10 words often misspelled in business correspondence

It’s usually just a letter that’s wrong or omitted, but the slightest error can affect the way clients or potential employers assess you.

Most word processing programs have a built-in spell checker, but business correspondence still goes out with misspelled words that a checker would have caught.

I’m not talking about words like bare and bear, which are both English words acceptable to an automatic spelling program, but words like definite and separate, which have no homophones, and typos like standarad for standard (one of my own recent embarrassments).

Writers must keep two things in mind about spell checkers:

1. They cannot catch any misspellings if a writer doesn’t let the application run.

2. They cannot be entirely trusted to catch every spelling error.

For whatever reason—overconfidence or sloth—the same misspellings continue to appear in business emails, advertising copy, resumes, and on blog sites. The writer’s best defense is to take a good look at the most frequent misspellings, and zero in on every letter in the word.

Mastering a few at a time is a better way to approach the task than scanning long lists.

Here are 10 of the most common misspellings, their correct forms, and tips that can help you remember the differences.

Misspelled: seperate
Correct: separate
Tip: There’s a rat in sep-a-rate.

Misspelled: definate
Correct: definite
Tip: Take a close look at the final syllable: nite.

Misspelled: calender
Correct: calendar
Tip: You probably pronounce the last syllable as [er], so you have to think

Misspelled: arguement
Correct: argument
Tip: The verb argue ends in e, but you must drop the e for ar-gu-ment.

Misspelled: concensus
Correct: consensus
Tip: The sensus in consensus has nothing to do with the word census. Our word census comes from Latin censare, “to rate, assess.” Consensus comes from Latin consensus, “agreement, accord, sympathy, common feeling.” Think SSS: Con-Sen-SuS.

Misspelled: pronounciation
Correct: pronunciation
Tip: There’s no “ounce” in pronunciation, but there is a “nun.” The verb is pronounce; the noun is pro-nun-ci-a-tion.

Misspelled: accomodate
Correct: accommodate
Tip: Two sets of double letters, cc and mm: accommodate

Misspelled: dependant
Correct: dependent
Tip: People who misspell this one may be thinking of defendant, which does end in -ant (although the -ant in defendant is also pronounced [ent].) Note the final syllable in dependent: de-pen-dENT.

A version of this article first appeared on DailyWritingTips.

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