feel very much privileged to read such an outstanding piece of content.
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “privilege”: priviledge, privledge, privilage, privelage.
The noun “bureaucracy” takes after the French word bureaucratie, which is formed by combining bureau (“desk”) and cratie (a suffix denoting a type of government). This word is on the difficult side to break down for spelling, but here’s a quick and easy mnemonic so you never make the same mistake again: “my bureau had a crack in it due to all the bureaucracy.”
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “bureaucracy”: burocracy, bureaucratie.
The noun “rhythm” comes from the Greek noun rhythmos which refers to “any regular recurring motion”. It is commonly misspelled because it is almost entirely made of consonants. The best way to never spell “rhythm” incorrectly again is through the mnemonic that accurately describes the meaning of the word: “rhythm helps your two hips move”.
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “rhythm”: rhythem, rythem, rythm, rithem.
Don’t be embarrassed, double consonants are a major challenge in the English language, especially in words with more than one set. Many have been known to forget either an “a” or an “s”. The verb “to embarrass” comes from the French verb embarrasser (“to block” or “to obstruct”). When trying to spell it correctly, the best way to remember is to double each letter, never single.
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “embarrassed”: embarased, embarrased, embarassed, embrrassed.
You definitely want to avoid this next common error in business settings.
Native and non-native English speakers alike tend to replace the second “i” with an “a” to form the final sound of the adverb “definitely” – and will kick themselves for doing so. The best way to spell “definitely” correctly is to remember that definitely comes from the same root as the verb “to define”; both come from the Latin verb definire (“to limit” or “to determine”).
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “definitely”: definitly, defenetly, defently, definetely.
According to a 2020 study, “separate” is the most misspelled word in the English language. Why? Because it is pronounced differently when used as an adjective and as a verb. But do not be fooled: “separate” has no variant spelling. The pronunciation of the adjective is more likely to mislead people into thinking that the second consonant is an “e”.
The word comes from the Latin verb sēparāre (“to separate”) and its perfect passive participle form sēparātus. The best way to remember the correct spelling is that two “a”’s separate the “r”. Some also like to use the mnemonic “there’s a rat in separate.”
Note: words related to “separate”, such as the noun “separation”, the adverb “separately” and the past participle form “separated” are often misspelled in the same fashion.
❌ Most common mistake when spelling “separate”: seperate, separete.
Don’t be disappointed if you’ve already spelled or seen this word spelled incorrectly. Contrary to what most people think, there is only one “s” and two “p’s” in “disappointment”. The word comes from the Middle French word disappointer which means “to cancel” or “to remove from office.” The best way to remember the correct spelling of this word is to break it down into three parts: dis-appoint-ment.
❌ Most common mistakes when spelling “disappointment”: disapointment, disappointement, disapointement.
Lose vs. loose (and loser vs. looser)
We couldn’t end this list without addressing one of the most common spelling blunders in the English language. The verb “to lose” and the adjective “loose” look almost identical, but their meaning? Far from it. If you never want to make this careless mistake again, remember that the verb “to lose” has lost one of its “o”’s, and that the adjective “loose” has an extra “o”, like an extra hole in a loose knot.
Note: The same mnemonic rules apply to the noun “loser” and the adjective “looser”.
Conscience / Conscious
Feeling self-conscious about this last pick?
Although both words are related to the mind, come from the Latin verb conscire (“to be aware”) and have similar pronunciations, their spelling should be carefully considered. While “conscience” is a noun referring to a person’s inner sense of right and wrong (you may have heard someone talk about their “guilty conscience”), “conscious” is an adjective meaning “aware” or more literally ”awake”. A helpful way of telling them apart is to remember that “science” is a noun and is hidden inside “conscience”.
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