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Commonly Misspelled Words

Published by marco on

Check out the The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words quiz (for English, of course). I went in with an obnoxious braggadocio and walked out with a sobering 22 out of 25. Here are the words that I have newly learned how to spell:

  • consensus (I chose “con[c]ensus”)
  • perseverance (I chose “perse[r]verance”)
  • supersede (I chose “super[c]ede”)

The title of the quiz is a bit misleading, as it’s not clear to what the word “commonly” refers. While the words are not extremely rare, they also don’t come up that often. So, are these the words that, when used, are the most commonly misspelled? Or are they the words with the most total misspellings? I believe an example would be useful here: suppose that the word “the” is used 100 million times and is misspelled 100,000 times. So, the word “the” would be misspelled 0.1% of the time. However, if “consensus” is used only 2000 times, but misspelled 1000 times, it has fewer overall misspellings, but was still misspelled 50% of the time, which is much more than the meager 0.1% for the word “the”.

Looking at the example, a misspelling of the word “the” is most likely not a misspelling at all, but a typo. Does the ranking reflect mistyped (where the person made an entry error, but knows how the word is spelled) or misspelled words (where the person really thinks the word is spelled that way)? At any rate, I learned something and retook the quiz until I got 25 out of 25. I’ll take the quiz again in a few months and see if it stuck.