WORDS: Five We Misspell, Five We Mispronounce, and One Pet Peeve

With the invention of Spell Check (even if it does come up with some pretty hilarious autocorrections) misspelling is a thing of the past. Mostly. We do still write notes by hand, of course, and we do still dash off emails and texts, ignoring Spell Check and assuming our recipients will understand what we’re trying to communicate. Here’s a note my son Dave, a salesman, found scrawled on the lid of a cardboard box in a hardware store stockroom:

Sam, I has no idee wot this r fore.

Dave kept the cardboard lid hanging above his desk for years.

Who cares about spelling anymore? With spelling tests in schools fast disappearing, our children are left to blunder along, trusting in technology to set things right. The upshot? In my opinion, although we may make fewer mistakes on paper, we are losing the ability to spell. And therefore to read. Yikes.

In an attempt to stem the tide of illiteracy, I humbly submit five common words just about everyone misspells, followed by five words most people mispronounce and one small, very personal pet peeve.


1. All right (not alright): I know, I know— some people will tell you it’s either-or, but that’s just because so many people misspell the word, the dictionaries (and Spell Check) have given up. Cowards.

2. A lot (not alot): Trust me—there’s no such word as alot.

3. Separate (not seperate): According to Google, this is the most commonly misspelled word in online searches. You’ll get it right if you remember that the r separates two a’s. Get it?

4. Bellwether (one that takes the lead or initiative; a trend-setter): This word has nothing to do with the weather. A wether is a gelded ram that leads the herd. He wears a bell so the sheep can follow him.

5. Their/they’re/there: The problem here isn’t that people, if they stop to think about it, don’t know the difference. The problem is, Spell Check doesn’t know the difference. You’ve been warned.


1. Jewelry: Think jewel-ry, not jew-lery.

2. Realtor: The word is real-tor, not ree-la-tor.

3. Nuclear: It’s nu-cle-ar, not nu-cu-ler.

4. Mischievous: This one’s a little harder. The correct pronunciation is MIS-chuh-vous. Most people fall prey to the “let’s-add-an-i-in-there-and-make-it-four-syllables” syndrome, making the word mis-CHEE-vee-us. Nope.

5. Espresso: There’s no x in the word, people. It’s pronounced es-press-o.


 My adorable dog, Emmie, is not a Shit-Zoo. She is a Shih Tzu, pronounced SHEE-tzoo.

End of rant. You’re welcome.

Confession: We all have words we mispronounce or misspell. Mine is mischievous (both spelling and pronunciation), which is why I included it in my list. Maybe now I’ll remember.

What are yours?

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  1. Excellent list, and rant!

    Loose, vs. lose. Loose is “not tight”, and lose is “didn’t win”.

    Led, vs. lead. Led is the past tense of lead. Lead pronounced with a short “e” is a metal.

    Busses are kisses, lusty ones. Buses is the plural of bus.

  2. Yes. What about you’re and your?
    And let’s not forget the misuse of the apostrophe–I have a lot of book’s.

  3. This isn’t a spelling issue, but it drives me crazy when I say to someone, “Thank you,” and they respond, “No worries.” I wasn’t worried. I was simply expressing gratitude and the correct response is, “You’re welcome.”

  4. Thank you. When the phrase “pet peeve” gets tired, or I get tired of it, I like to borrow a synonym from the great William Safire and call the problem a “favorite fury.”

  5. My junior high journalism room had a huge banner that read, “A lot of people think alot is a word; it’s not.” It was a great reminder of the non-word AND the proper way to use a semicolon. My separate trick is “there’s A RAT in separate.” And thank you for including the pronunciation of Realtor.

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