Spelling test! How many of these words are spelled incorrectly?

And you thought the days of spelling tests ended years ago. Your performance on this short quiz will help inform you about your editing skills.

Since I’ve been writing about writing for PR Daily, I’ve covered such topics as punctuation, usage, words and their shades of meaning, and how to proofread for success.

Now it’s time to move on to spelling. Instead of a post about commonly misspelled words and how to spell them correctly, I’m going to confine this post to a short quiz and a few sentences.

Please make note of which words from the list below are spelled incorrectly.

• Abattoir
• Aqueduct
• Deciduous
• Ensconce
• Grotesque
• Harass
• Homogeneous
• Indubitable
• Knowledgeable
• Lackadaisical
• Lascivious
• Manageable
• Maelstrom
• Nuisance
• Ophthalmology
• Occurrence
• Populous
• Quarrelsome
• Reiterate
• Roguish
• Sacrilegious
• Successful
• Temperamental
• Timbre
• Trapeze
• Unanimous
• Unnecessary
• Venomous
• Vicious
• Whiting
• Wintry
• Woebegone

How many did you guess: three or four, maybe even 10? Some of them look like they have to be misspelled, right?

Not so fast. Every word on this list is spelled correctly. Review them closely. If you still don’t believe me, look them up in the dictionary.

But of course, that’s the point of this exercise. When in doubt about the spelling of a word, look it up.

This lesson was imprinted into my brain by my copyediting professor in college. I was 20 years old and I showed up for the first day of copyediting class, confident that I would do well. I had made it through the lower division journalism classes with good grades and had a natural affinity of editing, so this class would be walk in the park.

Our professor introduced himself and passed out a sheet with two columns of words. He told us to circle the ones that were spelled wrong. With great zeal, we attacked the list and soon all you could hear was the sound of pencil scratches.

Our professor walked around the room watching us circle. After about 15 minutes he told us to put our pencils down. That’s when we were informed that all the words on the list were correct. I looked at my paper—about half of the words were circled—and realized that I really didn’t know anything about copyediting.

Since that class, I’ve edited about 500 articles, 350 Web pages, and four books. And I’ve never forgotten my professor’s lesson: There is no certainty in spelling. Don’t suppose, assume, or guess. Look it up.

A version of this article originally on the author’s blog, Impertinent Remarks.


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